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The John Lennon Series
by Jude Southerland Kessler

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Reference Library: Yesterday Alternate Lyrics

From: (saki)
Subject: Re: Searching for "Yesterday"
Date: 13 Apr 1995 04:36:08 GMT

In article <3mc779$> Beatle Bailey writes: (Noam Kuzar) wrote:
Hello. I've heard about a month ago that Paul said something about Yesterday having different words (Something like scrambled eggs, scrambled eggs, I love your legs)... Anyone else heard about it?

In the video 'The Complete Beatles' George Martin says how Paul came into the studio one day and played 'Yesturday' to him, but sang it to the words of "Scrambled Eggs" because he hadn't come up with the lyrics yet.

When I did some initial research a couple weeks ago on this topic, I found out there's more to it than meets the eye. There is, in fact, a plethora of material, not all of it quite in synch with the rest.

With such a famous song, it's no surprise that there should be so much confusion...but so many people remember so many different things! It's not a great puzzlement why we can't seem to pin down the song to a particular chronological moment.

I haven't been able to reach any firm conclusions, but perhaps this exploration can help unearth other hidden logical gems from our collective unconscious. Many minds often work better than one. :-) And naturally, if the whole shebang bores you to tears, please skip and go on to something you more fully enjoy.

Everyone and their manager seems to have heard the song as "Scrambled Eggs", or so they claim...but interestingly George Martin does *not* mention this in the video history "The Compleat Beatles" (at least in the sequence I checked last night). Martin also doesn't call the song that in his book "All You Need Is Ears". He *does* mention it in a brief quote from Lewisohn's "Recording Sessions" though (see entry for 14 June 1965).

George Martin recalls hearing the song for the first time at the Georges V Hotel in Paris (this would place the time frame in January 1964 when the Fabs were there for an extended concert series); he says that Paul had already come up with the title "Yesterday" and mentioned that he wanted a one-word title, but thought this might be too "corny". Martin persuaded him that it was not corny in the least.

This brings to mind the question of why the song had to be called "Scrambled Eggs" at all, if the title existed that early! One presumes that the placeholder lyrics would have had the rhyme "Yesterday/xxx-xxx-xxx" (some rhyme with "-day") rather than the "Eggs/legs" configuration. Or is this another Humpty-Dumpty/ Alice logical debate, i.e. the song *was* "Yesterday" but it was *called* "Scrambled Eggs"?

George Martin explained that it was a nice song, but that it wasn't appropriate for heavy drumming. He then suggested a string quartette, and Paul thought it was a nice idea.

Yes, although accounts differ. Martin says in "Compleat" that he mentioned it wasn't really a Beatles-style song and would have to be done differently.

Suggesting the quartet arrangement brought initial cautionary reaction from Paul, who didn't want it to sound "like Mantovani", a well-known musical purveyor of what we might term "soft-core" classical arrangements.

On the other hand, Martin's spare, brisk, contemplative score for string quartet apparently agreed with the good Doctor, and Paul embraced that suggestion willingly.


Yea, what I heard was that Paul dreamed the tune - He woke up with it in his head and thought it was great but thought he must have heard it somewhere and so didn't use for a long time - just asked people if they'd heard it.

The "tumbled out of bed" story has a couple permutations too. Steve Turner in "A Hard Day's Write" says that Paul dreamed it and wrote it on a piano next to his bed at the Asher's Wimpole Street house, where he had his own room on the fifth floor, next to Peter Asher's.

On the other hand, this room has been described by Asher (in Salewicz) as being the smaller of two top-floor rooms, with an oversized wardrobe (i.e. freestanding closet) and bed. One might already question whether a piano could be fitted in, especially considering a) they were on the top floor of a narrow London building (anyone familiar with the acute awkwardness of those sorts of stairways?); and b) there was already a piano in the Asher basement---the one John and Paul had used to compose "I Want To Hold Your Hand".

With Martin insisting that the song was composed at the Georges V Hotel, Mark Hertsgaard makes the logical leap (rather premature, IMHO) that there was a piano in Paul's hotel room. There very well could have been a piano in the suite's parlor (the same parlor where the Beatles shared a festive meal upon hearing that "I Want To Hold Your Hand" reached number one in America). But for other reasons, I don't believe that "Yesterday" could possibly have been composed there. Could Martin be thinking about another fancy hotel where Paul played him the tune...perhaps one at a resort in Switzerland or in the Bahamas, where Martin may have accompanied the group as they were filming "Help!"?

Or perhaps Martin actually recalls Lennon & McCartney deftly at work on a couple of new songs at the George V Hotel, one of which was "One and One Is Two"...or was it the final polish on "Can't Buy Me Love", which the Fabs were actually to record in Paris?

Confusing one song for another---or one hotel for another---is not so odd, considering the frenzy of touring, filming, and recording during the Fabs' mid-period (1963-1966).

Richard Lester, director of "Help!", recalls Paul playing "Scrambled Eggs" to excess on the set, and jocularly warned Paul that he would have the set piano removed if Paul didn't finish the song (see Andrew Yule, "The Man Who 'Framed' the Beatles", p. 103). "Help!" was filmed between February and April 1965. If Lester's memory is sound, then we know the lyrics were still unfinished while "Help!" was in the works--- and Lester doesn't mention having heard the finished version at that point; rather, Lester merely mentions how tired everyone was of hearing "Scrambled Eggs" over and over.

Can we thus narrow the time frame even further?

It's clear that Macca had only the melody at first, and couldn't believe *he'd* written it. He describes playing it for a number of people to make sure it was really his ("...and I went around for weeks playing the chords of the song for people" he says in the 1984 Playboy interview). He describes it as "too easy", a song that "was just all there, a complete thing". Of course it wasn't complete. It had no lyrics!

Now the fun begins. Just how long did he work at it to make it evolve from "Scrambled Eggs" to "Yesterday"?

If we're to believe George Martin, it took from January 1964 until June 1965...a rather long sequence, so it seems to me. So this wonderful work was kicking around for a year and a half, driving people nuts with its silly lyrics about scrambled eggs?

If that were the case, you'd think that this lengthy birthing process would have impressed itself upon Dr. Macca. But that's not what he recalls.

On the other hand, we have a pretty definitive idea when it was *finished*. Bruce Welch, guitarist for the Shadows (who backed Cliff Richard), rented out his villa in Portugal to Paul and Jane, who vacationed there from 28 May to 11 June 1965.

Welch recalls Paul borrowing his guitar to work on the lyrics for the song, which Welch surmises Paul had composed during the drive from Lisbon to his villa. The song appears to have reached its lyrical completion during the last few days of this holiday. BTW, such working holidays were not at all unusual for Macca; he wrote "Things We Said Today" during a Bahamas trip, and "For No One" when vacationing at Klosters in Switzerland.

Paul and Jane left Portugal a day earlier than planned, at Brian Epstein's behest, to be back in England for the announcement of the MBE's on 12 June. And on 14 June, spirits still soaring from this resplendent honor (if not from the substance they smoked during the ceremony), the Fabs were back in studio; Paul recorded the vocal and guitar track for "Yesterday" on that very day...a mere three days (if our math is correct) after he finished the words.

Paul's consistent in describing work on the song as being both "easy" and taking no longer than "weeks" at the most...and while that requires some fine-tuning, it was certainly not a process that took a year and a half, we must presume...or else it would likely have registered in his brain as the Great Unfinishable Masterpiece. :-) In fact, wherever Paul talks about "Yesterday" he emphasizes what a simple, swift process it was to finish it.

In his 1989 tour program, Paul wrote a piece about composition in general, and with the Fabs: "Yesterday - I did the tune easily and then the words took about two weeks...." A slight exaggeration perhaps. :-)

Paul was seen playing "Scrambled Eggs" on the set of "Help!", then was known to have finished it in June. That's about four months (at most) or two months (at the least), relying upon "Help!"'s shooting schedule as a guide. This is a sequence of events more in keeping with Paul's story about its taking only weeks to finish, and being an "easy" song at that!

Even more compelling, the song's lyrical sophistication seems more chronologically appropriate to a maturing artist, not to one in the first flush of his fame. No question that both Paul and John were entirely capable of feeling the depths of love's despair, but such emotional vulnerability did not, as a rule, emerge in their earliest music.

Songs written prior to 1965 do hint at the sorrow encountered by the lovelorn: "I Don't Want to Spoil The Party", "I'm A Loser"...interesting! Look at Paul's compositional output prior to 1965---there's nothing even remotely like the wistful regret of these Lennon numbers, much less outright angst. Paul's music is either upbeat and positive, or else of the "I'll-be-on-my-way" school of love-'em-and-leave-'em. "Yesterday" was quite a breakthrough for Paul from a thematic standpoint, not just in terms of its arrangement.

Profound themes of unutterable loss and confusion don't seem to appear until both John and Paul began writing their "Help!" material--- "Yesterday" is a good lyrical analog of one of John's well-known paeans to pain ("I'm not half the man I used to be" vs. "Feeling two foot small"---a clever parallel, that! Or "Now I need a place to hide away" vs. "Hey! You've got to hide your love away"). Did they both influence each other, perchance?

Paul didn't stop writing his "I'll-be-on-my-way" themes, of course; there was "Another Girl", "We Can Work It Out" (subtext: *if* you see things my way), "I'm Looking Through You". But from this point Paul is capable of expressing himself more openly in his lyric. To my mind, there's simply no indication that Paul was ready for such personal revelation earlier than the beginning of 1965...and at the outside calculation, that's my best guess of when "Yesterday" started to take shape. The idea of such a melody---which already implies a certain melancholy spirit---existing either empty of words or stuffed with temporary ones *for a year or more* makes no sense to me.

Whatever happened to cause this sudden spurt of creative growth is lost to us. But the ability to reveal his vulnerable core must have been on McCartney's mind for some time. An interesting anecdote is told (how true it is might be anyone's guess :-) about Iris Caldwell, who dated Paul for a time in early 1963 (she had a famous brother in the Merseybeat milieu as well). Iris broke up with Paul because according to her he had no emotions. Iris' mum, Violet, relates the story of Paul phoning her around the time "Yesterday" was due for release. Paul said he'd finally written a number which would prove, beyond a doubt, that he had a heart after all... and that it could break just like anyone's.

Even when ready for release, it appears that Macca (or someone) was reluctant to promote it in single form in the UK. Paul mentions in Lewisohn "We never released 'Yesterday' as a single because we didn't think it fitted our image" ("Recording Sessions", p. 12.) Paul had forgotten---and Lewisohn reminded him---that the song *was* a single in the States and had gone to number one.

Not fit their image? It was the *harbinger* of their new image. "Yesterday" was miraculous on many levels---in its use of a new lyrical theme (for McCartney, certainly); for its direct yet elegant lyrics; for its innovative use of strings; for the bravery of its arrangement. It was both eminently confessional as well as technically stunning.

Ultimately, I suppose, it matters less *when* it was written than *why* it came to be...though any one of us who has been through a circumstance remotely like the story in its lyrics will recognize why Paul chose to share it with the world.


[the following article is included for it's entertainment value only. -dh] From: (Hymie!)
Subject: I've got the lyrics to 'Scrambled Eggs'
Date: 1 April 1994 19:14:50 GMT

I lost the original article, but somebody asked for the lyrics to 'Scrambled Eggs', the song that became 'Yesterday.' Well, I searched out my long-lost book, ''Things He Said Today'' by Jane Asher, and it includes his first set of lyrics. It also includes this comment by Ms. Asher: ''Don't believe that part about 'how I loved your legs.' That's bunk. My legs are horrid.''

Scrambled eggs
Have an omelet with some muenster cheese.
Put your dishes in the washbin please
so I can clean the scrambled eggs.

Join me, do
There are lots of eggs for me and you
I've got ham and cheese and bacon too
so go get two and join me, do.

Fried or sunny-side
just aren't right. The mix-bowl begs.
Quick - go get a pan
and we'll scram-ble up some eggs, eggs, eggs, eggs.

Scrambled eggs
Good for breakfast, dinnertime or brunch
Don't buy six or twleve - buy a bunch
and we'll have lunch
on scrambled eggs.

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