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Yesterday (Lennon/McCartney)

One of the more humorous song backgrounds in the Beatles song catalog, Yesterday famously began as a piano riff churning through Paul's head and waking him one night. Using the lines "Scrambled eggs/Oh my dear you have such lovely legs", Paul played the song for anyone and everyone who would listen, swearing up and down he had heard the tune before. When several people assured him it was completely original (and after driving everyone crazy in the process, as noted by George Martin), Paul completed the lyrics. The track, featuring Paul on his acoustic guitar backed by a string arrangement, is the most covered Beatles song ever.

Paul goes solo

Paul is the only Beatle present on the record, playing along with a string quartet. The idea to release the recording credited to Paul McCartney rather than The Beatles was briefly flirted with, but Brian Epstein would not allow it.

Quotes

"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'." - Paul

"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." - Paul

"The song was around for months and months before we finally completed it. Every time we got together to write songs for a recording session, this one would come up. We almost had it finished. Paul wrote nearly all of it, but we just couldn't find the right title. We called it 'Scrambled Eggs' and it became a joke between us. We made up our minds that only a one-word title would suit, 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 was sorry in a way, we'd had so many laughs about it." - John

"I remember mulling over the tune 'Yesterday', and suddenly getting these little one-word openings to the verse. I started to develop the idea ... 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." - Paul

"Strumming away on a medieval guitar, I thought [sings] 'Scrambled Egg.' But I never could finish it, and eventually I took it back in. With the ancient wisdom of the east, John came out with [sings] 'Yesterday'." - Paul

"[Yesterday] wasn't really a Beatles record and I discussed this with Brian Epstein: 'You know this is Paul's song... shall we call it Paul McCartney?' He said 'No, whatever we do we are not splitting up the Beatles.'" - George Martin

"Paul played his guitar and sang it live, a mic on the guitar and mic on the voice. But, of course, the voice comes on to the guitar mic and the guitar comes on to the voice mic. So there's leakage there. Then I said I'd do a string quartet. The musicians objected to playing with headphones, so I gave them Paul's voice and guitar on two speakers either side of their microphones. So there's leakage of Paul's guitar and voice on the string tracks." - George Martin

"Well, we all know about "Yesterday." I have had so much accolade for "Yesterday." That is Paul's song, of course, and Paul's baby. Well done. Beautiful -- and I never wished I had written it." - John Lennon, Playboy, 1980

"We agonised over the inclusion of "Yesterday" in the show. It is such a famous song, the icon of an era, but had it been heard too much? The story of the addition of the original string quartet is well known, however, few people know how limited the recording was technically, and so the case for not including it was strong, but how could we ignore such a marvellous work? We introduced it with some of Paul's guitar work from "Blackbird", and hearing it now, I know it was right to include it. Its simplicity is so direct; it tugs at the heartstrings." - George Martin on the inclusion of the song in Love

Release history

Chart performance

  • #1, October 9 - November 5 (4 weeks), Billboard (US)

Awards

  • Nominated for the 1965 Grammy for Record Of The Year
  • Song Of The Year
  • Best Vocal Performance; Male
  • Best Contemporary (R&R) Single
  • Best Contemporary (R&R) Vocal Performance; Male
  • Best Arrangement Accompanying a Vocalist or Instrumentalist

Notable covers

  • Boyz 2 Men (from II, 1994)
  • En Vogue (from Funky Divas, 1992)
  • Michael Bolton (from Timeless - The Classics, 1992)
  • Dr. John (from Hollywood Be Thy Name, 1975)
  • Marvin Gaye (from That's The Way Love Is, 1969)

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