The Beatles and A.I.: Good Thing Or Bad Thing?
They’ve done it again. The Beatles are back in headlines around the world. This time, it has caused a few people, including myself, to wonder, is the concept of The Beatles and A.I. a good thing or bad thing?
Word has come out that Paul McCartney has used A.I. technology to finish a third, and “final,” Beatles song since the passing of John Lennon and, now, the first without George Harrison. It will be released sometime later this year.
What song will it be?
The as-yet unannounced title of the song is largely speculated to be “Now And Then,” (also known in bootleg circles as “I Don’t Want To Lose You”) a song that the “Threetles,” as they were sometimes known in the mid-90s, did attempt to finish, along with “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love.” Problems with a high pitched-tone throughout the original cassette demo plus the fact that, according to Paul, George did not like the way John’s voice sounded on the tape, caused the sessions to be scrapped after just one day.
Over the years, Paul has continued to express interest in finishing a “Beatles” version of the song with John and even threw out the possibility of working with Jeff Lynne, who produced the other two songs that DID find their way onto Beatles Anthology releases. Now, John’s vocals have apparently been lifted from the song to the point where there is no hum or extraneous background noise. At this point, it’s not known whether or not Lynne is involved in this series of sessions.
Is this really A.I.?
The thing is, I don’t necessarily consider this an A.I. achievement, in the ChatGPT sense of A.I., so I feel these headlines are a bit misleading. What is being done here is they are using the technology that director Peter Jackson and his team developed to extract audio pieces for use in The Beatles: Get Back movie in 2021. Giles Martin has also employed similar, but not the exact, technology on some of the recent Beatles reissues.
Is it A.I.? I guess so. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I think it’s a good thing if done properly, and we’ll soon find out. If, however, I hear that the unfinished verses of “Now And Then” were written by an A.I. robot, I’ll be very, very concerned.
In the meantime, and this is a spoiler alert, if you want to hear John’s demo of “Now And Then,” from the cassette that Yoko gave to Paul, here it is: