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Yesterday

The history of this classic Beatles song

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The original US 45 sleeve for

The original US 45 sleeve for "Yesterday"

source: brilliantdreams.com

Yesterday

Working Title: Scrambled Eggs
Written by: Paul McCartney (100%) (credited as Lennon-McCartney)
Recorded: June 13, 1965; June 14, 1965 (Studio 2, Abbey Road Studios, London, England)
Mixed: June 17, 1965; June 18, 1965
Length: 2:04
Takes: 2
Musicians: Paul McCartney: vocals, acoustic guitar (Epiphone FT-79 "Texan")
Sidney Sax: violin
Tony Gilbert: violin
Ken Essex: viola
Francisco Gabarro: cello
First released: September 13, 1965 (US: Capitol 5498)
Available on: (CDs in bold)
  • Help!, (UK: Parlophone PMC 1255, US: Capitol (S)MAS 2386, Parlophone CDP 7 46439 2)
  • Yesterday and Today, (US: Capitol (S)T 2553)
  • Yesterday (EP), (UK: Parlophone GEP 8948)
  • The Beatles 1962-1966, (UK: Apple PCSP 717, US: Apple SKBO 3403, Apple CDP 0777 7 97036 2 3)
  • The Beatles 1, (Apple CDP 7243 5 299702 2)
Highest chart position: 1 (US: four weeks beginning October 9, 1965)
History:
  • Although Paul McCartney and George Martin have claimed this was written during the Beatles' 1964 tour of France, which would have made it a year and a half old when it was recorded, Paul's later claim of the song coming to him in a dream at girlfriend Jane Asher's house, along with other anecdotal evidence, would seem to suggest that it was written sometime in January 1965, when Paul awoke with the full melody intact and played it on the piano in Asher's attic.
  • The odd (but not unheard of) nature of the song's "creation" caused Paul to take the melody around to industry vets for about a month, asking them if he'd unconsciously stolen someone else's song. In order to keep the melody in his mind, Paul wrote a comedic first verse that went, in part, "Scrambled eggs / Oh how I really really love your legs..." Having shown it to the band in the spring of 1965, the group began to refer to the uncompleted song as "Scrambled Eggs," perhaps ensuring that the finished version would start with its title.
  • Paul kept working at the melody in off hours, leading Help! director Richard Lester to jokingkly threaten to throw the piano off the soundstage if McCartney didn't stop playing it.
  • Finally, on May 27, 1965, Paul flew to Lisbon, Portugal, to vacation at the villa of Shadows member Bruce Welch. On the car ride in, Paul began to compose lyrics on the back of an envelope, based around a title (and theme) of "Yesterday."
  • Although the other group members liked "Yesterday" well enough, they didn't consider it Beatles material -- especially not after George Martin, the band's producer, suggested scoring it with nothing but acoustic guitar and a string section. Martin thought of releasing it as a solo Paul single, but even McCartney balked at that; his own main concern was that the result not sound too much like easy-listening music. Finally, compromises were reached: Martin used a classier string quartet for the arrangement, and McCartney agreed not to release the song as a single in England. (Though it was released there on an EP of the same name, and as a single in 1976.)
  • The song was done in two takes, Paul having reversed two lines accidentally in the first. The string quartet was laid down the next day, with McCartney's vocal fed into the studio as a guide. Martin's contribution to "Yesterday," other than the arrangement, was to convince Paul that a one-word title was not "corny." Paul, for his part, had but one instruction to the string quartet: no vibrato. (He was reportedly afraid the result would sound like gypsy music.)
  • Capitol made the decisions on which songs were released as singles in the US, however, but "Yesterday" was not even considered for a-side single release there; it was relegated only to the flip of "Act Naturally," sung by Ringo, the group's most popular member in the US. However, fan reaction was immediate, and the song was quickly repositioned as the a-side.
  • The vague lyrics have been rumored to deal with the very sudden death of McCartney's mother, and the resultant guilt he felt over his selfish and somewhat cold reaction to it. If this is true, it would appear to be subconscious on the singer's part. The performance of the song on the British TV show Blackpool Night Out (August 1965, and the very first performance of this song on television) reportedly shows Paul dedicating this song to ex-girlfriend Iris Caldwell. Other reports have him phoning Iris, who supposedly found him too unemotional, and playing the song for her to prove otherwise.
  • John Lennon, who liked the song, was bothered by the lyrics' lack of resolution; he was also bothered for the rest of his life by fans who thought he'd cowritten it (as the credits insist) and would sing it whenever they saw him. He was known to mock the song in the studio during his solo years. ("I'm not half the man I used to be... now I'm an amputee.")
Live versions: August 8, 1965 (Blackpool Night Out, ABC Theatre, Blackpool, England), August 14, 1965 (Ed Sullivan Show, CBS Theatre, New York, NY), June 24, 1966 (Circus-Krone-Bau, Munich, Germany), June 25, 1966 (Grugahalle, Essen, Germany), June 26, 1966 (Ernst Merck Halle, Hamburg, Germany), June 30 - July 2, 1966 (Budokan Hall, Tokyo, Japan), July 4, 1966 (Rizal Memorial Football Stadium, Manila, Philippines), August 12, 1966 (International Amphitheatre, Chicago, IL), August 13, 1966 (Olympia Stadium, Detroit, MI), August 14, 1966 (Municipal Stadium, Cleveland, OH), August 15, 1966 (Washington Stadium, Washington, DC), August 16, 1966 (Philadelphia Stadium, Philadelphia, PA), August 17, 1966 (Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Canada), August 18, 1966 (Suffolk Downs Racecourse, Boston, MA), August 19, 1966 (Mid-South Coliseum, Memphis, TN), August 21, 1966 (Crosley Field, Cincinnati, OH), August 21, 1966 (Busch Stadium, St. Louis, MO), August 23, 1966 (Shea Stadium, New York, NY), August 25, 1966 (Seattle Coliseum, Seattle, WA), August 28, 1966 (Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, CA), August 30, 1966 (Candlestick Park, San Francisco, CA)
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