Director – Tim Kiley. Producer – Robert Precht.
Filmed – 14 August 1965.
Location – Studio 50, New York City, NY.
Date of broadcast – 12 September 1965 (The Ed Sullivan Show).
‘Yesterday’ was the first Beatles’ single to top the charts that didn’t feature all four band members and was written by Paul following a dream. Its origins date back to January 1964 when Paul played it for George Martin at the Hotel Georges V in Paris, singing the words “scrambled eggs” rather than the now familiar title. It was recorded at an evening session in mid-June and while Paul is the sole artist, the other three Beatles were at Abbey Road for the session.
The basic track features just Paul and an acoustic guitar to which a string quartet of two violins, a viola and a cello were added on a second take. It was George Martin’s idea to add the strings but Paul was unsure. “I don’t want Mantovani”, he said. To which George replied, “What about a very small number of string players, a quartet?” Paul and George Martin worked together on the arrangement for the quartet and they came up with a masterpiece.
‘Yesterday’ was not released as a single in the UK, but in America it became the follow-up to ‘Help!’ and topped the Billboard Hot 100 for a month in October. It has since become one of the most played songs on American radio.
Two months after it was recorded, The Beatles were in America to start their US tour and on Saturday 14 August they were back at CBS TV’s Studio 50 on Broadway and West 53rd Street to tape six songs. These would feature on the first Ed Sullivan Show of the fall season, scheduled for Sunday 12 September. At the afternoon dress rehearsal, The Beatles performed in front of a live audience before filming the show itself at 8.30 that evening. Instead of the string quartet Paul performs to a backing track with three violins.
The last time the band appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show was in February 1964, during their first visit to America. The timing of this show – the day before the release of ‘Yesterday’ as a single – was perfect and it played a significant part in the song’s success. Among the five other numbers they performed for the show was ‘Act Naturally’, the B-side of ‘Yesterday’ which also made the top 50 of the Hot 100.