An Open (Non-A.I.) Letter To Sir Paul McCartney

Did you really need to go there with this final Beatles song?

Paul McCartney (Image: MJ Kim)

Dear Sir Paul McCartney, Sir: 

How are you? I am fine. I have a troublesome bunion, but I am dealing. Recently, both the New York Times and BBC News ran a headline which read, “Paul McCartney Says A.I. Helped Complete ‘Last’ Beatles Song.” Now, there’s a lot to unpack here, nicht was? 

Let’s start here: For the love of Odin, can’t news organizations as reputable as the BBC and the New York Times write different freaking headlines? I must say this addled my pate. Secondly, based on this clumsy application of the term “A.I.,” it appears that you, Sir Paul, are confused by all this new technology. Believe me, I “get” that. Oh boy, do I. Why, I needed to take a course at the New School just to figure out how to disable the “schedule” function on my Nest thermostat, and every time I successfully change the batteries in a smoke detector I treat myself to Carvel as a reward. In addition, I am so suspicious of the “Delay” function on the Dishwasher that I go back in the kitchen every ten minutes to check what’s going on with it, and every time I go into the kitchen, Penny, my doxie, thinks I’m getting her some cheese, so she gets all excited. So you are not alone. 

But back to The Beatles, sir, Sir Paul, sir. See, I read in multiple places how you intend to use “A.I.” to help make a “new” Beatles song. Firstly, Sir Paul, Sir, respectfully, the technology to accurately and successfully isolate vocals from their backing tracks and overdub on them, even when those tracks are as primitively recorded as an old Jug Band 78, has existed for many, many years; you don’t need A.I. to do that, you just need, well, an engineer who’s basically been paying attention to his craft since, oh, 1990. You already made some utterly unnecessary fake Beatles songs that way back in the 1990s. So I am a little confused why you dragged A.I. into the conversation. I mean, all “Intelligence” not inside our ol’ Brainbox is, uh, artificial, right? Is that what you were thinking?

I mean, I could say “I am using A.I. to make an umlaut over this ö,” or “I am using A.I. to order a Tuna Melt from the deli, on second thought a Tuna Melt doesn’t travel well, how about some chicken fingers?” No, it’s okay to just say I am using option-U on ye olde Mac or I am using an App on my phone, I don’t need to drag buzzwords like A.I. into it. I mean it’s all Artificial Intelligence, right? Maybe Giles Martin texted you something about A.I., and in a separate text he said something about this prospective fake Beatles mishegas, and you confabulated. Sorry, have to check on the dishwasher. 

Seems to be fine. 

Secondly, and probably more significantly, Sir Paul, sir, why oh why do we need a “new” Beatles song? Weren’t the ones you recorded between 1961 and 1970 enough? (I’m including pre-Ringo demos and sessions, bee tee dub.) My god, can’t you just leave the cheap faux-Beatles theatrics to Jeff Lynne, and be proud of your legacy? What’s the freaking point of this? Seriously, what’s the point? What do you have left to prove? Would it really be that awful if an un-released John Lennon track went out into the world lonely and imperfect and vulnerable and NOT as a fake Beatles song? Ask yourself this, Sir Paul, sir: Is the world, or for that matter the legacy of the Beatles, going to be ANY better because you buffed and polished and put your paw prints all over a John Lennon demo? Is there one single breathing sentient human being who is going to say, “Ahhhh, now THAT makes The Beatles’ legacy SO much better,” or “Ohhh, now that I have heard THAT, I FINALLY get what all the fuss is about.” I could understand the argument that it would be great to have a relatively EQ’d and cleaned up release of a legendary John Lennon demo; I do get that, yes I do, Sir Paul, sir. But why does it need to become a Beatles song? 

Fan created rendering of Carnival of Light cover art (Image: Pinterest)

And here’s a fact: It’s NOT a Beatles song, because it wasn’t recorded by The Beatles. Now, if you wanted to take this Lennon demo and play on it, or add your vocals to it, well, that would be, oh, kind of sweet, like “Oh, I am making a connection with an old friend.” I’d get that. But it wouldn’t be a Beatles song, okay? My god, Sir Paul, sir, you made the freaking White Album. What do you have left to prove? What could a FAKE Beatles song add to the picture, the legacy? 

I just don’t get it. You are already one of the most famous and influential pop stars of all time, and one of the most recognizable names and faces of the 20th century. What do you gain by doing this?!? I have a theory. I figure your strange, disturbing and, frankly, unattractive need for attention has something to do with this:  For many, many years, you were one of the world’s wealthiest musicians. But, like, due to the new music economy (and I’m not going to pretend to be able to explain or justify this), in a few short years, Beyonce, Rhianna, Taylor Swift, and Jay Z – to name just a few – have made as much money (or more) than you did in a lifetime. Now, that shouldn’t burn you up, but I suspect it does. I don’t know why else you would feel the goddamn need to make sure the world was looking at you putting out another Beatles song…oh, except it won’t be a Beatles song. Only things recorded between 1961 and 1970 by a group called the Beatles – even if it was just one or two or three of you in the studio, under that name – are actual Beatles songs. 

Speaking of which, instead of plotzing over some John Lennon demos and having the utterly bizarre – nay, nearly deranged – temerity to call it a Beatles song, WHY DON’T YOU RELEASE THE ONE STILL UNRELEASED BEATLES RECORDING THAT WAS ACTUALLY RECORDED BY A BAND CALLED THE BEATLES WHEN THERE WAS A BAND CALLED THE BEATLES? I’m talking about “Carnival of Light,” the fourteen minute long track the Beatles – ACTUALLY THE BEATLES, NOT LIVING BEATLES OVERDUBBING LONG DEAD BEATLES – recorded in January of 1967. It was commissioned for an event at The Roundhouse in London called the Million Volt Light and Sound Rave, and received its only public airing on January 28, 1967, at that rave. “Carnival of Light” has been (very) rarely heard since, and only by Beatles/Abbey Road insiders. Yes, it’s supposed to be an avant-garde noise/drone piece (reminiscent of Stockhausen, John Cage, La Monte Young, Raga, and the later “Revolution 9”), but from the descriptions, it definitely sounds kind of interesting; and it seems like a genuine and valuable precursor to the experiments of Two Virgins, Wonderwall, the ambient/noise elements and interstitials of The White Album, and even 2008’s Electric Arguments (by the Fireman, the group you created with producer/multi-instrumentalist/Killing Joke co-founder Youth, an album I have long contended is one of the most interesting and rewarding Beatles’ solo releases). In any event, there’s no doubt that “Carnival of Light” is full of surprises and is, at the very least, of considerable historical interest. In addition, have I mentioned that:


  1. “Carnival of Light” was recorded by a band called The Beatles when there actually was a band called the Beatles, and not by sad and publicity grasping ex-Beatles overdubbing long-Dead ex-Beatles. 
  2.  Maybe, just maybe, “Carnival of Light” is the missing link between The Beatles and Hawkwind that I have always dreamed of; and hearing it and celebrating it would help me tie things together and make sense of my sorry and misspent life full of unmet potential, the continual ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, a peculiar fear of the “Delay” function on my dishwasher, and the disturbing fact that my obituary is likely to prominently mention the words “Hootie & the Blowfish.” 


So help me out and release “Carnival of Light.” 


Thank you for listening, Sir Paul, sir. 

Kind regards, 

Tim Sommer 

(Read but not Dictated) 


P.S. I am a huge Wings fan (not joking). I think it’s about time we looked at Wings as one of the fundamental and satisfying art pop bands of the 1970s, distinct from the Beatles legacy and the work you released under your own name. So, Sir Paul, sir, instead of wasting your precious dotage making fake Beatles songs, why don’t you start working on a comprehensive Wings box, or reissue set? Man, I’ll take Venus and Mars over just about any and every Beatles solo album, right up there with All Things Must Pass, Plastic Ono Band and Ringo. It’s time to give Wings the credit they deserve, and I’d much, much rather you spend your time doing that than creating pretend Beatles songs. 



Tim Sommer

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Tim Sommer

Tim Sommer is a musician, record producer, former Atlantic Records A&R representative, WNYU DJ, MTV News correspondent, VH1 VJ, and founding member of the band Hugo Largo. He is the author of Only Wanna Be with You: The Inside Story of Hootie & the Blowfish and has written for publications such as Trouser Press, the Observer and The Village Voice. Learn more at Tim Sommer Writing.

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