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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Weekly Top Five

Beatles Edition!

2. "Yesterday"
Released on the album "Help!" 6 August, 1965
Secondary release in the US as a single on 13 September, 1965
A-Side; "Act Naturally" B-Side

So, what sort of person simply dreams up one of the most popular, and covered, songs of all time? Sir Paul McCartney, that’s who. McCartney has repeatedly insisted in interviews that he woke up one morning with the now-classic melody of “Yesterday” stuck in his head and, after spending all day trying to find out where he’d heard it from, finally resigned himself to the fact that he’d just dreamed up one of the greatest songs of all time.

When he took the number to George Martin for possible inclusion on The Beatles fifth studio album, “Help!”, Martin chose* to support McCartney’s quiet, melancholic tune with only a sparse and subtle string quintet, and it is largely that choice that has made for Pop music history, for the arrangement allowed the beauty of the melody (the song’s strongest asset) to emerge. As the first Beatles record to feature only one member, “Yesterday” is practically a McCartney solo record, and yet it is a testament to The Beatles’ fidelity to one another that no toes were stepped on when Capitol chose to release the record as a single.

“Yesterday” stands at a seminal point in The Beatles evolution from Pop Music moptops to true Rock pioneers: it was the first record to feature only one member; it was the first to feature exclusively non-rock-canon instruments; and it, along with John Lennon’s “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”, signaled a darker edge to the duo’s writing. The Beatles had recorded and released several now-classic anthems before “Yesterday” but none achieved the same sort of instant celebrity that is reserved only for the most unrelenting of musical masterpieces. It was the type of song that takes on a life of it’s own and instantly establishes itself as a classic piece of Pop bliss. It truly was as if it had always existed and Paul McCartney simply channeled it into existence.

Now, 40 years after it’s first release, and nearly 1500 covers later, it is sometimes hard to see how incredibly beautiful and haunting “Yesterday” is, but hopefully with the release of the new stereo master recordings last week classic songs like “Yesterday” can take on a new life and spawn 1500 more covers.

5. "Paperback Writer"
4. "All You Need is Love"
3. "Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever"
2. "Yesterday"

*wisely I would say.