The Beatles 40 best songs: at 31 “Yesterday”


I just started playing it and this tune came, ‘cuz that’s what happens. They just, sort of– they COME, you know. It just came and I couldn’t think of any words to it, so originally it was just, ‘Scrambled Egg.’ It was called ‘Scrambled Egg’ for a couple of months, until I thought of ‘Yesterday.’ And that’s it. True story.
—Paul McCartney, 1968

‘Yesterday’ is Paul completely on his own, really. We just helped finishing off the ribbons ’round it, you know — tying it up.
—John Lennon, 1966


Yesterday“was originally recorded by the Beatles for their 1965 album Help!. Although credited to “Lennon–McCartney”, the song was written solely by Paul McCartney. At the time of its first appearance, the song was released by the Beatles’ record company as a single in the United States but not in the United Kingdom (for further details see below). Consequently, whilst it topped the American chart in 1965 the song first hit the British top 10 three months after the release of Help! in a cover version by Matt Monro. “Yesterday” was voted the best song of the 20th century in a 1999 BBC Radio 2 poll of music experts and listeners and was also voted the No. 1 Pop song of all time by MTV and Rolling Stone magazine the following year. In 1997, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI) asserts that it was performed over seven million times in the 20th century alone.

“Yesterday” is a melancholy acoustic guitar ballad about the break-up of a relationship. McCartney is the only Beatle to appear on the recording, and it was the first official recording by the Beatles that relied upon a performance by a single member of the band. He was accompanied by a string quartet. The final recording was so different from other works by the Beatles that the band members vetoed the release of the song as a single in the United Kingdom. (However, it was issued as a single there in 1976.)

Song by the Beatles from the album Help!
Released 6 August 1965 (UK)
Recorded 14 June 1965,
EMI Studios, London
Genre Baroque pop
Language English
Length 2:03
Label Parlophone
Writer Lennon–McCartney
Producer George Martin

The Beatles – Yesterday (live):

beatles yestarday

It fell out of bed. I had a piano by my bedside and I… must have dreamed it, because I tumbled out of bed and put my hands on the piano keys and I had a tune in my head. It was just all there, a complete thing. I couldn’t believe it. It came too easy. In fact, I didn’t believe I’d written it. I thought maybe I’d heard it before, it was some other tune, and I went around for weeks playing the chords of the song for people, asking them, ‘Is this like something? I think I’ve written it.’ And people would say, ‘No, it’s not like anything else, but it’s good.’
—Paul McCartney, 1984

The Beatles – Yesterday (studio version):

With its yearning suspended ninths, rapid harmonic movement, and irregular phrase-lengths. YESTERDAY has been analysed more closely than any other Beatles composition. Its significance, so far as the group was concerned, lay less in the song’s musical attributes than in George Martin’s disclosure to them of an hitherto unsuspected world of classical instrumental colour. Restrained by the demands of touring, they paused a year before putting this discovery to full use.
~Ian MacDonald (Revolution in the Head: The Beatles’ Records and the Sixties)

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3 thoughts on “The Beatles 40 best songs: at 31 “Yesterday””

  1. I know that only Paul is on “Blackbird” and only John on “Julia.” George’s vocal is added to a raga recorded in India on “The Inner Light”; I’m not sure if there are any other Beatles singing background vocals. “Within You, Without You” is a similar type of track. Likewise “Eleanor Rigby” features Paul’s vocal added to a string quartet backing, but John or George may be singing back up.

  2. As stated here, this record is the first Beatles record to only feature one member of the band, can somebody please tell me wich are the others?

  3. I’ve read that the Beatles, Brian Epstein, and George Martin actually discussed releasing “Yesterday” as a Paul McCartney solo single, and that Epstein vetoed the idea over concerns for group unity.

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