The Beatles’ last song ‘Now and Then’ to be released November 2
More than 60 years after they released their first album, The Beatles are releasing a new song – thanks to the wonders of AI.
The Beatles’ multimedia company, Apple Corps Ltd., along with Capitol Records and Universal Music Enterprises, announced on Thursday (October 26) that the “last Beatles song,” titled Now and Then, will be officially released on November 2.
The Beatles’ new double A-side single will pair Now and Then with The Beatles’ earliest ever release, 1962’s Love Me Do, with the new version of the song mixed in stereo and Dolby Atmos.
The single release will be followed by new editions of the compilation albums 1962-1966 (“The Red Album”) and 1967-1970 (“The Blue Album”). The new versions will have 21 newly-added tracks between them, for a total of 75 tracks. The collection will begin with Love Me Do and end with Now and Then.
A new 12-minute documentary, Now And Then – The Last Beatles Song, will premiere on the Beatles’ YouTube channel the day before the release of Now and Then. It will be available as of 7:30 pm GMT on November 1.
Band members Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr relied on AI technology to salvage a song that fellow band member John Lennon wrote and recorded onto a boombox in his New York apartment in 1978, two years before he was assassinated.
McCartney told BBC4 in an interview this past summer that AI technology was used to “extricate” Lennon’s vocals from the low-quality cassette recording.
The demo tape had been sent to the surviving Beatles members in 1994 by Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, along with Lennon’s demos for Free As A Bird and Real Love, both of which were completed as new Beatles songs and were released as singles in 1995 and 1996, as part of the Beatles Anthology project.
However, at that time, technological limitations prevented Lennon’s vocals and piano from being separated from the rest of the track, and the project to release Now and Then was shelved.
“Back in 1995, after several days in the studio working on the track, George felt the technical issues with the demo were insurmountable and concluded that it was not possible to finish the track to a high enough standard,” Olivia Harrison, George Harrison’s widow, said in a statement. “If he were here today, [son] Dhani [Harrison] and I know he would have whole-heartedly joined Paul and Ringo in completing the recording of Now And Then.”
“In 2023 to still be working on Beatles music, and about to release a new song the public haven’t heard, I think it’s an exciting thing.”
More than two decades after that initial attempt, a new opportunity appeared to revive Now and Then thanks to Peter Jackson’s docuseries Beatles: Get Back, in which editors used AI-assisted software to separate the four Beatles’ vocals from background noise on old recordings. That led to a question: What could now be done with Now and Then?
Jackson and his sound team, led by Emile de la Rey, were able to apply the same technique to Lennon’s demo, separating the vocal line from the piano. That allowed McCartney and Starr to get to work in 2022 on completing the track.
Besides Lennon’s vocals, Now and Then includes electric and acoustic guitar recorded in 1995 by George Harrison, as well as a new drum line by Ringo Starr, and bass, guitar and piano by McCartney, meant to match Lennon’s original playing.
Additionally, McCartney oversaw a recording session at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles, where the song’s string arrangement – written by Giles Martin, McCartney and Ben Foster – was recorded. McCartney and Giles also added backing vocals from classic Beatles tracks Here, There and Everywhere, Eleanor Rigby and Because. The finished track was produced by McCartney and Giles, and mixed by Spike Stent.
“It’s like a time capsule and all feels very meant to be.”
Sean Ono Lennon
“There it was, John’s voice, crystal clear. It’s quite emotional,” McCartney said in a statement. “And we all play on it, it’s a genuine Beatles recording. In 2023 to still be working on Beatles music, and about to release a new song the public haven’t heard, I think it’s an exciting thing.”
Ringo Starr added: “It was the closest we’ll ever come to having [John Lennon] back in the room, so it was very emotional for all of us. It was like John was there, you know. It’s far out.”
Lennon’s son, Sean Ono Lennon, said: “It was incredibly touching to hear them working together after all the years that Dad had been gone. It’s the last song my dad, Paul, George and Ringo got to make together. It’s like a time capsule and all feels very meant to be.”
While this may be the “last Beatles song,” it’s unlikely to be the last time we see an old recording given new life thanks to AI. A number of AI companies, such as Moises and Audioshake, have developed AI tools that can separate one-track audio into separate “stems” that can then be remixed into new tracks.Music Business Worldwide