Yesterday once more

Beatles classic had surprising origins.

Paul McCartney has revealed that Yesterday, arguably his best known song, almost never happened – at least in the form that the world knows it. In an interview with Birmingham-based Beatles website The Fool On The Hill, McCartney explained that the original intention had been to write a comedy song: “We used to make records for our fan club every year, little flexible plastic discs that were sent to each member as a sort of Christmas pressie. Basically it was the four of us just larking about.

“For 1964, which I guess must have been the second time we made one of these, I came up with the basic tune that would later become Yesterday and thought up a few silly lyrics to go with it. It was supposed to be just me on an acoustic guitar, no strings or anything like that, with the others singing along and probably giggling a lot.

“Then we started thinking that we could flesh it out a bit, make it into something more substantial – though still not at all serious – and put it on the B-side of our next single, which was due for release in the run up to Christmas. We’d already got an ‘A’ side, I Feel Fine, but were struggling for the flip, as we’d needed a lot of songs for the Beatles For Sale LP, which we were also recording at the time. We’d always shied away from writing a traditional Christmas pop hit, but this seemed like a great alternative.”

McCartney explained that the song was to be called Christmas Day, stating that he recently found the lyrics (reprinted below) in a notebook which he thought he’d long discarded. The tune of course, you will know:

Christmas Day

Christmas Day, all my relatives have come to stay
Now I need a place to hide away
Oh I do not like Christmas Day

Suddenly, I have lost all of my privacy
Gran and Grandpa watching over me
Oh I do not like Christmas Day

Why they will not go I don’t know, they wouldn’t say
Don’t they have a home of their own, their heads to lay..ay..ay..ay

Boxing Day, just when are they going to go away?
Now it looks as though they’re here to stay
Oh I do not like Christmas Day

Why they will not go I don’t know, they wouldn’t say
Don’t they have a home of their own, their heads to lay..ay..ay..ay

New Year’s Day, so I get down on my knees and pray
Think I’ll go and live in Haringay
Oh I do not like Christmas Day
I do not like Christmas Day

“Although we ran through it a few times in the studio, we never actually recorded it, which looking back now is either a pity or something to be very grateful for, I’m not sure which. In the end I came up with a song called She’s A Woman and we put that on the ‘B’ Side of I Feel Fine instead.

“Fortunately, I kept the original tune in my head and when we began recording our next album, the soundtrack to the film Help!, I revived it, initially – as I’ve said in previous interviews – under the working title Scrambled Eggs, before finally coming up with the lyrics that turned it into the song Yesterday, which our producer George Martin then scored for strings, something I’d probably never have thought of doing.”

And for their third fan club record at the end of 1965, the Beatles did indeed send up Yesterday, with a somewhat tipsy sounding rendition of the by then classic recording of the song found on Help!. But until today however, and Paul’s revelation, even the most ardent and knowledgeable of the group’s fans didn’t realise that it could all have been so different. Proving that even after more than half a century, Beatles secrets are still being discovered.

You can read the full interview with Paul McCartney here: