Yesterday’s history

by piscianemperor

Yesterday,
All my troubles seemed so far away,
Now it looks as though they’re here to stay,
Oh, I believe in yesterday.

Suddenly,
I’m not half the man I used to be,
There’s a shadow hanging over me,
Oh, yesterday came suddenly.

Why she
Had to go I don’t know, she wouldn’t say.
I said,
Something wrong, now I long for yesterday.

Yesterday,
Love was such an easy game to play,
Now I need a place to hide away,
Oh, I believe in yesterday.

Why she
Had to go I don’t know, she wouldn’t say.
I said,
Something wrong, now I long for yesterday.

Yesterday,
Love was such an easy game to play,
Now I need a place to hide away,
Oh, I believe in yesterday.

Mm-mm-mm-mm-mm-mm-mm.

“What kind of music do you listen to?” is a very strange question for a person like me. It is also a pretty common conversation starter, and I suppose people think its quite weird that I do not have defined musical tastes (or they probably think I am not interested in the conversation-to-be). I listen to Coldplay, the normal techno songs that play on the radio- Usher, Pitbull, Black Eyed Peas, Far East Movement etc.

A month back, I stumbled across this huge treasure trove of the Beatles, Eagles, Bobby McFerrin, Don McLean, the Rolling Stones- and man! This is really my kind of music! A couple of days back, I was watching “Once upon a time in America”, and this tune of the Beatles’ song- ‘Yesterday’, started playing in the movie. I was like- wait a minute, isn’t that the same song I have played a hundred times past few days? Talk about co-incidences.

By now, I was curious and began to dig out the history of this ballad. My search lasted three days.

Yesterday is the most recorded song ever, according to Guinness Book of Records. Yesterday has been rendered via jazz, reggae, brass, salsa, synthesizer, soul, funk, folk, the Boston Pops and the harmonica. It hasn’t been so much covered as smothered. There are thousands of Beatles tribute bands.

Paul McCartney composed the entire melody in a dream one night. When he woke up, he played the tune on a piano next to his bedside, so that he wouldn’t forget it. Paul was concerned that he had subconsciously copied someone else’s melody. “It was just all there, a complete thing. I couldn’t believe it. It came too easy,” said he. So for a month, he went to people in the music business and played the tune to them. “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,” said he, in one of his memoirs.

Once Paul was sure that it really was his tune, he began to compose lyrics for it. The words did not come as easily as the tune though, and the Beatles called it ‘Scrambled Egg’ for some months. “Scrambled eggs, oh my baby, how I love your legs,” went the dummy lyrics. The breakthrough came when Paul was on a holiday in Portugal. “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,” said he.

The song was recorded by McCartney on 14th June, 1965. Solo. In only two takes. The band tried to play it together, but no combination seemed to work. Till Paul sang it on its own. Although he had already fallen in love with the song, Paul had a hard time convincing the other members of the band that the song was worthy of an album place. The main objection was that it did not fit in with their image, especially considering that Yesterday was extremely unlike other Beatles’ songs at the time. This feeling was so strong, that the song was not released as a single in United Kingdom at first. It was however released in United States, and topped the charts for a whole month. The rest is history.

There is really nothing exceptionally different about this song- it talks about a breakup, like so many others do. As John Lennon said later of this song,”They’re good– but if you read the whole song, it doesn’t say anything; you don’t know what happened. She left and he wishes it were yesterday– that much you get– but it doesn’t really resolve.” Paul McCartney, only 22 at that time, was far too young to be looking backwards at life, and what’s more, to be so good at it. McCartney doesn’t sneak up on the song; he is already in the midst of it emotionally and vocally, and the artlessness of his approach is part of what creates the effect of fingernails scraping on the heartstrings. There is nothing sugar coated about the lyrics. They are adjective-free. They are direct. They hurt.

As for the ex-lover that McCartney is singing about – the one who “had to go” but why, “she wouldn’t say” – the lyrics are a classic piece of evasion. “You know perfectly well why I had to go,” millions of women are responding. “You hit me/flirted with the waitress/didn’t pick up after yourself/got fat/watched football during/fell asleep right after/had a sliver of glass in your cold, cold heart” Love works, or doesn’t work, both ways.

Everyone goes through this wretchedness. The genius of the song lies in its universality. Everyone, male or female, straight or gay, young or old, can identify with its theme of lost love.

“I remember thinking that people liked sad tunes; they like to wallow a bit when they’re alone, to put a record on and go, ‘Ahhhh.’ “ - Paul McCartney

P.S: Used Wikipedia and references there as my references. Some of the quotes are directly taken off Wikipedia.
P.P.S: No hidden messages intended.

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