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Yesterday lyric may have been inspired by mocking mother, reveals Paul McCartney

McCartney wrote Yesterday when he was 24 and has previously said losing his mother Mary to cancer a decade years earlier helped him express his sense of loss
McCartney wrote Yesterday when he was 24 and has previously said losing his mother Mary to cancer a decade years earlier helped him express his sense of loss - MONDADORI PORTFOLIO

Sir Paul McCartney believes the lyric “I said something wrong” in his song Yesterday was subconsciously inspired by his guilt over mocking his mother for sounding “posh”.

The 1965 Beatles hit has long been thought to express anguished regret over the break-up of a relationship between young lovers.

However, Sir Paul has now said he feels the line “I said something wrong, now I long for yesterday” harks back to a moment with his mother, who died when he was 15 years old.

He wrote the song when he was 24 and has previously said losing his mother Mary to cancer a decade years earlier helped him express his sense of loss.

Speaking on his latest Life in Lyrics podcast, he said: “It may be that there is so much tumbled into your youth and your formative years that you can’t appreciate it all.

“Sometimes it’s only in retrospect you can appreciate it. I remember very clearly one day feeling very embarrassed because I embarrassed my mum.

McCartney with his mother, Mary
McCartney with his mother, Mary

“We were out in the backyard and she talked posh. She was of Irish origin and she was a nurse, so she was above street level.

“So she had something sort of going for her, and she would talk what we thought was a little bit posh. And it was a little bit Welshy as well – she had connections, her auntie Dilys was Welsh.

“I know that she said something like ‘Paul, will you ask him if he’s going…’

“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 f**k, I really wish…’

“I’ve got a couple of those little things that I know that people would forgive me, because they’re not big things – they’re little things – but they’re little things that I just think ‘If I could just take a rubber, just rub that moment out it would be better’.

“And when she died, I wonder ‘I said something wrong’, are we harking back to that crazy little thing.

“So I don’t know. Does this happen? Do you find yourself unconsciously putting songs into girl lyrics [about a lost lover] that are really your dead mother? I suspect it might be true.

“It sort of fits, if you look at the lyrics.”

Yesterday is one of the most covered songs in the history of recorded music with 2,200 versions.

It was voted the best song of the 20th century in a 1999 Radio 2 poll of music experts and listeners, and was voted the number one pop song of all time by MTV and Rolling Stone magazine the following year.