Scientists use AI to work out which Beatle penned some of their most contested songs

John Lennon and Paul McCartney were one of the Twentieth Century’s most celebrated musical writing partnerships.

Exactly what elements each of the pair contributed to their joint-credited hits has been a matter of much debate among fans, however.

Now, researchers have used AI to work out which Beatle penned the music for a number of their most disputed songs.

Scientists from Harvard and Dalhousie University in Canada trained their software using the Beatles back catalogue to recognise 137 unique musical patterns.

These patterns, including notes, chords, and other musical motifs, were applied to eight disputed pieces of music to work out which of the Beatles wrote them. 

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Researchers have used AI to work out which Beatle penned the music for a number of their most disputed songs. When testing their AI on songs where the authorship was known, it was able to correctly identify the writer, either Lennon or McCartney, with 76 per cent accuracy

Researchers have used AI to work out which Beatle penned the music for a number of their most disputed songs. When testing their AI on songs where the authorship was known, it was able to correctly identify the writer, either Lennon or McCartney, with 76 per cent accuracy

Researchers have used AI to work out which Beatle penned the music for a number of their most disputed songs. When testing their AI on songs where the authorship was known, it was able to correctly identify the writer, either Lennon or McCartney, with 76 per cent accuracy

Once trained, the AI was able to identify some songs of unknown authorship, including 'Ask Me Why', 'Do You Want to Know a Secret' and the bridge to 'A Hard Day's Night', as belonging to John Lennon with up to 90 per cent certainty

Once trained, the AI was able to identify some songs of unknown authorship, including 'Ask Me Why', 'Do You Want to Know a Secret' and the bridge to 'A Hard Day's Night', as belonging to John Lennon with up to 90 per cent certainty

Once trained, the AI was able to identify some songs of unknown authorship, including ‘Ask Me Why’, ‘Do You Want to Know a Secret’ and the bridge to ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, as belonging to John Lennon with up to 90 per cent certainty

Experts developed and trained the AI over the course of three years on musical flourishes from each writer, using 70 songs written by either Lennon or McCartney exclusively. 

When testing their AI on songs where the authorship was known, it was able to correctly identify the writer with 76 per cent accuracy. 

The software was then set loose on eight songs and song fragments written by the pair between 1962 and 1966 whose authorship is in dispute.

It was able to identify some, including  ‘Ask Me Why’, ‘Do You Want to Know a Secret’ and the bridge to ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, as belonging to John Lennon with up to 90 per cent certainty.

‘Our work is essentially a blueprint for those wanting to follow changes in music over time,’ Mark Glickman, a senior lecturer in statistics at Harvard who led the study, told the Financial Times.

‘Using our machine learning model, you could potentially home in on all the different influences of a given musician.’ 

Sir Paul McCartney (pictured) has long claimed that he penned the classic tune 'In My Life, telling the music writer and broadcaster Paul Gambaccini in the 1970s: 'Those were the words John wrote, and I wrote the tune to it. That was a great one'

Sir Paul McCartney (pictured) has long claimed that he penned the classic tune 'In My Life, telling the music writer and broadcaster Paul Gambaccini in the 1970s: 'Those were the words John wrote, and I wrote the tune to it. That was a great one'

'The Word,' from the same album as 'In My Life', has always been attributed to Lennon (pictured), but the researchers have found it is almost certainly by a Sir Paul classic

'The Word,' from the same album as 'In My Life', has always been attributed to Lennon (pictured), but the researchers have found it is almost certainly by a Sir Paul classic

 Scientists from Harvard and Dalhousie University in Canada trained their software using the Beatles back catalogue to recognise 137 unique musical patterns and match them to either Lennon or McCartney

The period studied by the team charts the Beatles relatively simplistic Merseybeat pop foundations to the band’s early explorations with a new and unique sonic style. 

Many of these earlier songs will be familiar to anyone who has listened to the iconic Red compilation album and includes tracks from such albums as Please Please Me, A Hard Days night, Rubber Soul and Revolver.

The band’s later period from 1967 to 1970 was demarcated by the release of the seminal album Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, a record characterised by the kind of experimentation that would become the signature of the second half of the band’s career together.

Speculation over who wrote what during their writing partnership has been fuelled by conflicting accounts given by the band’s members over the years.

One such example is ‘In My Life’, a track given an 81 per cent certainty match with Lennon’s other works by the AI software. 

The bridge itself, however, was matched to McCartney with 57 per cent accuracy, suggesting Sir Paul had a bigger influence on this section at least.

The period studied by the team charts the Beatles relatively simplistic Merseybeat pop foundations to the band's early explorations with a new and unique sonic style. Lennon and McCartney on stage at the Circus Krone Bau in Munich, 1966

The period studied by the team charts the Beatles relatively simplistic Merseybeat pop foundations to the band's early explorations with a new and unique sonic style. Lennon and McCartney on stage at the Circus Krone Bau in Munich, 1966

The period studied by the team charts the Beatles relatively simplistic Merseybeat pop foundations to the band’s early explorations with a new and unique sonic style. Lennon and McCartney on stage at the Circus Krone Bau in Munich, 1966

This is not the first time that Harvard has used this type of analysis to try and identify who write Beatles tracks. 

McCartney has long claimed he played a key role in writing The Beatles hit song ‘In My Life’, despite the track being attributed to Lennon.

Debate around the track, which was included on the 1965 album Rubber Soul, has gone resolved since Lennon’s murder in 1980. 

Harvard experts who used statistical analysis to single-out the musical signatures of each of the songwriters claimed to have a definitive answer in July, 2018.

The research, which highlights 149 different metrics to determine the musical fingerprints of each songwriter, determined that it is overwhelmingly likely ‘In My Life’ was penned by Lennon and that McCartney ‘misremembers’ writing the song.

Sir Paul McCartney has always maintained that he put John Lennon’s lyrics to music, while Lennon insisted his fellow band member had minimal input in the creation.

The full findings of the latest study, titled ‘(A) Data in the Life’, were published in the Harvard Data Science Review.

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