The Beatles to release emotional final song – after AI brings John Lennon and George Harrison back to life

26 October 2023, 16:54

John, Paul, George and Ringo pictured in 1967
John, Paul, George and Ringo pictured in 1967. Picture: Alamy

By StephenRigley

The Beatles’ final ever song will be released next week – with all of the fab four featuring on the record.

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More than 50 years after the band broke up, fans will get to hear the song titled 'Now And Then' on November 2.

Written and sung by John Lennon in the late 1970s, it was developed and worked on by Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr in 1995, and now finally finished by Paul and Ringo over four decades later.

It was finally made possible with new technology developed by film director Peter Jackson. It had previously been thought that the quality of Lennon's demo recording was not good enough to release.

The Beatles in 1969
The Beatles in 1969. Picture: Alamy

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Sir Paul, 81, said: "There it was, John’s voice, crystal clear. It’s quite emotional. 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."

George's widow Olivia Harrison said: "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.

"If he were here today, Dhani and I know he would have whole-heartedly joined Paul and Ringo in completing the recording of Now And Then."

The song's origins begin in the late 70s when Lennon recorded a demo with vocals and piano at his home in New York’s Dakota Building.

In 1994, his wife, Yoko Ono Lennon, gave the recording to Paul, George and Ringo, along with John’s demos for Free As A Bird and Real Love, which were both completed as new Beatles songs and respectively released as singles in 1995 and 1996, as part of The Beatles Anthology project.

The band also attempted to record Now And Then, but the session was quickly abandoned - with guitarist George saying the quality of Lennon's recording was "rubbish".

But Sir Paul has wanted to complete the song ever since - and advancements in audio technology have finally made that possible.

Peter Jackson and his team had developed new software that allowed them to "de-mix" mono recordings from the 1970s to isolate individual instruments and vocals.

Producer Giles Martin said the software used elements of Artificial Intelligence and machine learning to separate overlapping sounds.

"It has to learn what the sound of John Lennon's guitar is, for instance, and the more information you can give it, the better it becomes," he said.

That process has now been applied to the original tape of Now And Then, removing tape hiss and electrical mains noise while preserving Lennon's performance.

Paul added a slide guitar solo inspired by George; he and Ringo also contributed backing vocals to the chorus.

Ringo said: "It was the closest we’ll ever come to having him 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."

John's son Sean Ono Lennon added: "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."

The track also features a "quintessentially Beatles string arrangement" recorded in 2022 as well as backing vocals from the original recordings of Here, There And Everywhere, Eleanor Rigby and Because, woven into the new song using new technology.

The song will be released as a double A-side single pairing the last Beatles song with the first: the band’s 1962 debut UK single, Love Me Do.

A 12-minute documentary film about the song and its long and winding road to being released, will premiere on November 1 on The Beatles' YouTube channel and will also be seen on BBC1.

Now And Then will be released on Thursday November 2 by Apple Corps Ltd./Capitol/UMe.