Single by The Beatles
from the album Help!
B-side "Act Naturally"
Released 13 September 1965
Recorded 14 June 1965
EMI Studios, London
Genre Baroque pop
Producer George Martin
"Yesterday" is a song originally recorded by The Beatles for their 1965 album Help!. According to Guinness World Records, "Yesterday" has the most cover versions of any song ever written.
The song remains popular today with more than 3,000 recorded cover versions, the first hitting the United Kingdom top 10 three months after the release of Help!. Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI) asserts that it was performed over seven million times in the 20th century alone.
The song was not released as a single in the UK at the time of its release in the United States, and thus never gained number 1 single status in that country. However, "Yesterday" was voted the best song of the 20th century in a 1999 BBC Radio 2 poll of music experts and listeners.
In 2000, "Yesterday" was voted the #1 Pop song of all time by MTV and Rolling Stone Magazine. In 1997, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
"Yesterday" is a melancholy acoustic guitar ballad about a break-up.
It was the first official recording by The Beatles that relied upon a performance by a single member of the band, Paul McCartney.
He was accompanied by a string quartet. The final recording was so different from other works by The Beatles that the other three 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.)
Although credited to "Lennon/McCartney", the song was written solely by McCartney. In 2002 McCartney asked Yoko Ono if she would allow reversing the credit on the song to read "McCartney/Lennon". Ono refused.
According to biographers of McCartney and the Beatles, McCartney composed the entire melody in a dream one night in his room at the Wimpole Street home of his then girlfriend Jane Asher and her family.
On 27 May 1965, McCartney and Asher flew to Lisbon for a holiday in Albufeira, Algarve, and he borrowed an acoustic guitar from Bruce Welch, in whose house they were staying, and completed the work on "Yesterday".
The song was offered as a demo to Chris Farlowe prior to The Beatles recording it, but he turned it down as he considered it "too soft".
The track was recorded at Abbey Road Studios (immediately following on from taping "I'm Down") on the 14 June 1965.
Alternative sources, however, state that McCartney and the other Beatles tried a variety of instruments, including drums and an organ, and that George Martin later persuaded them to allow McCartney to play his Epiphone Texan steel-string acoustic guitar, later on editing-in a string quartet for backup. Regardless, none of the other band members were included in the final recording.
However, the song was played with the other members of the band in concert during 1966, in G major instead of F major.
McCartney performed two takes of "Yesterday" on 14 June 1965. Take 2 was deemed best and used as the master take. A string quartet was overdubbed on take 2 and that version was released.
On take 1, McCartney can be heard giving chord changes to George Harrison before starting, but George does not appear to actually play. Take 2 had two lines transposed from the first take: "There's a shadow hanging over me"/"I'm not half the man I used to be", though it seems clear that their order in take 2 was the correct one, because McCartney can be heard, in take 1, suppressing a laugh at his mistake.
"Yesterday" begins with the line: "Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away/Now I need a place to hide away".
Answer Me has the line: "Yesterday, I believed that love was here to stay, won't you tell me where I've gone astray".