Then and now

By Matthew Sotlar

On Sept. 20, 1969, John Lennon met with his Beatle bandmates at Apple Records. Here he announced that he was leaving The Beatles, signifying the end of its nearly 10 year venture as the greatest band in the history of recorded music.

There’s no debate about it, The Beatles changed music forever. In a time when America was dominated by Connie Francis and Elvis, The Beatles proved to be a beacon of rock-and-roll light in a bleak poppy world. The band’s first American performance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” garnered 73 million viewers.

The Beatles released 12 studio albums with “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” being considered its finest work. Personally, I like “Revolver”, but I’m also not a big Beatles fan to begin with. I am, however, a fan of the Beatles members’ solo works.

Lennon went on to work with the Plastic Ono Band. His self-titled debut album and “Imagine” are often considered the best albums in rock-and-roll history. Sadly, Lennon was shot and killed in 1980 outside of his apartment in New York.

George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass” was a transatlantic hit when it was released in 1970. Afterward, he teamed up with Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra to form the Traveling Wilburys. Harrison died of lung cancer in 2001.

Paul McCartney formed Wings with his wife, Linda, and former Moody Blues guitarist Denny Laine. Their band went on the run as one of the best selling of the 1970s.

Ringo Starr, like McCartney, endured lasting success throughout the 1970s and both are still heralded as godfathers of rock music. The Beatles have been credited by Black Sabbath, David Bowie, Pink Floyd, Nirvana and Oasis as major influences — and those are just the artists I like who were inspired by the band. 

It came to me as a surprise when, 54 years after its breakup, The Beatles released a new song.

“Now and Then” was recorded by Lennon at home in 1977. It was a simple demo that was shelved for many years after his death. McCartney and Starr both unearthed the track and brought it into the studio. They decided to toss in some of Harrison’s original guitar work and then sprinkled in a dash of artificial intelligence for good measure and audio enhancement.

The song itself is not too bad. Obviously, it’s not The Beatles as we know. There will never be another band like The Beatles, which sounds grammatically incorrect. It is quite impressive to hear something relatively close to The Beatles, but it’s still not the original. The song, however, is a fine example of how quickly AI is evolving.

At some point, AI will make an entire symphony on its own, it’s only inevitable. I like to think of it as the monkey sitting in front of a typewriter. Eventually, he will type out everything Shakespeare has ever written. One day, AI will make an entire Beatles album. What’s stopping it then?

Hopefully, I’ll live to see the day when there’s perhaps a new Led Zeppelin or Nirvana track. While I am somewhat opposed to AI making anything humans can make — because one day, it may become sentient. I like to think that musicians and recording technicians will use it for good and for the betterment of mankind. Until then, I’ll go back to being terrified of AI.