The Beatles song John Lennon called Paul McCartney’s first ‘Yesterday’
The Beatles started out there time in the spotlight making songs that people could dance to. Pop music was exploding and the Fab Four were bringing the party atmosphere from rock and roll to the masses through a brand new sound. It meant that while a lot fo their songs focused on love and romance, very few of their songs were big ballads.
Having started writing music at such a tender age it might be expected that John Lennon and Paul McCartney imbued much of their earliest work with the bouncing exuberance of youth. But by the time A Hard Day’s Night came around, McCartney had written his first big ballad.
1964 was an intense period for The Beatles. The band had exploded across the globe and Beatlemania was in full effect. That came with expectations. Those expectations largely rested on the shoulders of the principal songwriters in the group Lennon-McCartney as they tried to get number one after number one.
The demand pushed the band towards subject matter that they were sure would find some commercial traction. In 1996, McCartney remembered of their songwriting process at the time: “Most of the songs that John and I wrote together were kinda pulled out of thin air. That was the thing about John and me that I still marvel at… because we had been 16-year-olds together. He’d come over to my house and we’d smoke Ty-Phoo tea in my dad’s pipe.
“And because we’d done all that, by the time we got around to ‘A Hard Day’s Night,’ we sort of expected that we sat down together to write a song and have a little bit of fun— simply because we were used to doing it. That was how we did what we did.”
One track that both Lennon and McCartney can claim the credit on is the big ballad ‘And I Love Her’. “Both of us wrote it. The first half was Paul’s and the middle-eight is mine.” A middle eight that according to Derek James, a serial Beatles biographer, was composed within just half an hour during a break from recording. In just under 30 mins Lennon would make a big contribution to a hugely successful song.
Having claimed the song back in 1972 by the time he sat down with Playboy in 1980 Lennon had changed his tune saying, “‘And I Love Her’ is Paul again.” But the singer also lavished more praise on the song saying “I consider it his first ‘Yesterday.’ You know, the big ballad in ‘A Hard Day’s Night.'” While diehard Beatles fans will know about Lennon’s slight aversions to ‘Yesterday’, there’s no doubting this was meant as a compliment.
It was the first time the band really took a step into the balladry of pop music, something that McCartney was rather nonchalant about in a 1984 interview, “It’s just a love song. It wasn’t for anyone. Having the title start in midsentence, I thought that was clever. Well, Perry Como did ‘And I Love You So’ many years later. Tried to nick the idea. I like that… it was a nice tune, that one. I still like it.”
The track is a little ‘out there’ in comparison to some other classic ballads though. “The ‘And’ in the title was an important thing – ‘And I Love Her,’ it came right out of left field, you were right up to speed the minute you heard it,” McCartney later said. “The title comes in the second verse and it doesn’t repeat. You would often go to town on the title, but this was almost an aside: ‘Oh … and I love you.'”
The song may well have been crafted by the principal songwriters of the group but perhaps its lasting impression comes from another member of The Beatles, their guitarist George Harrison. Speaking with Mojo in 2011, McCartney said that the signature solo in the song was all Harrison and that it “made a stunning difference to the song.”
So sit back and listen to the song John Lennon considered to be Paul McCartney’s first ‘Yesterday’.