Seán Lennon weighs in on “new” Beatles song and reveals involvement
Beatles fans are having very different ideas and emotions regarding the up and coming “final Beatles song” which Paul McCartney mentioned off hand in a BBC interview, as we reported in a previous post.
In a series of tweets, John Lennon’s son Seán answers some fan questions regarding the speculations about this track.
Tony Rosamilia: Why is Paul McCartney turning John Lennon into an AI model for an “unreleased” song based on demo tapes?? Are you OK with this? Did you reach out?
Seán Ono Lennon: That is not happening. All we did was clean the noise from the vocal track. People are completely misunderstanding what occurred. There have always been ways of ‘de-noising’ tracks but AI just does it better because it learns what the vocal is and is able to very precisesly remove everything that is not the vocal.
So, in this tweet, Seán both does away with the “fake Lennon voice” model people are assuming is happening on this track and with the “we” acknowledges his own involvement in the project. We can understand that people seem to be misled into thinking that AI just conjures up something fake, because there are plenty of examples of that. People are singing songs or using other singers vocals to mimic dead people’s vocals, plus making Paul’s voice younger, which is another use of the AI voice imposter program, and that is exactly what the BBC reporter was asking Paul about. We also covered that subject in the past.
But Paul’s reply was about the use of AI which Peter Jackson’s team invented for his “Get Back” documentary, removing doodling on instruments which had drowned out the conversation, something he wanted to highlight. The technique dubbed “MAL” – Machine Audio Learning after Mal Evans or the computer HAL in the 1968 movie “2001 A Space Odyssey”. This is the same technique which later enabled Giles Martin to remix “Revolver”, since it was able to sort the instruments into various tracks in a multichannel environment. Peter Jackson mentioned in an interview a year or so ago that he was still involved with Paul and Ringo in another project, one which was not another documentary. It could just be this one song.
Over to Seán again on Twitter.
Anne-Marie: I’ve no interest in a “fake” Beatles song
Seán Ono Lennon: I think people are deeply misunderstanding this story. The AI did nothing but clean the noise off my dad’s vocal track. That’s all. Nothing else. The song was a demo dad had recorded and the other Beatles finished it off. Exactly like “Free AsA Bird”, only the original vocal was a bit dirtier on this one so they cleaned up the noise with AI. There’s nothing fake about it. It is a new recording made by all four Beatles. My dad’s voice is exactly as he recorded it minus the noise.
So, Seán both tries to explain what AI was used for, plus acknowledges that there are newspaper stories which adds to the confusion and that they are wrong. He also mentions that four Beatles are present on the upcoming release. This includes of course, the late George Harrison.
Carolyn Porco: Sean….Hey! In this upcoming new Beatles’ record, what role does George play and how?
Seán Ono Lennon: Hey Carolyn…I shouldn’t speak too much on this yet but I’ll just say the track turned out beautifully and I think everyone will be happy.
So, basically Seán avoids replying to the direct question about George Harrison, but I think it’s safe to assume that George is on the track, either singing backing vocals or playing guitar or both. The Beatles did some work on the song before abandoning it (or Paul putting it on the backburner), and Jeff Lynne probably downplayed the work that went into this recording when he said that they just messed with it one afternoon, doing a rough backing track. As every Beatles project must be signed off by all four parties, Paul, Ringo and the estates of George and John, we know that Olivia and Dhani Harrison are on board for this one as well. And they will have ensured George’s involvement in the recording is represented. Yoko Ono already gave her consent in 1994, when she presented Paul with the four songs in question, “Free As A Bird”, “Real Love”, “Grow Old With Me” and “Now And Then”, also known as “I Don’t Want To Lose You”. In 2005, the song was copyrighted as “I Don’t Want To Lose You” when it was included in a stage play, ” Lennon – The Musical”. At the time, Yoko talked about the song in an interview with Rip Rense for Washington Post:
Yoko Ono: Because these songs were to come from the Beatles. The Beatles will be singing to the world again. The implication of that was tremendous. I thought, this was a song which would release people from their sorrow of losing John. By listening to the song, they will eventually be able to release their sorrow and arrive at an understanding that, actually, John is not lost to them. Paul, George and Ringo lost a great friend as well. If they sung this song from their hearts it would have helped many people around the world who felt the same.
Another thing which the media is distorting and fans are speculating about, is exactly what Paul meant with his phrase “the last Beatles record”. To some media journalists, “record” is interpreted as “album”. And they are not expanding on this, so they really have no more knowledge than us.
Of course, these days, artists release singles online. It just means the one song. No B-side. So it could be that.
Or it could be a three track EP, using AI to isolate John’s voice better on “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love” and make better versions of them. As we reported earlier, Giles Martin remixed “Free As A Bird” already in 2015, improving upon the sound quality as well as moving stuff around for the soundtrack of the music video. Further enhancements may be available as AI is coming more into use. But contrary to what Seán said in one of his above quoted tweets, the original demo of “Now And Then” features a stronger, louder and clearer Lennon vocal than the other two songs. So perhaps they are above repair at this point in time and we will get just the one final Beatles song.
Many of you may recall the story Carl Perkins told about his song “My Old Friend“, which he composed when he was on Montserrat, helping Paul McCartney on a couple of tracks for his “Tug of War” album in 1981.
Carl Perkins: The night before I was supposed to leave, I thought I might run short of words telling Paul how much I appreciated him having me down there, so I wrote down some words and put a little tune to them. I called it ‘My Old Friend’, and sang it to him the next morning. Then I had to stay another day, because he said, ‘This is one we have to record.’ Linda told me, ‘He doesn’t cry a lot, but you touched him with that song.’ I only meant the song to be from me to him, but it turned out that it sounds like John Lennon is talking to him.
Linda McCartney explained that the last time Paul talked to John, he had said the same line to Paul: “think about me every now and then, my old friend.” And the use of the phrase “now and then” from John may be the reason why Paul hasn’t been able to just shelf John’s “Now And Then”.