Imagine they are still around: AI ‘extricates’ John Lennon’s voice for one last Beatles tune


Album sleeve for Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ in a Dublin music shop (Simon Roughneen)

When The Beatles were last still together, Pele was a couple of months out from winning his third World Cup at the Mexico 1970 tournament, Willy Brandt was Chancellor of West Germany and the first Concorde flight had just taken place.

A year later, John Lennon’s solo career had taken off with the release of “Imagine”. But nine years on from that, he was dead, shot in New York, and whatever hopes fans had for Beatles reunion had perished with him.

However, in the age of artificial intelligence, it seems “getting the band back together” isn’t what it used to be.

Announcing what he said would be “the final Beatles record,” Paul McCartney told the BBC that artificial intelligence (AI) has been used to “extricate” Lennon’s voice from a late 1970’s demo tape.

In a June 13 interview, McCartney said the song, which he did not name, would be released later in 2023.

The material is from the same “ropey cassette” of 1970s recordings that were cleaned up and released in 1995 and 1996 as “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love”.

The BBC said the soon-to-be-released song would likely be an unfinished love song called “Now and Then”, which George Harrison, the late lead guitarist with The Beatles, was reported to have disliked.

Either way, if the song proves to be the final one released under The Beatles’ name, AI’s proponents will be able to claim the technology as the last “fifth Beatle”.

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