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The Beatles “Yesterday”
Writer(s): John Lennon/Paul McCartney (see lyrics here)
Released: 9/13/1965, First charted: 9/18/1965
Peak: 14 US, 13 CB, 8 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 1.0 world (includes US and UK)
Radio Airplay (in millions): 9.0 Video Airplay (in millions): 30.93
Review: Guinness World Records says this is the most recorded song of all time RS500 with more than 2500 versions RSP but the Beatles’ original “remains the most beautiful...of all.” RS500 Despite its present status, the Beatles almost didn’t record it at all.
The song came effortlessly. Paul McCartney said, “[I] tumbled out of bed and put my hands on the piano keys and I had a tune in my head.” RSP He assumed he’d unconsciously plagiarized it, TB remembering one of the many jazz tunes his dad had known. RS500 As he told The Hollywood Reporter, “I…spent about three weeks asking all the music people I knew, ‘What is this song?’ I couldn’t believe I’d written it.” BR1-185
Despite such an auspicious beginning, the Beatles initially couldn’t make it work. Paul first played the song for producer George Martin in January 1964, before the Beatles had landed in America, but it would be another year and a half before they recorded it. RS500 Paul even attempted giving it to blues shouter Chris Farlowe and fellow Liverpudlian Billy J. Kramer. HL
When the Beatles took a shot at it, Ringo couldn’t make the drums work and John struck out on the organ; RSP Lennon also disliked the song’s “mawkish sentimentality.” HL Martin decided to abandon the more expected rock arrangement of guitar, bass, and drums in favor of a string section. HL McCartney’s reaction was that, “We were a little embarrassed about it…We were a rock & roll band.” RS500 Martin convinced McCartney to try it, assuring him that they could always re-cut it if the idea didn’t work. HL Needless to say, no such redo was necessary.
Resources and Related Links:
- The Beatles’ DMDB Encyclopedia entry
- HL Heatley, Michael, and Spencer Leigh. (1998). Behind the Song: The Stories of 100 Great Pop & Rock Classics. London, England: Blandford Books. Page 18.
- RS500 RollingStone.com “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”
- RSP Rolling Stone (September 8, 1988; Issue 534). “The 100 Best Singles of the Last 25 Years." New York, NY; Straight Arrow Publishing Company. Page 60.
- TB Thunder Bay Press. (2006). Singles: Six Decades of Hot Hits & Classic Cuts. Outline Press Ltd.: San Diego, CA. Page 73.