Beatles singer-songwriter Paul McCartney told the BBC that artificial intelligence (AI) was used to “extricate” and clean up the vocals of former bandmate John Lennon from an old recording, allowing them to feature in an upcoming track.
“It’s a very interesting thing, you know. It’s something we’re all sort of tackling at the moment and trying to deal with,” McCartney told the BBC’s “Today” program when asked about AI.
McCartney said “Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson — who in 2021 released an eight-hour documentary called “The Beatles: Get Back” featuring colorized, cleaned-up archive footage of the band — was able to “extricate” Lennon’s voice “from a ropey little bit of cassette.”
AI was used to identify Lennon’s vocals as distinct from instrumentals and background interference.
“So when we came to make what will be the last Beatles record, it was a demo that John had that we worked on, and we just finished it up. It will be released this year,” McCartney said.
“We were able to take John’s voice and get it pure through this AI, so that then we could mix the record as you would normally do. It gives you some sort of leeway.”
AI recreates John Lennon’s song from 1978 called “Now And Then”
The BBC said it is expected to be a Lennon song from 1978 called “Now And Then,” which McCartney has in the past expressed a desire to “finish.”
It had already been considered as a possible “reunion song” for the Beatles in 1995, as they were compiling their career-spanning Anthology series.
On his recent tour, which included a headline slot at Glastonbury festival, McCartney performed songs with a cleaned-up Lennon vocal track, as well as a video of the artist on stage with him.
Industry experts have been reflecting on the potential for the latest technological advances within the music industry, along with the ethics of posthumously recreating artists.
ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus, whose show “ABBA Voyage” uses motion capture and advanced real-time graphics to have the band perform as de-aged digital avatars, previously told CNBC he had concerns about the creation of “deep fakes.”
“There’s a good side to it and then a scary side, and we’ll just have to see where that leads,” McCartney told the BBC.
Lennon’s work was characterized by the rebellious nature and acerbic wit of his music, writing and drawings, on film, and in interviews. His songwriting partnership with Paul McCartney remains the most successful in history.
Following a five-year hiatus, Lennon returned to music in 1980 with the Yoko Ono collaboration Double Fantasy. He was murdered by a Beatles fan, Mark David Chapman, three weeks after the album’s release.