Dig now Paul’s reputation-cementing ballad, which quickly became The Biggest Pop Standard Ever and kick-started the great/horrible 40-year career of McCartney as balladeer. As syrupy and overblown as he would often get on discs to come, give “Yesterday” credit for being sparse and tasteful; the string accompaniment takes a backseat to the warm vocal and guitar, and little touches like the spooky doubling of Paul’s voice during the first “…now I long for yesterday” are quite effective. Ringo’s twangy hoedown on the B-side – a cover of “Act Naturally” – makes for a jarring shift in tone, but, if nothing else, it does a nice job of showing off the band’s ability to pull off credible impressions of its influences (the best example being “Please Mister Postman,” which blows the original right outta the water).
Here’s an observation: Seems to me that Ray Davies was taking a shot at Paul and the Beatles when he wrote these lines in “Where Have All the Good Times Gone”:
Well yesterday was such an easy game for you to play
But let’s face it things are so much easier today
Guess you need some bringing down
And get your feet back on the ground
That song was recorded in October, 1965; “Yesterday” was released in August, 1965… Given the timing and the similarity between the lyrics, it’d sure be a funny coincidence if Davies didn’t have McCartney’s tune in mind when he penned his own ditty, wouldn’t it? Why you so prickly, Ray? And why am I the only person to ever point this out? Weigh in! Paul, let’s hear from you first.