Half a century after the Beatles played their last song together, AI helps bring a brand-new Beatles song to life finds Satyen K. Bordoloi who calls ‘Now and Then’ an AI anthem as he articulates what it means for the world, AI, art and time itself.

The Beatles are, unarguably, the most popular music band in history. Their contributions via music, to art and culture among other things, are singularly unique. But it has been 53 years since John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison last recorded a song together. Yet, now, 43 years after John’s death and 22 years after George’s passing, a new, perhaps the last Beatles song to which all four have contributed, called ‘Now and Then’, hit the world on November 2.

Now and Then has been nearly half a century in the making.

This hypershot of nostalgia, that bends time and space to bring four people to collaborate across a divide of half a century – has been made possible thanks to Artificial Intelligence.

THEN: In 1970, after becoming the most successful band and cultural icon, the four members of the Beatles went their separate ways. John Lennon retreated from public life in 1975 and began living with his wife Yoko Ono, raising their son Sean in the US. Most thought John had stopped making music. He hadn’t. John continued fiddling with the piano and now and then recorded his rehearsals on a cassette. These remained work in progress because John was fatally shot in 1980.

In 1994, Yoko Ono gave Paul McCartney a tape filled with John’s rehearsals. The remaining three members got together for a retrospective project called The Beatles Anthology in 1995. Two songs were salvaged from the tape: ‘Free as a Bird’ and ‘Real Love’. Another song – ‘Now and Then’ recorded by John sometime in 1977 could not be salvaged because the piano in it was too loud and John’s voice too low.

In 2001, George Harrison also died and all hopes of a song in which all the members of The Beatles had contributed, died with him. But then, a miracle was brewing.

Old Beatles members were extracted from old footage and merged with new footage so seamlessly by director Peter Jackson that the video itself deserves have a making video of its own.

NOW: In 2021, Peter Jackson got the remaining two members of the Beatles together for his 2021 documentary “The Beatles: Get Back”. Jackson used Machine Learning audio restoration technology to extract John’s voice from this shelved song ‘Now and Then’. When Paul McCartney heard it, he was stunned. There he was, John Lennon without any accompaniment, over four decades after his death, singing in a voice crisp and clear. It was an incomplete song as some lyrics were missing. But Paul was confident he could make a song out of it.

As luck would have it, George Harrison had done some guitar tracks for it during their 1995 get together. So, that too was extracted, and more music and vocals were added by Paul and Ringo to Lennon’s voice, along with a new orchestra who weren’t told they were playing for a new Beatles song. Paul wrote the incomplete bits of the lyrics, and voila, the last Beatles song in which all four band members had contributed – albeit at different times in nearly 50 years, came to life in the song ‘Now and Then’ that quickly, and deservingly, reached the number one spot worldwide.

Not only that, but the music video directed by Peter Jackson, also extracts all four Beatles from past footage and uses them with current recordings. So seamless is Jackson’s mastery of the craft, that I had to look at the video multiple times to spot the places it was done. And though there is another video about the making of the song here, the video by Jackson deserves a making video of its own considering how brilliantly it has been shot and mixed. You feel like John and George are next to Paul and Ringo in the studio when they sing ‘Now and Then’. The video, respectfully, does not have extracted John and Ringo lip-sync to the lyrics of the song though that would have been easy to do.

This video of the making of the song was also directed by Peter Jackson but there needs to be a video about the making of the official video of the song.


The news over the last few years have been full of fear-mongering about AI. That AI will kill humans, and destroy humanity are some common refrains. Yes, the dangers from AI are real, but most of it is not what these opportunist fear-mongers in their ignorance or villainy, portray. And weirdly, despite everyone reaping the benefits of AI, we don’t seem to be talking enough about the powers of this technology, not just to solve our unsolvable problems, but as this song shows, in the arts.

It is hard to stress what AI can make possible for us. Think of ‘Now and Then’. It is a song, yes, but for me, it is also a time machine. The voice of John was recorded, and very badly so, on a home demo tape, in 1977. The chord for it was done by Ringo in 1995 which was also extracted in 2022. And the rest of the things were added to it and the mixing for it was done between 2021-23. Listen to the song and see if you can detect the ravages of time in that song. You won’t. What you will hear instead, is the beauty of a soul-stirring melody touching us through time and space.

Hence, how I think of this song is in this way: 1977, 1995 and 2022 are three folds in the fabric of time that was stitched together by AI and has been permanently preserved by this song in 2023.

And weirdly so, as I read the lyrics of the song, I felt it is not just a romantic song, but an AI anthem.

Not just the song, but the video also uses AI to bring all the four Beatles together. (Image Credit: YouTube)


Think of the first part of the song: “I know it’s true, It’s all because of you, And if I make it through, It’s all because of you.” Think of these lines in terms of how this song has been created and you’ll realise how apt an ode it is to AI. “..if I make it through, It’s all because of you” is this song telling AI that this song has made it through all because of AI and the men and women who dedicatedly worked on it.

The song goes on: “And now and then, If we must start again, Well, we will know for sure, That I love you.” Of course, this is antithetical to the current zeitgeist about AI and few will say that they love AI. But if we have to start again at anything, we will need AI. Take quantum mechanics. After new discoveries, we are realising that our understanding of Physics is not enough and we must start again. But all the breakthroughs required in the quantum world, is beyond our physical capacities to do so. But with the aid of external intelligence like AI, we are making rapid progress.

Not just the future, but even how we view the past is being changed by AI, evidenced from these first ever video recorded of the world, coloured, corrected and restored by AI.


‘Now and Then’ is not really the last Beatles song. With the help of AI, we can create many new ones after taking bits from their previous songs. Or we can synthesize the voices and instrumentations from the songs to create new ones. But that won’t be original Beatles work, but a mere sampling used to create new ones. ‘Now and Then’ on the other hand, is a pure Beatles composition beginning to end.

‘Now and Then’ thus shows the potential of what AI can do in arts and how other artists could also come alive on tape. A new Elvis Presly song is possible. So is one by Michael Jackson. But we can do so much more. With enough creative human minds put to it, new genres of music can be birthed with the help of AI. The times are perfect for it. We are at a unique point in history where every trend from the past and present, exists together. Thus, a Beatles song in a style from over half a century tops the chart not just for its nostalgia but because it is a genuinely good song. Music, fashion, cinema, photography etc. – AI is helping past and present styles co-exist.

Thanks to AI and what it can help us create, the future isn’t what it used to be, and neither is the past.
(Image Credit: Lexica Art)

Time isn’t what it used to be. The past isn’t either. And neither is the future. With new technologies, we are rewriting the world. Not just our present and thus the future, but as this song shows, the past as well. AI is rapidly changing, along with our present and future, how we see the past. As an amateur historian who loves to see how the world was in the past, the last few years have just been fabulous because, for the first time in my life, I have seen the past in ways I had never imagined possible. Video footage from 128 years ago (that’s when we first recorded video) has not only been cleaned, corrected and coloured but frames have been added so I can see people and things move about at normal pace and not the fast speed as I have been accustomed to so far because of the lesser frame rates back then. Look at this AI-coloured and restored footage from the Lumiere archive: life then – 128 years ago – seems more real than it has in over four decades of my existence.

Midjourney was created to show a vision of something that will never exist: Martin Luther King and Barrack Obama together. (Image Credit: Reddit)

People are reimagining things that never happened. How would Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King have looked in a selfie? Thanks to MidJourney, now you can see it. Films never made are being brought to life by the imagination of people. Writer, Director, and Editor Sumit Purohit (Scam 1992, Inside Edge, Bangistan) made a whole series on Twitter where he injected lines from the film that were never made into MidJourney and created images from it. He made stills for the Alien film idea Satyajit Ray had and peddled in Hollywood (which supposedly inspired Speilberg’s ET) but never made.

Writer, Director, Editor Sumit Purohit used MidJourney to imagined how Satyajit Ray’s unmade alien film would have looked like. (Image Credit: Twitter)

Who knows what amazing ideas and technologies, and their creations, await us in the foreseeable future?

So let those who say that AI will destroy the world, scream on. The march of human creativity will go on despite them. With the help of technology, it will only get a shot in the arm. And ‘Now and Then’, something will come that will surprise us; and maybe help us change our thinking about AI.

“I know it’s true, It’s all because of you, And if I make it through, It’s all because of you.”

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Satyen is an award-winning scriptwriter, journalist based in Mumbai. He loves to let his pen roam the intersection of artificial intelligence, consciousness, and quantum mechanics. His written words have appeared in many Indian and foreign publications.

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