The Year in Music 2023: The Beatles return with their final song

New music from The Beatles is probably not what fans expected this year, but that’s exactly what they got.

– Word of a new Beatles song first surfaced in June. During an interview about his new photo exhibit, Paul McCartney Photographs 1963-64: Eyes of the StormPaul McCartney revealed “the last Beatles record” was going to be released, explaining they used artificial intelligence to extricate John Lennon’s voice from an old demo in order to complete it.

– After some folks interpreted that as artificial intelligence being used to create Lennon’s voice, McCartney clarified his statement, noting “nothing has been artificially or synthetically created.”

 – In October, McCartney and Ringo Starr finally revealed the tune, “Now and Then,” would be dropping November 2.

– The song featured vocals Lennon recorded on a demo in the late ’70s, which his wife, Yoko Ono, gave to McCartney, Starr and George Harrison in 1994. They used that demo to create “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love,” which appeared on The Beatles Anthology project in the mid-’90s, but they were unable to complete “Now and Then.”

 – In 2021, Peter Jackson, director of The Beatles: Get Back, used new technology to isolate Lennon’s “Now and Then” instruments and vocals. Paul and Ringo completed the song in 2022, using guitar parts Harrison recorded in 1995.

– They released a short film about the making of the song, along with a music video featuring clips that blended archival and current footage to make it feel like the whole band was playing together, and with younger versions of themselves. 

– The song was an instant hit with Beatles fans, debuting at #1 on the U.K. charts and setting a record for the longest gap between number ones: 54 years. The last time The Beatles were on top of the charts in their homeland was in 1969 with the single “The Ballad of John & Yoko.”

– In the U.S., the song debuted at #7, extending The Beatles’ record for the most Hot 100 top 10 songs among groups, now with 35. They also nabbed the record for longest break between top 10 songs for any act with sole billing, at 27 years, 10 months and two weeks.

– As part of the “Now and Then” release, The Beatles also released 2023 Edition packages of two compilations, 1962-1966 (The Red Album) and 1967-1970 (The Blue Album), both mixed in stereo and Dolby Atmos.

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