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"Yesterday"

Categories: Beatles songs

Scrambled eggs, oh my baby how I love your legs...

Thus ran the original filler-lyric for "Yesterday", a wordless tune that had come to Paul McCartney in a dream. Wouldn't you just love a long-forgotten recorded fragment to show up in the Abbey Road studio vaults sometime?!!

Macca was convinced that he must've dreamt an existing melody. Everybody he asked failed to identify it, and asked what he was going to do with it. Good question! As the song evolved, John, George and Ringo informed him that they had nothing to add, leaving him and George Martin to it.

Mr Martin it was who suggested strings to accompany the solo acoustic guitar, with Macca agreeing: 'so long as it's not too Mantovani...' Having previously provided various instrumental contributions to the band's sound, in becoming their arranger, GM's knowledge and skill — combined with his intuitive sense of what was required — started to open up a whole new universe of musical possibilities for them. His matching downstepping of viola with voice here was masterful, and John was a particular admirer of the 'bluesy cello'.

Like "Eight Days A Week", it was unreleased as a single in the UK at the t doesime, tucked away as the penultimate track on Help! EPs, however, were a different story — and it did finally get issued as a 45 over a decade later, coinciding with the British Singles box set.

As it was being pressed for the US market back in '65, b/w "Act Naturally", there was some discussion as to whether it should go out as a solo effort: flatly refused by the composer, though he has subsequently suggested that the writing credit should be adjusted to McCartney/Lennon. It does seems somewhat superfluous: just the lyric, pondering the effects of the past on his present and future, is pure Paul; and besides, JL always maintained that he'd never wished he'd written it.

On stage, Paul would sometimes sing it accompanied, and sometimes took the opportunity (knocks) to perform solo. From Wings to date, no McLive show is complete without a rendition. On the grounds of cool, I tried hating the song for years but, with age perhaps giving wisdom, finally managed to give up being bugged when it gets stuck in my head: what a relief to no longer "need a place to hide away"!

It holds the Guinness record as the most covered song of all time — by anyone, not just The Beatles — with somewhere in the region of 3,000 versions having been recorded. Whether you love or hate "Yesterday", with so many takes on it knocking around, it certainly "looks as though they're here to stay":

Oh, I believe...
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