Paul McCartney Discusses The 'Embarrassing' Inspiration Behind 'Yesterday'

27 February 2024 | 11:58 am | Mary Varvaris

"I thought, ‘Oh f*ck, I really wish…’”

Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney (Credit: MPL Communications)

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Paul McCartney has discussed the “embarrassing” inspiration behind one of The Beatles’ most beloved songs, Yesterday, on an episode of his podcast, A Life In Lyrics.

The song, released initially on The Beatles’ 1965 album, Help!, is a song everyone knows well, but did you know about the inspiration behind the lyric “I said something wrong, now I long for yesterday”?

Revealing that Yesterday was inspired by a conversation he regrets having with his mother, McCartney began, “Sometimes it’s only in retrospect you can appreciate it,” recalling an incident when he was “feeling very embarrassed because I’d embarrassed my mum.”

Describing his mum’s “posh” accent and remembering how she pronounced “ask”, McCartney continued, “I went ‘Arsk! Arsk! It’s ask, mum.’ And she got a little bit embarrassed. I remember later thinking, ‘God, I wish I’d never said that’. And it stuck with me. After she died, I thought, ‘Oh fuck, I really wish…’”

McCartney added that he wished he had an eraser to remove that moment. “That would be better,” he said. Discussion around the Yesterday bridge begins around 25 minutes into the podcast episode, which you can listen to below.

His mother, Mary, died in 1956 at 47 years old. She passed away following an embolism following breast cancer surgery - McCartney was only 14 years old when she died.

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Paul McCartney launched the A Life In Lyrics podcast in October. This is the podcast's second season, which will journey through 12 songs McCartney has written. Season one explored the background behind Back In The U.S.S.R, Let It Be, Penny Lane, Live And Let Die, Helter Skelter, and more.

The Eleanor Rigby singer said about his love for songwriting in season one, “Oh my God, I wanted to become a person who wrote songs, and I wanted to be someone whose life was in music.”

In October and November, McCartney brought his Got Back tour to Australia.

On the last night of his tour at the Gold Coast’s Heritage Bank Stadium, The Music’s Jessie Lynch watched on as Paul McCartney proved to be a “testament to the enduring spirit of rock 'n' roll”. In a review, Lynch added, “The night was not just a concert but a journey through the evolution of modern music – McCartney as the consummate guide.”