Name = Yesterday
from Album = Help!
B-side = "
Act Naturally" (U.S.-1965) " I Should Have Known Better" (UK-1976)
Released = 13 September 1965 (U.S.)
4 March 1966 (UK - as part of an EP)
8 March 1976 (UK)
Vinyl record(7" & 12")
Abbey Road Studios
14 June 1965
Length = 2:03
Capitol Records(USA) Parlophone/ EMI(UK)
Last single = "Let it Be" (1970)
This single = "Yesterday"
Next single = "
Back in the USSR" (1976)"
Day Tripper" / " We Can Work It Out""
Misc = Extra musicsample |filename=Yesterdaysample.ogg |title=Yesterday |format=
Album = Help!
Type = studio
Tracks = ;Side one
The Night Before"
You've Got to Hide Your Love Away"
# "I Need You"
You're Going to Lose That Girl"
Ticket to Ride";Side two
It's Only Love"
You Like Me Too Much"
Tell Me What You See"
I've Just Seen a Face"
Dizzy Miss Lizzy""Yesterday" is a pop song originally recorded by The Beatlesfor their 1965 album "Help!". According to the " Guinness Book of Records", "Yesterday" has the most cover versions of any song ever written. The song remains popular today with more than 3,000 recorded cover versions, the first hitting the United Kingdom top 10 three months after the release of "Help!". Broadcast Music Incorporated(BMI) asserts that it was performed over seven million times in the 20th century alone. The song was not released as a single in the UK at the time of the US release, and thus never gained number 1 single status in that country. However, "Yesterday" was voted the best song of the 20th century in a 1999 BBC Radio 2poll of music experts and listeners.
"Yesterday" takes the form of a melancholic acoustic
balladabout a break-up. It was the first official recording by The Beatles that relied upon a performance by a single member of the band — Paul McCartneywas accompanied solely by a string quartet. The final recording differed so greatly from other works by The Beatles that the other three members of the band vetoed the release of the song as a single in the United Kingdom. Although credited to " Lennon/McCartney", the song was written solely by McCartney.
According to biographers of McCartney and The Beatles, McCartney composed the entire
melodyin a dream one night in his room at the Wimpole Street home of his then girlfriend Jane Asherand her family. Upon waking, he hurried to a piano, turned on a tape recorder, and played the tune to avoid letting it slip into the recesses of his mind.cite web |last=Cross |first=Craig |year=2004 |url=http://www.beatles-discography.com/y.html |title=BEATLES SONGS - Y |accessdate=2004-12-09Dead link|date=October 2007]
McCartney's initial concern was that he had subconsciously plagiarised someone else's work (known as
cryptomnesia). As he put it, "For about a month I went round to people in the music business and asked them whether they had ever heard it before. Eventually it became like handing something in to the police. I thought if no-one claimed it after a few weeks then I could have it."
Upon being convinced that he had not robbed anyone of his melody, McCartney began writing
lyricsto suit it. As Lennon and McCartney were known to do at the time, a substitute working lyric, entitled "Scrambled Eggs", was used for the song until something more suitable was written. In his biography, " Many Years From Now", McCartney recalled: "So first of all I checked this melody out, and people said to me, 'No, it's lovely, and I'm sure it's all yours.' It took me a little while to allow myself to claim it, but then like a prospector I finally staked my claim; stuck a little sign on it and said, 'Okay, it's mine!' It had no words. I used to call it 'Scrambled Eggs'."cite book |first=Barry |last=Miles |authorlink=Barry Miles |title=Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now |year=1997 |pages=201–202 |publisher=Henry Holt & Company |location=New York |isbn=0-8050-5249-6]
During the shooting of "Help!", a piano was placed on one of the stages where filming was being conducted. McCartney would take advantage of this opportunity to perform "Scrambled Eggs" accompanied by the piano.
Richard Lester, the director, was greatly annoyed by this, and eventually lost his temper, telling McCartney to finish writing the song, or he would have the piano removed. McCartney's original lyrics were, "Scrambled eggs, Oh, baby how I love your legs."
McCartney originally claimed he had written "Yesterday" during The Beatles' tour of France in 1964; however, the song was not released until the summer of 1965. During the intervening time, The Beatles released two albums, "
Beatles for Sale" and "A Hard Day's Night", both of which could have included "Yesterday". Although McCartney has never elaborated his claims, it is likely that the reason for such a long delay, if it existed, was a disagreement between McCartney and George Martinregarding the song's arrangement, or, equally likely, the distaste of the other Beatles for the song.
Lennon later indicated that the song had been around for a while before:
McCartney said the breakthrough with the lyrics came during a trip to
Portugalin May 1965:
On 27 May 1965, McCartney and Asher flew to
Lisbonfor a holiday in Albufeira, Algarve, and he borrowed an acoustic guitar from Bruce Welch—whose house they were staying in—and completed the work on "Yesterday".cite book |first=Barry |last=Miles |authorlink=Barry Miles |title=Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now |year=1997 |pages=204–205]
The song was offered as a demo to
Chris Farloweprior to The Beatles recording it, but he turned it down as he considered it "too soft." [ Simon Napier-Bell, "Black Vinyl, White Powder", 100.]
Two days after returning home, the track was recorded at
Abbey Road Studioson the 14 June and 17 June 1965. There are conflicting accounts of how the song was recorded, the most quoted one being that McCartney recorded the song by himself, without bothering to involve the other band members.cite web |last=Ortiz |first=Marcos |year=2005 |url=http://www.geocities.com/SunsetStrip/Palms/6797/songs/yesterday.html |title=Marcos' Beatles Page - Yesterday |accessdate=2006-01-14] Alternative sources, however, state that McCartney and the other Beatles tried a variety of instruments, including drums and an organ, and that George Martin later persuaded them to allow McCartney to play his Epiphone Texanacoustic guitar, later on editing in a string quartet for backup. Regardless, none of the other band members were included in the final recording.cite web |last=Mallick |first=Heather |date=2000-11-22 |url=http://www.theglobeandmail.com/series/songs/RVMALL.html |title=Past Perfect |publisher=The Globe and Mail] cite web |last=Unterberger |first=Richie |url=http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=33:qsjn7ip6g77r |title=Review of Yesterday |accessdate=2006-01-14] However, the song was played with the other members of the band in a 1966 Tokyo concert.
McCartney performed two
takes of "Yesterday" on 14 June 1965.cite album-notes |title=Anthology 2 |albumlink=Anthology 2 |year=1994 |bandname= The Beatles|format=booklet |publisher= Apple Records|location=London |publisherid=31796 |pages=10] cite book |first=Mark |last=Lewisohn |authorlink=Mark Lewisohn |title=The Beatles Recording Sessions |year=1988 |pages=59 |publisher=Harmony Books |location=New York |isbn=0-517-57066-1] Take 2 was deemed best and used as the master take. A string quartet was overdubbed on take 2 and that version was released. Take 1, without the string overdub, was later released on the " Anthology 2" compilation. On take 1, McCartney can be heard giving chord changes to George Harrisonbefore starting, but George does not appear to actually play. Take 2 had two lines transposed from the first take: "There's a shadow hanging over me"/"I'm not half the man I used to be," though it seems clear that their order in take 2 was the correct one, because McCartney can be heard, in take 1, suppressing a laugh at his mistake.
Although McCartney had fallen in love with the song, he had a much harder time convincing the other members of the band that it was worthy of an album place, the main objection being that it did not fit in with their image, especially considering that "Yesterday" was extremely unlike other Beatles' songs at the time. This feeling was so strong that the other Beatles—Lennon, Harrison and
Ringo Starr—refused to permit the release of a single in the United Kingdom. This did not prevent Matt Monrofrom recording the first of many cover versions of "Yesterday" to come. His version made it into the top ten in the UK charts soon after its release in the autumn of 1965.
The Beatles' influence over their U.S. record label, Capitol, was not as strong as it was over
EMI's Parlophonein Britain. A single was released in the U.S., pairing "Yesterday" as the B-Side of " Act Naturally", a track which featured vocals by Ringo, the most popular Beatle in the States at that time. After the tremendous success of "Yesterday", the order in which the songs appeared on the sleeves was changed. The single was charting by 29 September 1965, and topped the charts for a full month, beginning on 9 October. The song spent a remarkable total of 11 weeks in the American charts, selling a million copies within five weeks. "Yesterday" was the most-played song on American radio for eight consecutive years, its popularity refusing to abate.cite web |last=Cross |first=Craig |year=2004 |url=http://www.beatles-discography.com/us-singles.html |title=AMERICAN SINGLES |accessdate=2004-12-09Dead link|date=October 2007]
Meanwhile, in the UK, "Help!" debuted at number one on 14 August 1965 (the first album ever to do so), and continued to top the charts for nine weeks.cite web |last=Cross |first=Craig |year=2006 |url=http://www.beatles-discography.com/uk-albums.html |title=BRITISH ALBUMS |accessdate=2004-01-14Dead link|date=October 2007]
On 4 March 1966, "Yesterday" was released as an EP in the UK, joined by "
Act Naturally" on the A-sidewith " You Like Me Too Much" and " It's Only Love" on the B-side. By 12 March, it had begun its run on the charts. On 26 March 1966, the EP went to number one, a position it held for two months.cite web |last=Cross |first=Craig |year=2004 |url=http://www.beatles-discography.com/uk-eps.html |title=BRITISH EPS |accessdate=2006-01-14Dead link|date=October 2007] Later that same year, "Yesterday" was included as the title track for the U.S.-only " Yesterday and Today" album, which was originally packaged in the "butcher sleeve".
Ten years later on 8 March 1976, "Yesterday" was released by
Parlophoneas a single in the UK, featuring " I Should Have Known Better" on the B-side. Entering the charts on 13 March, the single stayed there for seven weeks, but it never rose higher than number 8. The release came about due to the expiration of The Beatles' contract with EMI, Parlophone's parent. EMI released as many singles by The Beatles as they could on the same day, leading to 23 of them hitting the top 100 in the United Kingdom charts, including six in the top 50.cite web |last=Cross |first=Craig |year=2004 |url=http://www.beatles-discography.com/uk-singles.html |title=BRITISH SINGLES |accessdate=2004-12-09Dead link|date=October 2007]
Awards, accolades and brickbats
"Yesterday" has been recognized as the most recorded song in the history of popular music; its entry in the "Guinness Book of Records" suggests over 3000 different cover versions to date, by an eclectic mix of artists including
The Seekers, Joan Baez, Liberace, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Daffy Duck, Wet Wet Wet, Plácido Domingo, The Head Shop, En Vogueand Boyz II Men.cite web |url=http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/content_pages/record.asp?recordid=50867 |title=Most Recorded Song |accessdate=2006-10-14 |publisher=Guiness World RecordsDead link|date=October 2008] In 1976, David Essexdid a cover version of the song for the ephemeral musical documentary " All This and World War II". After Muzakswitched in the 1990s to programs based on commercial recordings, Muzak's inventory grew to include about 500 "Yesterday" covers.cite web |url=http://www.newyorker.com/printables/fact/060410fa_fact |title=The Soundtrack of Your Life |publisher=The New Yorker |date=2006-04-10 |accessdate=2006-04-18] At the 2006 Grammy Awards, McCartney performed the song live as a mash-up with Linkin Parkand Jay-Z's Numb/Encore. It is Vladimir Putin's favorite Beatles' song. [ [http://www.time.com/time/specials/2007/personoftheyear/article/0,28804,1690753_1690757_1690766,00.html A Tsar Is Born] ]
"Yesterday" won the
Ivor Novello Awardfor 'Outstanding Song of 1965', and came second for 'Most Performed Work of the Year', losing out to another McCartney composition, "Michelle". The song has received its fair share of acclaim in recent times as well, ranking 13th on " Rolling Stone"'s 2004 list " The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time".cite web |url=http://www.rollingstone.com/news/coverstory/500songs |title=The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time |accessdate=2007-02-28] In 1999, Broadcast Music Incorporated(BMI) placed "Yesterday" third on their list of songs of the 20th century most performed on American radio and television, with approximately seven million performances. "Yesterday" was surpassed only by The Association's " Never My Love" and the Righteous Brothers' " You've Lost That Loving Feeling".cite web |url=http://www.bmi.com/news/entry/232893 |title=BMI Announces Top 100 Songs of the Century |publisher=BMI |accessdate=2007-03-09]
"Yesterday," however, has also been criticised for being mundane and mawkish;
Bob Dylanhad a marked dislike for the song, stating that "If you go into the Library of Congress, you can find a lot better than that. There are millions of songs like 'Michelle' and 'Yesterday' written in Tin Pan Alley". Ironically, Dylan ultimately recorded his own version of "Yesterday" four years later, but it was never released.
Shortly before his death in 1980, Lennon explained that he thought the lyrics didn't "resolve into any sense... They're good — but if you read the whole song, it doesn't say anything; you don't know what happened. She left and he wishes it were yesterday — that much you get — but it doesn't really resolve. ... Beautiful — and I never wished I'd written it."cite web |title=The Beatles Interview Database |url=http://www.geocities.com/~beatleboy1/dba05help.html |accessdate=2007-03-09 |Title=Help!: Yesterday]
"Yesterday" was voted Best Song of the 20th Century in 1999 BBC Radio poll. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/312810.stm]
Music and lyrics
The tonic key of the song is F major (although, since McCartney tuned his guitar down a whole step, he was playing the chords as if it were in G), where the song begins before veering off into the
relative minorkey of D minor. It is this frequent use of the minor, and the ii-V7 chord progression(Em and A7 chords in this case) leading into it, that gives the song its melancholy aura. The A7 chord is an example of a secondary dominant, specifically a V/vi chord. The G7 chord in the bridge is another secondary dominant, in this case a V/V chord, but rather than resolve it to the expected chord, as with the A7 to Dm in the verse, McCartney instead follows it with the IV chord, a Bb. This motion creates a descending chromaticline of C B Bb A to accompany the title lyric.
The string arrangement supplements the song's air of sadness, especially in the groaning
cellomelody and its blue seventh[Cahill, Greg. "Encore: It Was 40 Years Ago Today - How the Beatles Launched a String-Playing Revolution", "Strings Go to Journal Record" 20:1:130 (June-July 2005). p. 162.] that connects the two halves of the bridge (on the line, "I don't know / she wouldn't say") as well as the descending line by the violathat segues the chorus back into the verses. This simple idea is so striking, McCartney mimics it with his vocal on the second pass of the chorus.cite web |last=Pollack |first=Alan W |year=1993 |url=http://www.icce.rug.nl/~soundscapes/DATABASES/AWP/y.html |title=Notes on "Yesterday" |accessdate=2006-01-14] This viola line and the high A sustained by the violinover the final verse are the only elements of the string arrangement attributable to McCartney rather than George Martin.
When the song was performed on "
The Ed Sullivan Show", it was done in the above-mentioned key of F, with McCartney as the only Beatle to perform, and the studio orchestra providing the string accompaniment. However, all of The Beatles played in a G-major version which was used in the Tokyo concerts during their 1966 tours.
When McCartney appeared on "
The Howard Stern Show", he stated that he owns the original lyrics to "Yesterday" written on the back of an envelope.
In July 2003, British musicologists stumbled upon similarities between the lyric and rhyming schemes of "Yesterday" and
Nat King Cole's "Answer Me", leading to speculation that McCartney had been influenced by the song. McCartney's publicists denied any resemblance between "Answer Me" and "Yesterday".cite web |url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/music/3050614.stm |title=King Cole 'influenced' Beatles hit |date=2003-07-07 |publisher= BBC News] From the story:
Ian Hammond speculated that McCartney subconsciously based "Yesterday" on
Ray Charles' version of " Georgia On My Mind," but closed his article by saying that despite the similarities"Yesterday" is a "completely original and individual [work] ."
In 2006, Italian producer and songwriter Lilli Greco claimed "Yesterday" to be a cover of a 19th century Neapolitan song called Piccere' Che Vene a Dicere'. In the same article, Greco claimed that McCartney and Lennon had an "encyclopaedicknowledge" of world music and were particularly fond of Neapolitan songs.cite web |url=http://groups.google.co.za/group/rec.music.beatles/browse_thread/thread/ed52a61bf3619048/b813a40d85c1065a?hl=en |title= McCartney's 'Yesterday' a cover of a 19th century Neapolitan song? |accessdate=2007-03-10] Neither Lennon nor McCartney could read sheet music, and the article does not indicate when—or if—McCartney or Lennon heard a performance of the song.
* [http://www.beatlesbible.com/songs/yesterday/ The Beatles Bible: Yesterday]
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