The Beatles have finally released what is likely to be their final song ever. The sounds of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr have come together again to share an emotionally powerful song, equally tragic and happy, that has been a long time coming. Thanks to new developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI), the track feels like all four members got back together in one room. Fans can finally listen for themselves, as ‘Now and Then’ is now available on all streaming platforms.
There was already an attempt to finish the track
In 1994, Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, handed McCartney two cassettes labeled “For Paul,” which contained a few unfinished demos written and recorded by Lennon at home back in the 1970s. The following year, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr would get back together in the recording studio to try and complete the tracks. This came to be known as the 1995 Anthology sessions.
However, the recordings on the tapes were of poor quality, and that made recording extremely difficult. “In John’s demo tape, the piano was a little hard to hear. And in those days, of course, we didn’t have the technology to do the separation,” McCartney explained. “Every time we wanted a little bit more of John’s voice, this piano came through and clouded the picture.”
Although they still dreamed of making the demo into a full track, they ultimately gave up on the project. “I think we kind of ran out of steam a bit, and time. And it was like, ‘I don’t know. Maybe we’ll leave this one,’” McCartney said. He described the song as having “just kind of languished in a cupboard.”
Sadly, Harrison died in 2001, causing almost all hope to be lost on finishing the track.
AI made their dream a reality
Decades later, technological advancements would reignite the remaining Beatles’ dream to finally complete ‘Now and Then.’ Thanks to the breakthrough technology developed by Peter Jackson and his team during the filming of the Get Back Beatles documentary, completion of the song was finally possible. “It took almost a quarter of a century for us to wait until the right moment to tackle ‘Now and Then’ again,” McCartney said.
Using AI, the team developed a technology that allowed them to take songs and “split all the different components into separate tracks based on machine learning.” With this new capability, McCartney and Starr were able to go back and finish recording, the former recording a bass track and the latter adding the drums.
Keeping Lennon’s original 1977 vocals and piano, and adding Harrison’s guitar from the Anthology sessions, ‘Now and Then’ was basically complete. Giles Martin, the record producer of the final track and son of former Beatles producer George Martin, even came up with a string arrangement for the track just “like Giles’ dad would’ve done in the old days.”
Should ‘Now and Then’ have been completed?
Prior to the completion of the song, fans expressed concern about trying to complete the track following Lennon’s death. Even McCartney himself wondered if ‘Now and Then’ should’ve been completed. However, McCartney explained how he was able to make up his mind and finish the project. “Is it something we shouldn’t do? Every time I thought like that I thought, wait a minute, let’s say I had a chance to ask John: ‘Hey John, would you like us to finish this last song of yours?’ I’m telling you, I know the answer would have been: ‘Yeah!’” he explained.
Even Lennon’s son, Sean Ono Lennon, expressed his pleasure for the completion of the project, saying his father would not be upset with what they’ve done. He said, “My dad would’ve loved that, because he was never shy to experiment with recording technology. I think it’s really beautiful.”
“To still be working on Beatles music in 2023… wow. We’re actually messing around with state-of-the-art technology, which is something the Beatles would’ve been very interested in. ‘Now and Then,’ it’s probably like the last Beatles song. And we’ve all played on it, so it is a genuine Beatle recording,” McCartney said.
You can try and tell us otherwise, but with sounds from all the boys together on one track, ‘Now and Then’ is the last true Beatles record in our eyes.