Honestly, there are so many songs that I wish I’d written for one reason or another depending on the moment, but usually it is the effortless feeling of a song that strikes me the most and has me coveting something that is not mine.
From time-to-time I’ve heard songwriters describe the feeling of the song “writing itself” and I must admit that I have felt quite jealous of that as I can’t say I have ever truly experienced it. But, the fact that these seemingly magical songs are born into the world fills me with a wonder and longing that is very inspiring and renews my love for the intangibility of the process.
Yesterday, by The Beatles band (my partner Dave likes to call them that in a dorky/humorous attempt to downplay their far-reaching influence and perhaps, just in case, one is to actually confuse them with a group of beetles) is, to my mind, one of these magical songs. Apparently it came to Paul McCartney in a dream… Bloody hell, YES! It is also apparently the most covered song in history if you are longing for some facts/trivia whilst reading this outpouring.
The song struck me for the first time as an eight-year-old listening to a Paul McCartney album of my dad’s (Give My Regards To Broad Street) in which he’d re-recorded the song – I did not yet know that he came from a band called The Beatles. I had the song on repeat – which took commitment with a vinyl record – and here I was, a kid, yearning for the past, looking back on my own regrets, such was the power of the song!
All my troubles seemed so far away
Now it looks as though they’re here to stay
Oh I believe in yesterday
So simply stated, so humble, no saccharine there. A song like that doesn’t need explaining, it just reaches out and grabs you wherever you are. It exists as though it was always there, like you’ve heard it before but it’s like nothing you’ve ever actually heard before. You could almost overlook its artistry it feels so basic and is expressed in such plain speak, but then it is so vivid a whole scene can materialise before your eyes.
Your empathy for the “character” is immediate. It is the simplicity and yet the completeness of the song that I find so staggering. It sounds like it was written in five minutes, like it rolled off the tongue and then continued on out through the speakers. It feels to me like that moment in a late-night conversation, all defences down, when someone suddenly has the ability to clearly state exactly how they are feeling and, for a brief spell, the sky seems to open up and you understand exactly what they are talking about and precisely where they are coming from.
It is the stuff of beautiful moments in plays and films and poetry when the writer is able to channel their inner thoughts so perfectly for us all to engage with. There is such generosity in there, and that is probably what I covet most of all; the ability to be at one with the listener.
The effortless hum at the end of the song often gets me choked up the most. The way it seals the outpouring so perfectly and gives us all a little moment of reflection – of looking back on our own yesterdays. It is the humblest, most momentous song every written I reckon. I saw Paul McCartney sing it on his own last year when he came to Australia. Finally his showy, over-the-top band gave us five minutes reprieve and he performed this and Blackbird, lifted up into the air on a platform high above us and it was one of the most lofty and down to earth things I’ve ever seen.