1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
THE PLANET EARTH'S MOST POPULAR SONG EVER
It may seem like only yesterday, but in fact it's 30 years ago this month that that song was first recorded. Here's what Paul has said about his most famous creation.
'Yesterday', the song
"I just woke up one morning and I suppose I'd been dreaming or something, but I wasn't getting up for anything so I might have been just dozing around and lying in. Anyway, I had this little song in my head when I woke up. I had a piano in the bedroom so I got out of bed, eventually, found my way over to the piano and started to think, 'What key's this thing in?' It found its way to G and I thought, 'Well I can't have written it because I haven't sat down and tried to write it. So it must be a song that already exists, one that I've heard somewhere.' I went around asking people - like the singer Alma Cogan, "who was a friend - 'What's this? What's this tune?'
"The song's early lyric was 'scrambled egg, oh my baby how I love your leg', and Alma said, 'Well I'm not too keen on the lyric but it's a nice tune.' I said, 'But you've heard it before, surely' and she replied, 'I haven't heard it, but it's a good one alright.' I kept on asking people until eventually I thought, 'Well, it's like handing in lost property to the police: if no one else claims it then it's yours to keep!' So I kept it. But I knew that I couldn't get away with 'Scrambled Eggs' as the title and that it had to be a three-syllable phrase like 'yesterday' or 'suddenly'. And, suddenly, there it was, 'Yesterday'."
'Yesterday', the first of 3000 versions
"It's actually just me on the record, the other Beatles aren't playing on it. I played the song to the others on an acoustic guitar and I think it was John who said, 'What can we do on it, little guitar solos? It'll ruin it. Why don't you do this one alone, like you've just demonstrated?' So they encouraged me to do it solo.
"It was George Martin's idea to put the string quartet on. I said, 'You're kidding aren't you? A string quartet, like chamber music? Go away!' Because it "was really unheard of at the time. You'd had the Drifters doing things like 'Save The Last Dance For Me' which had incorporated strings, but George was suggesting the chamber music approach. And actually I said, 'No way, George, sorry. We're a rock group. I'll never live it down.' And he said, 'Just let me try it, and if you don't like it we'll leave it off.' We both worked on it because I got involved in working out the arrangement with him, and I put a sort of seventh in, which is an odd note in chamber music, and made the musicians look up when they were playing it! But it was very nice, I immediately liked the recording very much...and still do. I think it's a complete song."
'Yesterday', the statistics
"I haven't heard all of the 3000 people who are supposed to have done 'Yesterday', but I'm glad they have. It's a compliment to me - they're doing my song, so I'm happy. I bet there are some really atrocious versions out there but I'm probably the fellow who'd quite like them! I know there's a steam organ recording and many other crazy versions, but, as I say, I'd like them all because it's such a great compliment."
Did you know... how 'Yesterday' was recorded?
Paul began the recording of 'Yesterday' in studio two at EMI, Abbey Road, in a 7.00-10.30pm session on Monday 14 June 1965, four days before his 23rd birthday. Earlier the same day, with the other Beatles, he had started and completed two other new McCartney songs, 'I'm Down’ and 'I've Just Seen A Face'. George Martin produced the session, Norman Smith (later a successful producer, and singer Hurricane Smith) was balance engineer and Phil McDonald (later a successful engineer/producer) was the tape machine operator. Paul recorded two takes (the second was marked "best"), singing along to his own acoustic guitar accompaniment. The four-track tape was then set aside for completion three days later.
The recording of 'Yesterday' was completed on Thursday 17 June, again in EMI's studio two, with a two-hour after lunch session, 2.00-4.00pm. Paul recorded a new vocal track, replacing the "best” version from the 14th, and was on hand to witness George Martin conduct a quartet through the string arrangement Tony Gilbert was first violinist (the "leader"), the other violinist was Sidney Sax, Francisco Gabarro played cello and Kenneth Essex played viola. George Martin produced the session with Norman Smith and Phil McDonald again joining him in the control room. (More work was done this day too: 'Yesterday’ was mixed into mono, the Beatles started and completed the recording of 'Act Naturally' and started, but did not complete, 'Wait'.)
Did you know... that these artists have recorded 'Yesterday'?
Aaron Neville, Acker Bilk, Al Martino, Aled Jones, Alma Cogan, Andy Williams, Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra, the Bar-Kays, Barry McGuire, the Beatles, Benny Goodman, Bill Medley, Billie Jo Spears, Bobby Goldsboro, Boyz I Men, Brenda Lee, Carla Thomas, Charlie McCoy, Chet Atkins, Chris Farlowe, Chris Montez, Cilia Black, Connie Francis, Count Basie, Curtis Mayfield, David and Jonathan David Essex, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Dick Hyman, the DiIlards, Dionne Warwick, Doctor John, the Ed Sullivan Singers [honestly], Elena Duran, Ella Fitzgerald, Elvis Presley, En Vogue, Erroll Garner; Floyd Cramer, Frank Sinatra, Gene Pitney, George Shearing, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Gordon Macrae, Guy
A certain absence of fanfare: 'Yesterday' was born in between 'I've Just Seen A Face' and 'Dizzy Miss Lizzy' on the non-soundtrack side of the Help! album ...