Sunday, 29 July 2012

Famous Dreamers - Paul McCartney's "Yesterday" Dream

Sir Paul McCartney (b. 1942) of Liverpool, England, was one quarter of the most famous band in musical history – The Beatles. Alongside John Lennon (1940 – 1980), McCartney formed the most celebrated singer/songwriting partnership in popular music, receiving unprecedented commercial and critical acclaim during their 1957 – 1970 career with The Beatles.

In 1965, McCartney was staying at his then girlfriend Jane Asher’s family home in Wimpole Street, London. McCartney stated:

I woke up with a lovely tune in my head. I thought, 'That's great, I wonder what that is?' There was an upright piano next to me, to the right of the bed by the window. I got out of bed, sat at the piano, found G, found F sharp minor 7th -- and that leads you through then to B to E minor, and finally back to E. It all leads forward logically. I liked the melody a lot, but because I'd dreamed it, I couldn't believe I'd written it. I thought, 'No, I've never written anything like this before.' But I had the tune, which was the most magic thing!

The tune McCartney was speaking about was the arrangement to the massive hit song “Yesterday” from The Beatles album Help! (1965). Upon waking from the dream, McCartney hurried to a piano and played the tune so that he would not forget it. McCartney's initial concern was that he had subconsciously plagiarised someone else's work (known as ‘cryptomnesia’). He stated: "For about a month I went round to people in the music business and asked them whether they had ever heard it before. 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."

"Yesterday" is a melancholy acoustic guitar ballad about a relationship break-up. It was the first official recording by The Beatles that relied upon a performance by a single member of the band, McCartney, 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.) Although credited to "Lennon–McCartney", the song was written solely by McCartney. In 2000 McCartney asked Yoko Ono if she would agree to change the credit on the song to read "McCartney–Lennon" in the The Beatles Anthology but she refused.

In 1997, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and in 1999, the song was voted by BBC Radio 2 listeners as the best song of the 20th century. In 2000, “Yesterday” was voted the number one pop song of all time by MTV and Rolling Stone Magazine. Furthermore, The Guinness Book of Records holds that “Yesterday” is the most covered song ever with over 3000 versions recorded and Broadcast Music Incorporated asserts the song was performed over 7 million times in the 20th century alone.

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