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FLASHBACK: The Beatles record ‘Yesterday’

British pop group The Beatles arrive at London Airport on their way back from USA where they have been on tour, 2nd September 1965, from left to right, John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. (Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
British pop group The Beatles arrive at London Airport on their way back from USA where they have been on tour, 2nd September 1965, from left to right, John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. (Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

It was 54 years ago today (June 14th, 1965) that the Beatles recorded “Yesterday” — the Paul McCartney-written classic, which stands as the most covered song of all time. “Yesterday” was taped at London’s Abbey Road Studios on a day that perhaps showed the truest account of McCartney’s songwriting and performing abilities. In addition to “Yesterday,” the Beatles tackled not only the future folk-rock classic “I’ve Just Seen A Face,” but the spleen-splitting hard rock “Help!” B-side, “I’m Down.” “Yesterday” was first released on the UK Help! album on August 6th, 1965.

On September 13th, 1965, the night of the single’s release, the “Fab Four’s” fourth live performance on The Ed Sullivan Show spotlighted the song, featuring McCartney performing for the first time on American TV alone on acoustic guitar accompanied by a string ensemble — but without John LennonGeorge Harrison, and Ringo Starr.

“Yesterday,” which was not released in England as a single until 1976 — long after the Beatles’ split — hit Number One on the Billboard Hot 100 on October 9th, 1965 — John Lennon’s 25th birthday, overtaking the McCoys‘ “Hang On Sloopy.”

The single’s B-Side, the Ringo Starr-vehicle, “Act Naturally” — which was also performed on the Sullivan Show telecast — peaked at Number 47 on the Billboard charts, with Cash Box charting it as high as Number 28.

The instant evergreen held down the top spot for a solid month, until toppled by the Rolling Stones‘ follow-up to “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” with the two week Number One “Get Off My Cloud.”

In recent years, Paul McCartney has raised the issue of reversing the official credits to “Yesterday,” from Lennon/McCartney to McCartney/Lennon, seeing as how — admittedly — John Lennon had nothing to do with the song’s composition and/or arrangement. To McCartney’s chagrin, Yoko Ono has refused to allow the signature songwriting credit to be changed.

Save for the past couple of years, “Yesterday” has been a McCartney live staple since 1975. When now performed in concert, he uses the same Epiphone Texan acoustic guitar used on the original Beatles recording session.

DID YOU KNOW???

  • In 2011, the piano that Paul McCartney began composing “Yesterday” on in 1964 — the year before the Beatles recorded it — sold at a London auction for a whopping $245,114.92.
  • The 1926 Art Deco green miniature Eavestaff piano, which belonged to the Beatles’ confidante, the late singer Alma Cogan, was sold by Cogan’s sister and bought by an anonymous overseas bidder.
  • Among the other notables to have played the Cogan-owned piano include John LennonMick JaggerSammy Davis, Jr., and Michael Caine, among others.

CHECK IT OUT: The live premiere of “Yesterday” on August 1st, 1965 live on England’s Blackpool Night Out:

CHECK IT OUT: The Beatles’ full-band version of “Yesterday” on June 24th, 1966 live in Munich: