Yesterday: the secret story of The Beatles’s song

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“It’s not possible that I’m the first one writing it: are you really sure that this melody is totally new?” Paul McCartney was unsettled. He kept asking his companions whether that song, which had awakened him and forced him at the piano in the middle of the night, was really his creation and not someone else’s work: yet, Yesterday and his magical harmony had never been written.

McCartney was worried for one, simple reason: the notes flew out of his unconscious mind so easily, without obstacles, making him able to write a complete and solid version in just a few minutes. Only the lyrics were missing. He put it temporarily on hold, sketching just a few, meaningless words, waiting for more inspiration. That’s how the first funny words of Yesterday came up: “Scrambled Eggs / oh my baby how I love your legs.”

George Martin later told that the song was composed by McCartney in January 1964, but he entered in a Fab Four album only one and a half year later, when the Liverpool Quartet recorded it for Help!. What was initially presented to The Beatles’ original producer as Scrambled Eggs took a few months to become Yesterday, while McCartney was still not sure of what to do. In December 1964, he played the song in front of The Yardbirds, hoping that the band would be interested in recording it: Eric Clapton’s group declined, claiming that their rock imprinting didn’t fit well to a ballad (who knows, though, how Yesterday would have sounded, played by Slow-Hand).

Since that moment, McCartney didn’t miss an opportunity to play the song to friends, trying to confirm his doubts about the originality of the song: he even sat on the piano during the shooting of Help! movie and let everybody hear it quite often, leading the exhausted director Richard Lester to threaten him to seize the piano if he didn’t stop.

After a trip to Portugal, where he finally made up his mind about recording the song, in June 1965 McCartney showed up to his companions with the definitive lyrics. Macca was contrary to the use of violins, terrified by the excessive pomposity that they could bring and clashing often with Martin, who eventually, to convince him, allowed him to direct the quartet of Turners.

Paul McCartney (who recorded it practically solo, with no help from the other Beatles) agreed and Yesterday came up to light as the first pop song with violins, which made even sharper the beauty of  the melody.

The Beatles’ perfect pop song, the most played and recorded song in history (with more than 2500 versions over the time) made The Beatles go beyond their usual musical boundaries and allowed them to learn from classical sounds, something that they will explore more later on. In 1980, McCartney described the song as his best and happiest composition, especially for his instinctive and mysterious birth, confessing to still be shocked about how it arrived to him in a dream on a winter night.

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