Paul McCartney says the “final Beatles record” is nearing release – and it’s been created using AI

Paul McCartney
(Image credit: Roberto Ricciuti/Redferns via Getty)

Sir Paul McCartney has revealed that the last ever Beatles song is set to arrive this year, but will do so with a rather notable, artificially intelligent twist.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4 earlier this week, the legendary songwriter spoke of the “final”, as-yet-unreleased Beatles track, which is rumored to be John Lennon’s unheard cut from 1978, titled Now and Then.

And, while doing so, McCartney also discussed how he called upon AI to help create the final version of Lennon’s vocal tracks.

But don’t be alarmed – it’s not as blasphemous as it first sounds. Artificial intelligence wasn’t used to completely create Lennon’s vocal track from scratch, but was instead used to help “extricate” Lennon’s voice from an old cassette.

The cassette – which had been recorded by Lennon shortly before his death and labeled “For Paul” – contained this “final Beatles track”, which in turn was altered with AI to strip Lennon’s vocals from accompanying piano.

Notably, the same process was used by Peter Jackson to clean up old audio for use on his mammoth Get Back Beatles documentary. As such, Jackson was recruited by McCartney for this project.

“We just finished it up and it'll be released this year,” Lennon said of the unnamed track. “He [Jackson] was able to extricate John's voice from a ropey little bit of cassette.

“We had John's voice and a piano and he could separate them with AI,” he added. “They tell the machine, ‘That's the voice. This is a guitar. Lose the guitar.’

“So when we came to make what will be the last Beatles' record, it was a demo that John had [and] we were able to take John's voice and get it pure through this AI. Then we can mix the record, as you would normally do. So it gives you some sort of leeway.”

This application of AI had been pioneered by Get Back’s dialog editor Emile de la Rey, who trained computers to recognize the Beatles’ voices and remove them from surrounding audio.

It’s not the first time McCartney has used it, either, having deployed the AI during his recent tour to allow him to “duet” with Lennon onstage. But, despite his openness to using artificial intelligence in this capacity, McCartney went on to call its wider potential “kind of scary”.

“I'm not on the internet that much [but] people will say to me, ‘Oh, yeah, there's a track where John's singing one of my songs,’ and it's just AI, you know?” he said. “It's kind of scary but exciting, because it's the future. We'll just have to see where that leads.”

The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show

(Image credit: Universal Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

If “the final Beatles record” does indeed turn out to be Now and Then, it will be a long time coming. Though it was one of the few songs that weren’t released from the “For Paul” cassette – two others dropped in 1995 and ‘96 – the band attempted to re-record the song at a later date.

It proved to be an ill-fated experience, with McCartney later recalling how George Harrison refused to work on the song because Lennon’s vocals sounded “rubbish”.

“It didn't have a very good title, it needed a bit of reworking, but it had a beautiful verse and it had John singing it,” McCartney once told Q Magazine (as per the BBC). “[But] George didn't like it. The Beatles being a democracy, we didn't do it.”

No official release date for the song was given, but McCartney confirmed it will be out later this year.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.