‘Yesterday’: The Story Behind The Beatles’ Song (2023)

Even by The Beatles’ exceptional standards, Monday, June 14, 1965, was something of a masterclass in productivity. Just a couple of days after the announcement that they were to be awarded the MBE by the Queen, the group were back at EMI’s studios on Abbey Road. The afternoon saw them record two songs, “I’ve Just Seen A Face” and “I’m Down.” But it was the evening session that reaped the greatest rewards. Between 7pm and 10pm, they recorded the Paul McCartney-penned “Yesterday.” Or, more accurately, Paul recorded it on his own, alone with his acoustic guitar.

Yesterday (Remastered 2009)

(Video) The Beatles - Yesterday (Explained) The HollyHobs

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“I brought the song into the studio for the first time and played it on the guitar,” Paul would recall. “But soon Ringo said, ‘I can’t really put any drums on – it wouldn’t make sense.’ And John and George said, ‘There’s no point in having another guitar.’ So George Martin suggested, ‘Why don’t you just try it by yourself and see how it works?’ I looked at all the others: ‘Oops. You mean a solo record?’ They said, ‘Yeah, it doesn’t matter, there’s nothing we can add to it – do it.’” And so he did.

The origins of the song

As the most-covered song in The Beatles’ catalogue, “Yesterday”’s origins have been pored over many times. It was written at 57 Wimpole Street, London, where Paul lived in attic rooms at the top of the family home of his girlfriend, the English actress Jane Asher. As Paul has testified many times over, he wrote it in his sleep: “I woke up with a lovely tune in my head. I thought, That’s great, I wonder what that is? There was an upright piano next to me, to the right of the bed by the window. I got out of bed, sat at the piano, found G, found F sharp minor seventh – and that leads you through then to B to E minor, and finally back to G.”

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(Video) Why Paul McCartney Was “Embarrassed” by the Beatles Song “Yesterday”

Paul spent some time not quite believing that he had in fact written it. He would play it to everyone he met, asking if they recognized it, thinking maybe it was some obscure old standard. Of course, nobody did. “Eventually it became like handing something in to the police. I thought that if no one claimed it after a few weeks then I would have it.”

Scrambled Egg

As to when this all happened, however, opinions are divided. Some, including Paul’s friend and biographer Barry Miles, claim that it was written just a few weeks before it was recorded. John Lennon, however, remembered the song kicking around for months: “Paul wrote nearly all of it, but we just couldn’t find the right title. Every time we got together to write songs or for a recording session, this would come up. We called it ‘Scrambled Egg’ and it became a joke between us. We almost had it finished when we made up our minds that only a one-word title would suit and, believe me, we just couldn’t find the right one. Then, one morning, Paul woke up, and the song and the title were both there. Completed! I know it sounds like a fairy tale, but it is the plain truth.”

George Martin’s memory was that the song had existed in some form or another for well over a year: “I first heard ‘Yesterday’ when it was known as ‘Scrambled Egg’ – Paul’s working title – at the George V Hotel in Paris in January 1964.”

Paul was still working on it when they were filming their second movie, Help!, in 1965, as director Richard Lester recalls: “At some time during that period, we had a piano on one of the stages and he was playing this ‘Scrambled Egg’ all the time. It got to the point where I said to him, ‘If you play that bloody song any longer I’ll have the piano taken off stage. Either finish it or give it up!’”

Yesterday (Anthology 2 Version)

(Video) The Beatles - Let It Be (Explained) The HollyHobs

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Finishing the song

Finish it he did. After completing filming, Paul and Jane took a holiday at the Portuguese villa of their friend, Bruce Welch of The Shadows. It was on the 180-mile journey from the airport that Paul finally nailed it. “It was a long hot, dusty drive,” Paul recalled. “Jane was sleeping but I couldn’t, and when I’m sitting that long in a car I either manage to get to sleep or my brain starts going. I remember mulling over the tune ‘Yesterday,’ and suddenly getting these little one-word openings to the verse.

“I started to develop the idea: ‘Scram-ble-d eggs, da-da da.’ I knew the syllables had to match the melody, obviously: ‘da-da da,’ ‘yes-ter-day,’ ‘sud-den-ly,’ ‘fun-il-ly,’ ‘mer-il-ly,’ and ‘yes-ter-day,’ that’s good. ‘All my troubles seemed so far away.’ It’s easy to rhyme those ‘a’s: say, nay, today, away, play, stay, there’s a lot of rhymes and those fall in quite easily, so I gradually pieced it together from that journey. ‘Sud-den-ly,’ and ‘b’ again, another easy rhyme: e, me, tree, flea, we, and I had the basis of it.”

Welch confirmed this: “I was packing to leave and Paul asked me if I had a guitar. He’d apparently been working on the lyrics as he drove to Albufeira from the airport at Lisbon. He borrowed my guitar and started playing the song we all now know as ‘Yesterday.’”

(Video) The Beatles - The Story & the Songs

The recording and production

Once the song was taped that Monday in June 1965, The Beatles and their producer, George Martin, began to wonder what to do with it. Martin remembers saying to Paul, “‘The only thing I can think of is adding strings, but I know what you think about that.’ And Paul said, ‘I don’t want Mantovani.’ I said, ‘What about a very small number of string players, a quartet?’ He thought that was interesting.” Paul’s own version differs slightly, in that he claims he was initially against the idea, that they were a rock’n’roll band. But he trusted Martin, and the pair worked on the arrangement together at Martin’s house.

With their string quartet arrangement recorded in an afternoon session on June 17, “Yesterday” was complete. This was the first time that a Beatles song had been augmented by such an ensemble, but it wouldn’t be the last.

“Yesterday” was included on the Help! album in the UK (though it didn’t feature in the movie), in summer 1965, and given a US single release on September 13 that year. Spending four weeks at No.1 (the song did not receive a UK single release until March 8, 1976, when it made No.8 in the charts), it would go on to be arguably The Beatles’ most famous song. So much so, that John Lennon remarked in a 1980 interview, “I go to restaurants and the groups always play ‘Yesterday.’ Yoko and I even signed a guy’s violin in Spain after he played us ‘Yesterday.’ He couldn’t understand that I didn’t write the song. But I guess he couldn’t have gone from table to table playing ‘I Am The Walrus.’”

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‘Yesterday’: The Story Behind The Beatles’ Song? ›

"Yesterday" is a melancholy ballad about the break-up of a relationship. The singer nostalgically laments for yesterday when he and his love were together, before she left because of something he said. McCartney is the only member of the Beatles to appear on the track.

How did the song Yesterday come about? ›

"Yesterday" is a melancholy ballad about the break-up of a relationship. The singer nostalgically laments for yesterday when he and his love were together, before she left because of something he said. McCartney is the only member of the Beatles to appear on the track.

Why does nobody remember the Beatles in Yesterday? ›

The world loses all forms of electric power for roughly 12 seconds near the beginning of the movie; when the power returns, it's revealed that the outage also removed the existence of the Beatles from the world. (Perhaps even… across the universe.)

What Beatles songs have hidden messages? ›

10 Secrets Hidden In Beatles Songs
  • In "Please Please Me" at 1:32, you can hear John laughing while singing "come on." ...
  • At the very end of "I'm So Tired," it may sound like a recording of someone talking played backward, but it's really just John speaking gibberish.
May 19, 2017

What did Paul McCartney think of the film Yesterday? ›

Discsussing the movie, McCartney once said: “That began when Richard Curtis, who [directed] Love Actually, wrote to me with the idea. And I thought, 'This is a terrible idea,' but I couldn't tell him, so I said, 'Well, that sounds interesting – good luck. ' I didn't think anything more of it.

Is Yesterday a funeral song? ›

“Yesterday” by The Beatles

Another song dealing with a change in life circumstance, “Yesterday,” would fit during any moment of a funeral.

What was the meaning of John Lennon in the movie Yesterday? ›

In the scene, Lennon helps Jack realise what's most important in life, such as love and life. Despite becoming a superstar, Jack realises that all he truly wants is Ellie (Lily James), family and friends, and it needed Lennon's words of wisdom to guide him there.

Who is the only guy who remembers The Beatles? ›

Yesterday is a 2019 romantic comedy film directed by Danny Boyle and written by Richard Curtis, based on a story by Jack Barth and Curtis. Himesh Patel stars as struggling musician Jack Malik who suddenly finds himself as the only person who remembers the Beatles and becomes famous for performing their songs.

What is the twist in Yesterday? ›

It's Leo and Liz. It turns out they are the only other two people besides Jack who still remember The Beatles, but since they can't sing, they are thankful for keeping their music alive.

What was the biggest Beatles controversy? ›

In 1966, John Lennon entangled The Beatles in what was likely their biggest controversy. In an interview, he spoke about the enduring quality of rock music versus religion. “Christianity will go,” he said, per Rolling Stone. “It will vanish and shrink.

What is the rarest Beatles? ›

The White Album First Pressing

The four band members were each given one of the first four pressings of the album, and Ringo Starr's copy recently came to auction and dispelled rumors that John Lennon was given the very first copy; instead, it sold for an astronomical and record-breaking $790,000.

What is the most recognizable Beatles song? ›

More than 3,000 musicians have covered 'Yesterday' since its release. No song has more cover versions than Beatles' "Yesterday" Frank Sinatra, En Vogue, and Marvin Gaye have recorded Paul McCartney's song.

What is the most heard Beatles song of all time? ›

The Beatles' Official Top 40 most streamed songs:
56 more rows
Sep 29, 2019

Did John Lennon forgive Paul McCartney? ›

Paul McCartney says his bitter rift with Beatles bandmate John Lennon may have drawn headlines, but their real story at the end was one of forgiveness, as the two put aside differences to bond over fatherhood and “bread-making recipes.”

What were the last words John Lennon said to Paul McCartney? ›

Although their intimate conversations remained private, Paul's wife Linda McCartney once revealed John Lennon's last words to his former band mate. As Ultimate Classic Rock reveal, they were: “Think about me every now and then, old friend.”

Have Paul and Ringo fallen out? ›

So, yeah, I had a great time.” For Starr, who has enjoyed a supremely successful solo career since The Beatles split, remains close friends with McCartney despite their changing landscape: “We're still pals,” he said of their relationship.

What Beatles song to play at a funeral? ›

The Beatles – In My Life.

What is a happy song to leave a funeral? ›

Happy funeral songs
  • Always Look on the Bright Side of Life – Monty Python's Life of Brian.
  • Bring Me Sunshine – Morecambe and Wise.
  • Don't Worry. Be Happy – Bobby McFerrin.
  • What a Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong.
  • You Are the Sunshine of My Life – Stevie Wonder.
Jun 21, 2021

What is the oldest funeral song? ›

Hurrian Hymn No. 6” is considered the world's earliest melody, but the oldest musical composition to have survived in its entirety is a first century A.D. Greek tune known as the “Seikilos Epitaph.” The song was found engraved on an ancient marble column used to mark a woman's gravesite in Turkey.

What was the last thing John Lennon said before he died? ›

In 2007, Ono opened up about Lennon's final words to her. She remembered the traumatic evening during her appearance on BBC's Desert Island Discs. Ono remembered asking Lennon: "Shall we go and have dinner before we go home?"

Is Jack in a coma in Yesterday? ›

Following a biking accident during the blackout, Jack Malik (Himesh Patel), a Londoner of Indian descent, wakens from a coma and realizes he is the only person on earth who remembers The Beatles.

Why was the FBI watching John Lennon? ›

The deportation threat hung on an old marijuana charge. At the same time, the FBI also had Lennon as a target; under FBI director John Edgar Hoover, Lennon was under surveillance primarily for his anti-war activities.

Did Ringo get along with John? ›

Ringo Starr and John Lennon held a strong bond that was never in doubt and, following the split of The Fab Four, the success that Starr had in his solo career made Lennon immensely happy.

What is the most expensive piece of Beatles memorabilia? ›

Most Expensive Beatles Items Sold

Just one piece of a larger lot of Beatles items sold at a Christie's auction for $1,071,133 -- the legendary, hand-painted drum skin from the front cover of the 1967 top of the charts album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Did George Harrison enjoy the Beatles? ›

Unlike John Lennon, who used his status to establish himself as a countercultural preacher-for-peace, George regarded fame as innately destructive. It is perhaps for this reason that he once said he stopped enjoying being in The Beatles when they became famous. Sure, it made them rich, but it also made them complacent.

Why does no one know what Coke is in Yesterday? ›

Coca-Cola also disappeared from Yesterday's world, which Jack discovered when his mother brought him a Pepsi and had no idea what her son was talking about when he asked for a Coke. Jack's desire for Coca-Cola became a running joke that returned when he and his roadie Rocky (Joel Fry) joined Ed Sheeran on tour.

Who is the Russian guy in Yesterday? ›

Justin Edwards: Leo (Russian Stranger)

Who is Lucy in Yesterday? ›

Yesterday (2019) - Ellise Chappell as Lucy - IMDb.

Who is the least favorite Beatle? ›

Despite being the favorite of one in four, Lennon is also the least favorite Beatle of nearly half (49%) of people who say they are "not a fan" of at least one of the band members.

Who was The Beatles worst enemy and why? ›

It's easy to see why those two extremely popular British bands were pitted against each other, but when it came to innovations in the songwriting, arrangements, and production of pop music in the 1960s, The Beatles' greatest rivals were The Beach Boys.

Which Beatle was banned from the US? ›

Leon Wildes and The Deportation Battle

They had released Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club, played the Shea Stadium, released the White Album and broken up. On March 23, 1973, John Lennon was ordered to leave the United States within 60 days. Ono, on the other hand, was granted permanent residency.

Which of The Beatles grew up the poorest? ›

We began in central Liverpool with Ringo Starr who was probably the most working-class of the Fab Four or, at least, the group member from the poorest background. Ringo was born in 1940 in 9 Madryn Street in the so-called Welsh Streets of the Dingle district.

What was the first Beatles number one hit? ›

"From Me to You" was the first Beatles song to reach number one in the UK and is widely considered to be their first chart-topping song, for although "Please Please Me" reached the summit on almost every chart, it was only number two on Record Retailer's chart, generally considered to be the most authoritative for the ...

Which Beatle had the first No. 1? ›

The first was George Harrison, who took 'My Sweet Lord' to number one in both the US and UK in the late months of 1970 and the early weeks of 1971.

What is the most famous song in the world? ›

According to Guinness World Records, Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" (1942) as performed by Bing Crosby is the best-selling single worldwide, with estimated sales of over 50 million copies.

Which Beatle was the best? ›

Ranking the Individual Beatles
  • Ranking the Fab Four. So, when it comes to the four members of the most influential group in the history of rock, how would one rank them individually? ...
  • #1: Paul. ...
  • #2: George. ...
  • #3 John. ...
  • #4 Ringo. ...
  • They All Shine On.
Mar 22, 2021

Who has more 1 hits than The Beatles? ›

Elvis' 14 chart-toppers spent a combined total of 62 weeks at #1 on the “Top/Hot 100,” while The Beatles' 20 #1s spent a total of 59 weeks in the top slot.

Who has more hits than The Beatles? ›

As a result, Drake passes The Beatles, who have 29, for the record over the list's 64-year history. The Beatles held the top-five mark for 55 years, having last reached the region in 1970 with “The Long and Winding Road”/”For You Blue,” which spent two weeks at No.

How many number 1 song did The Beatles have? ›

Over the years, many artists have topped the list of the country's most popular songs at the time, but none did so more often than The Beatles. With 20 no. 1 singles on the Hot 100 charts, the iconic British rock band are just one hit ahead of Mariah Carey, who has 19 notches in her belt.

What song did John Lennon refuse singing? ›

For now, Lennon's version of the track will remain only in the minds of those that witnessed him teach it to Ringo Starr. Listen to The Beatles song Lennon refused to sing, 'Good Night', below.

Why did Lennon and McCartney fall out? ›

The Beatles' contract with Allen Klein meant that all earnings made from each member's solo works were to go into the Apple "pot". In August 1970, McCartney began steps to dissolve the Beatles' partnership, arguing his financial and artistic freedom was infringed.

Who was better John or Paul? ›

Conclusion: Paul Was The Greatest Beatle

One thing that can be safely said is that John was not the lone artistic driving force behind the Beatles as he sometime tried to portray himself post-Beatles, and Paul can confidently claim his place as one of the two best songwriters that ever existed.

Are Paul McCartney and Ringo still friends? ›

“It was a super-incredible connection of peace and love,” Starr said. “It was so great. I still miss John and George, but that's how life is. Paul and I are still great friends and we support each other.”

What did Paul McCartney say when George Harrison died? ›

As ever Paul was calm, collected and sincere in his approach, describing the news as “very sad.” He went on to say “[I am devastated] I've known he's been ill for a long time,” before adding, “I've spoken to Olivia [Harrison] and she has been very strong, and I'd ask people to be kind to her.”

What did George Harrison say to Paul McCartney? ›

During a chat with DJ Alan Freeman on his 1970s show Rock Around The World, George said he felt inferior in some ways to lead singer Paul, now 80. He said: “I had no confidence in myself as a guitar player having spent so many years with Paul McCartney, he ruined me as a guitar player.”

Why did George Harrison walk out of The Beatles? ›

George left because Paul and he were having a heated discussion. They weren't getting on that day and George decided to leave, but he didn't tell John or me or Paul.

Why did Paul McCartney sue Ringo? ›

The only way I was given to get us out of that was to do what I did." McCartney sued The Beatles in 1970 in London's High Court of Justice. He sought the dissolution of the band's contractual partnership after the other members of the group appointed Klein to preside over The Beatles' financial affairs.

Does Yoko Ono like Paul McCartney? ›

I never felt too bad about Paul,” Ono, the widow of McCartney's Beatles companion John Lennon, said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. “He was my husband's partner and they did a great job and all that. They seemed to have a lot of fun, and I respected that.”

Who inspired Yesterday by the Beatles? ›

According to biographers of McCartney and the Beatles, McCartney composed the entire melody in a dream one night in his room at the Wimpole Street home of his then girlfriend Jane Asher and her family.

Who originally sang Yesterday? ›

"Yesterday" is a song originally recorded by the Beatles for their 1965 album Help!. Although credited to "Lennon-McCartney", the song was written solely by Paul McCartney. It remains popular today with more than 2,200 cover versions, and is one of the most covered songs in the history of recorded music.

What was the original title of Yesterday? ›

Paul McCartney said his original title for "Yesterday" was "Scrambled Eggs." The 79-year-old said he also used "scrambled eggs" for the chorus until he could think of lyrics.

What was the Beatles first No 1 hit in the US? ›

More Stories by Gary. On this date in 1964, the Beatles posted their first No. 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100, as “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” their first entry on the list, rose 3-1 in its just its third week on the chart.

Why did Paul write Yesterday? ›

The melody to “Yesterday” came to Paul McCartney in a dream. He woke up and stumbled to the piano by his bedside to work out the chords. “I just fell out of bed, found out what key I had dreamed it in…and I played it.” And so one of the greatest songs ever simply came to its composer in a dream.

Who played John Lennon in Yesterday? ›

Yesterday (2019) - Robert Carlyle as John Lennon - IMDb.

Who was the Beatles biggest inspiration? ›

Three great influences that shaped The Beatles' music include Buddy Holly, Little Richard, and The one and only King, Elvis Presley. While all three of these musicians impacted The Beatles strongly, Elvis' style, sound, and all around charisma left a lasting impression on all four of the young, eager members.

What is the most covered song? ›

According to Guinness World Records, “Yesterday” has the most cover versions of any song ever written. The song remains popular today with more than 1,600 recorded cover versions. Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI) asserts that it was performed over seven million times in the 20th century alone.

What was the Beatles first song? ›

50 Years Ago Today: The Beatles Released Their Debut Single, 'Love Me Do' – Rolling Stone. Music.

Is Yesterday one of the greatest songs of all time? ›

The Beatles, 'Yesterday'

Paul McCartney's greatest ballad holds a Guinness World Record as the most recorded song of all time; seven years after its release, there were 1,186 versions by artists as varied as Frank Sinatra, Otis Redding, and Willie Nelson.

Who did Paul write Yesterday about? ›

McCartney's ex Jane Asher came into his life a year before he wrote "Yesterday" The “Yesterday” dream revelation came to McCartney one morning in 1964, but the story really begins in 1963, when he met Jane Asher backstage before a concert at Royal Albert Hall in London.

Where did Yesterday take place? ›

Henham, Suffolk

As producer Richard Curtis said, 'Yesterday was written in Suffolk, set in Suffolk and begins and ends at Latitude. I've rarely missed a Latitude since it first began, so I'm overjoyed it's in the film.

Is Yesterday based on a book? ›

Yesterday is a 2019 romantic comedy film directed by Danny Boyle and written by Richard Curtis, based on a story by Jack Barth and Curtis.

Which Beatles song stayed at number 1 the longest? ›

"Hey Jude" was The Beatles' number one hit that spent the longest on the charts. "Hey Jude" reached No. 1 on September 28, 1968, and spent 19 weeks on the charts.

What was Beatles biggest hit? ›

"Hey Jude" is still the biggest hit music of the Beatles' run, but it's the best-played song in Billboard chart history. The Beatles have no doubt about their status as best-selling artists on the planet, with 183 million albums certified in America alone.

What was The Beatles last hit? ›

50 YEARS AGO: THE BEATLES SCORE THEIR FINAL NUMBER ONE SINGLE. It was 50 years ago Saturday (June 13th, 1970) that the Beatles' "The Long And Winding Road" became the group's 20th and final Number One hit.


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