Movies - Yesterday : A great soundtrack…

By Mulder, 01 june 2019

Curtis and Boyle, both huge Beatles fans, would not have made the film without the blessing of the surviving members of the band, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, and the estates of John Lennon and George Harrison. From the strength of those relationships, and with the approval of the musicians and their families, the production was then able to move forward and secure the composition rights to The Beatles’ songs for Patel to record for the film. That didn’t make one aspect of Curtis’s writing process any easier: Of all The Beatles’ iconic songs, which ones do you pick? And, even harder, which ones do you leave out?

Indisputably, it’s the music and lyrics in Yesterday that help carry the narrative throughout the film. “The songs were chosen very carefully by Richard,” music producer Ilhan says. It not only matters which songs were chosen, but the order in which they are heard. The music itself creates a narrative arc of Jack’s journey. “The songs are very important,” Ilhan says. “In that order, at that time, they tell the story.”

For Curtis, selecting from the plethora of Beatles hits was no easy task. “We’ve tried to represent all sides of The Beatles’ work—rockier sides, romantic sides, reflective ones,” Curtis says. “I had an odd relationship with The Beatles’ songs whilst I was writing the film. I was half trying not to listen to them too much because I was half trying to think ‘What would Jack remember?’ One day, Danny asked Himesh to name as many Beatles songs as he could, and it was tough. What you have to do is go back through the albums.” Here, Curtis explains why each song was chosen.

“Yesterday”: “Paul McCartney felt it was the most perfect drop of genius. It was such a miracle song that when he first wrote it, he thought he must have stolen it or dreamt it. In the film, it’s the first Beatles song Jack plays after his accident, and his friends’ reaction when he performs it is Jack’s (and our) first clue that something strange is going on. Jack’s friends claim to have never heard it before, and believe Jack wrote it. In that scene, you are looking for a pure-perfect song where everyone would be openmouthed on hearing it. So that’s why ‘Yesterday’ went in. We then had Jack record a selection of Beatles songs—'She Loves You,’ ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand,’ ‘I Saw Her Standing There’—and it’s that sense of early ’60s Beatles joy when it’s just him, Ellie and their friend Gavin.

“In My Life”: “This is the song that Jack plays on the local TV station, and it’s the one that Ed Sheeran sees. We thought it would be lovely to have a sophisticated, perfect song and, strangely, ‘In My Life’ is the song that Ed played for Paul and Ringo recently. It’s quite sweet that this is the song Ed hears. It’s also meant to be a double hit that, at the end of the song, Ellie feels it’s a proposal of love…for which it isn’t.

“Back in the USSR”: “On Jack’s first night as Sheeran’s opening act in Russia, he spontaneously decides to play a version of this song to grab the attention of a distracted audience not remotely interested in listening to him. Needless to say, it gets the crowd’s attention. Very simply, we thought it would be a good song for Jack to sing in Russia.

“The Long and Winding Road”: “While on tour, Sheeran challenges Jack to a friendly songwriting competition after a show one night. Jack ‘writes’ this classic in a matter of minutes. For the songwriting competition between Jack and Ed, they wanted something that was an instantly perfect tune. I thought ‘The Long and Winding Road’ was a perfect example.

“Penny Lane,” “Eleanor Rigby” and “Strawberry Fields Forever”: “These are all classic songs, but they become the most difficult for Jack to recall in detail, with only his memory as a guide. These are songs planted in the film to remind us that even though we know the songs, recounting the lyrics is quite a different matter. Five times I tried to write ‘Eleanor Rigby’ from memory, and each time I failed.

“Here Comes the Sun,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Hey Jude”: “These are all songs that Jack records in L.A., with a little help from Ed Sheeran, as potential tracks for his upcoming album. Jack starts recording in L.A. And, with that, we wanted to bring a sense of breadth in there, so we included two of George’s songs, ‘Here Comes the Sun’ and ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps.’” And “Hey Jude” provided one of the film’s many comedic gems. “‘Hey Jude,’ is there for the joke, where Ed changes it to ‘Hey Dude.’” It’s during this recording session that Jack also tries to include some of his own music on the album. It doesn’t go so well. “Jack slips one of his songs in there, and it clearly doesn’t stand up to the brilliance of The Beatles. It’s a reality check and bitter reminder of his lack of talent as a songwriter.

“Help!”: For the launch of Jack’s album, he performs this song on top of a pub roof, to a massive roaring crowd below. “At this point, Jack’s going through a metaphysical crisis. He’s with the wrong girl and doing things for the wrong motive; that’s when he sings ‘Help!’ The song always was interesting for that reason. It was portrayed as a lovely, jolly song, but in fact it was a cry for help. John Lennon described it as his ‘Bob Dylan’ song. They were songs of despair as well as songs of exuberance.

“All You Need Is Love”: “This is the song that represents Jack’s realization of what truly matters. ‘All You Need Is Love’ is the song, and the message, Jack’s forgotten that lies at the heart of the movie. After he plays it, he tells Ellie how he feels, and that he’s made all the wrong choices.”

With so much important music in Yesterday, the filmmakers turned to the top-flight team of music producer Adem Ilhan and composer Daniel Pemberton. “I worked with Danny previously on Steve Jobs, and that was a crazy-good experience,” Pemberton says. “He called me into his office one day and explained this whole film, which I thought sounded absolutely amazing.” But Pemberton’s first instinct was to decline the opportunity. “I told him I wasn’t the man to do it,” he says. “He wanted me to write the score, work with the actors, music direct, and I just thought he needed someone who has lived that life of a singer-songwriter, who understands performing. That’s where Adem comes in.”

Ilhan is a longtime friend of Pemberton who has been living the life of a singer-songwriter since graduating in 2004. The bass guitarist for post-rock band Fridge, he is also part of the electronic duo Silver Columns and has released a solo album. “Adem is an amazing singer-songwriter, a multi-instrumentalist and a very nice guy who I thought would work really well with Himesh and Lily…and everyone else on the project,” Pemberton says. “We decided we would attack this as a team. Our approach was to create an environment that allowed the actors to grow and express themselves as singers, but also give the songs a bit of a twist. Because we are living in this world where The Beatles don’t exist, we had to look at it through the filter of Jack; we were constantly trying to think about how that might work.”

But there is more to the film’s music element than The Beatles’ songs. There is the matter of Jack’s songs. “Yes, we also had to write Jack’s rubbish songs!” Pemberton says, laughing. “Usually, I just write the score. Of course, I always try to get involved with the film right at the beginning, at script stage, but on this it was more than writing the score. It meant involvement with Jack’s songs, which aren’t as good as The Beatles’. If someone says, ‘Write a song better than The Beatles,’ you’re like ‘ah shit!’ But if someone says, ‘Write a song that is not really that good, but good enough,’ you’re like, ‘yup, I’m your man!’”

The conundrum for the team was how to approach Jack’s interpretation of The Beatles’ songs in a world bereft of the massive impact they had on culture. “We were trying to be Jack trying to remember The Beatles,” says Ilhan. “The big thing for me was, ‘Do I listen to their stuff, or do I do it from memory?’ I’m a Beatles fan so I know quite a lot of their songs anyway. That was the first port of call for me, to play them back to myself in my head and work out what would I do.” In this respect, Ilhan had to mirror Jack’s own musical journey. “You have to, to understand where Jack’s coming from,” Ilhan says. “And there have to be mistakes in the songs.”

Ilhan and Pemberton also had to decide how these songs, performed by Patel as Jack, would sound. “Through this story, there are different filters that the songs go through,” Pemberton says. “There are aspects that Jack does at the Moscow concert, where we took a phrase from ‘USSR.’” The composer sings throughout this interview: “‘Wo ho ho ho ho.’ It’s a very small phrase in the song, but Jack needed something for the audience to latch onto. They’ve never heard this song in their life, and they are not going to know the lyrics. They might not have got the chorus, but a ‘wo-ho-ho-ho’ they can get in two seconds. We have this device where Jack repeats that, and that’s a way to get the audience on his side.”

That moment that Jack creates in “USSR” connects to one of his own songs, “Summer Song,” which Jack has repeatedly tried (and failed) to make into a hit. “Jack’s using his experience of his old songs and linking it together with The Beatles’ songs,” Ilhan says. This narrative trick helped Curtis to weave other characters into the story. “‘Summer Song’ is the one song that Jack’s mate Nick likes,” Pemberton adds. “His character isn’t much by way of a musical connoisseur, so if he likes ‘Summer Song’ it’s got to have a straightforward chorus that is so obvious he can remember it. The idea is that, if you go through Jack’s story, he is taking elements of his song writing and feeding it into his Beatles’ work. There’s a weird arc in this where we are trying to look at Jack’s journey as a songwriter, before he realizes he’s the only guy who knows The Beatles’ songs, and incorporate how he would approach those songs through that.”

To that end, the team aimed to reinterpret these songs without losing the emotional connection that people have to them. And for the audience to feel what it would really be like to hear these iconic songs initially. “I thought about the experience of having ‘Yesterday’ played to me for the first time,” says Ilhan. “The reaction and the idea of it moved me. The Beatles wrote some of the best songs ever, and it’s quite compelling and moving to examine what it would be like to be the first person to hear them.”

In addition, because Pemberton and Ilhan were working with Sheeran, one of the U.K.’s most lauded singer-songwriters, it was important to represent his voice in the film, too. “Ed’s written a great song for the end of the film, so we worked alongside him on that,” Pemberton says. “Ultimately, this film is a great example of the power of song. Music is something that connects with so many people; it can change the world. It’s nice to be reminded of that in a time when it feels like that art form is being swamped by a more modern world of selfies and Instagram. To reconnect with the power of music is a fantastic treat.”

The recording of key Beatles’ work was of paramount importance to the film, and Boyle decided to do it in the most challenging way possible. “It’s absolutely normal with a film with a lot of live music in it to pre-record, and then have the actors mime their original recording on-camera,” Boyle says. “I didn’t want to do that because there are so many technicalities. It’s virtually impossible to get music performed live to sound any good because of background noise. Going out of time, out of tune, so many different things that can go wrong. I was convinced by Himesh’s performance in the audition that we had to record him live. I’d heard him step up in front of me and just play ‘USSR,’ and I thought his doing that was the film right there.

“That’s the way these songs must work,” continues Boyle. “Otherwise, it’ll be great for hardcore Beatles aficionados, but for everybody else it will just be like a karaoke film. I hate when actors mime, even though they’ve worked out how to do it brilliantly these days. I feel it’s like an act of miming dialogue. Why would you do that? You need to believe that this moment is happening to that person now for you to witness.” For Boyle, there was only one sound man in the business who could deliver the Olive performance he was after. That man was SIMON HAYES, whose work on Les Misérables earned him an Academy Award® for Best Sound Mixing.

“To call Simon a ‘sound recordist’ doesn’t do him justice,” Boyle says. “He’s a kind of engineer on a physics level. He gathers this army of people and technology, and somehow makes live recording possible. When you’re playing live without a click track, timing changes. You can’t use one take, and you can’t just switch from one take to another. It’s very difficult. So, you’ve got to make sure each version has been brilliantly recorded because that might be the only version that works in the film. “The success of Simon’s work is essential to the success of the film,” Boyle adds. “Simon bringing the precision of the recording to these songs, and Daniel’s arrangements all working through this prism that was Himesh, was the way to do it. They didn’t force things on Himesh; they worked through him and let us bring him to people…which they did to an incredible technical level.”

After reading the script, Hayes knew there would be challenges in achieving Boyle’s vision, but he wasn’t going to let practicalities stand in the way of perfection. “I counted 24 music cues through the film, from little busking scenes in the street corner to the big stadium gigs at Wembley, all of which we were going to record live, so it was pretty daunting,” Hayes says. “Danny’s approach is all about the performance; that’s what we were there to catch. What we don’t try and do with any of the equipment, or any of the technical sides of things, is stand in the way of that performance and that storytelling. “It’s been a huge responsibility, being able to cover all this live,” Hayes adds. “You have various issues on the set, keeping everything quiet, but what you get is this amazing energy.”

In addition to finding his character, Patel had to study The Beatles’ songs, not only how to play them but how to perform them for a huge crowd. “Learning the songs was a daunting prospect for me,” Patel says. “I had been teaching myself guitar for about 10 years, but there’s only so far you can get when you teach yourself.” While the building blocks were there, Patel had a serious amount of prep and homework to do before stepping in front of the camera. Luckily, the actor was in the good hands of composer Pemberton and music producer Ilhan.  “Adem and I spent two months learning the songs,” Patel says. “He was always supportive and instilled the confidence in me that I needed. It was fun to not only learn some of the best songs ever written, but also make them our own in a way. Adem instilled in me the confidence that I needed to do what I had to do—Wembley Stadium, Latitude, play to 6,000 people on Gorleston beach—crazy situations in which I get to do this thing I’ve always wanted to do, which is to play music in front of people. I did it, thanks to Adem and the amazing people that he brought to the team. Without his help, I wouldn’t have ended up doing what I’m doing. That confidence has been something that I’ll take forward with me.”

Ilhan was impressed with Patel’s natural musical abilities. “What we worked on was getting those things fine-tuned to particular songs,” says the music producer. “He’s got great raw materials for it. His voice is bright and strong, and he can play guitar, so we just shaped what was already there.” yet, there’s a massive difference between being able to sing and being able to perform in the sort of environment where one must do multiple takes. “The health of the voice has to be strong,” Ilhan says. “But it’s also about allowing Himesh control over the voice, as well as about how to play guitar and sing at the same time and working with his confidence and self-awareness of what his voice is and can be. It’s got to feel second-nature and completely natural. Himesh worked incredibly hard, day after day, to get to that point. If everyone assumes that what they see on screen is natural, then that’s job done.

“But a big thing we had to be wary of, especially in this environment, was that he’s playing a character and a character has a role to do,” Ilhan continues. “There are lots of ways we could work to make his voice stronger or more powerful—or with a greater range or more accurate—but with every step you go toward that you compromise the character of the voice. Himesh has a beautiful character to his voice; it’s bright, and it cuts through very well. But remember he’s playing someone who’s not doing well. He’s not got ‘something’. That ‘something’ is missing, which becomes the songs. Even with the great songs, it takes a while for it to come through. We wanted him to come across as someone who could sing and perform—someone who had the potential to do this.”

Patel was given very little time to ease into the task of singing for Boyle’s cameras. The first two days of the shoot involved busking on the streets of Clacton-on-Sea, singing Jack’s songs and performing “Let It Be” at The Reedcutters Pub in Cantley. “It was a bit nerve-wracking,” Patel admits. “That’s why I messed it up a couple of times.”

The performer is referring to getting some of the piano chords wrong during a take of “Let It Be” as the nerves got the better of him—although that was perfect for his character. After all, wouldn’t Jack feel nervous about singing one of The Beatles’ most iconic songs for the first time, especially to a crowd who has never heard of The Beatles before? “It’s true, especially playing this song that everyone should know, but they don’t, and he does,” says Patel. “He’s almost waiting for someone in the audience to go, ‘You didn’t write that,’ so he’s bound to be a bit nervous.”

That’s quite a few plates for an actor to keep spinning: the performance of playing and singing the songs while being Jack at the same time. “It’s a bit of a weird juggling act, but it’s fun,” Patel says. “You learn the song as best you can, and then make it part of your personal story. What does it mean to Jack to sing that at that moment? Why has he picked that song? Of all the songs he could remember, why has that one come into his head? Is it because it is famous or because it means something to him?”

If all that musical-prep work was stressing Patel out, he didn’t let it show. Much. “Himesh did step up,” commends Boyle. “He’s a very modest guy, and he would only talk about his nervousness in performing. I always felt he was so relaxed during the songs. Whatever stress he was feeling about playing the main scenes, he home banked so much by the performance of the songs that it relaxed him in the rest of the role. He didn’t get much time off. He’d be preparing the songs and practicing the songs while doing everything else films require of you. This was an endless call on his time and much repetition. But he was way ahead already because of his touch with the songs.” Patel considers it an honor to bring the music of the Fab Four to a new generation. “My mum’s favorite song is ‘Imagine,’” the actor says. “She fell in love with it when she first came to England, so I discovered The Beatles through her early in my life. This film serves as an introduction to a lot of young people who haven’t had the privilege of listening to The Beatles. Both people who are diehard fans and those who are new to the music will appreciate the film for different reasons, but it affirms the magic of their music for all audiences.”

The long tracklist of this movie is this following one :

01 - Summer song Written by Richard Curtis, Adem Ilhan & Daniel Pemberton
02 - Rock this Road Written by Richard Curtis, Adem Ilhan & Daniel Pemberton
03 - Daft - Written by Pier Danio Forni, Tommaso Medica, Pietro Garrone & Henry Counsell and performed by Husky Loops (Courtesy of Husky Loops Ltd)
04 - Love & Hate Written by Brian Burton, Dean Josiah Cover & Michael Kiwanuka and performed by Michael Kiwanuka (Michael Kiwanuka appears courtesy of Polydor Record)
05 - When I’m sixty-four Written by John Lennon & Paul McCartney
06 - Yesterday Written by John Lennon & Paul McCartney
07 - Eleanor Rigby Written by John Lennon & Paul McCartney
08 - Maxwell’s silver Hammer Written by John Lennon & Paul McCartney
09 - Nowhere Man Written by John Lennon & Paul McCartney
10 - A day in the life Written by John Lennon & Paul McCartney
11 - Let it Be Written by John Lennon & Paul McCartney
12 - I want to hold your hand Written by John Lennon & Paul McCartney
13 - She loves you Written by John Lennon & Paul McCartney
14 - I saw her standing there Written by John Lennon & Paul McCartney
15 - In my life Written by John Lennon & Paul McCartney
16 - Shape of you Written by Kevin Briggs, Kandi Burruss, Tameka Cottle, Steve Mac, John McDaid & Ed Sheeran and performed by Ed Sheeran (Courtesy of Warner Music U.K. Ltd)
17 - The long and winding road Written by John Lennon & Paul McCartney
18 - Here comes the sun Written by George Harrison
19 - Something Written by George Harrison
20 - While my guitar gently weeps Written by George Harrison
21 - Carry That Weight Written by John Lennon & Paul McCartney
22 - Strawberry Fields forever Written by John Lennon & Paul McCartney
23 - Hello Goodbye Written by John Lennon & Paul McCartney
24 - Wonderwall Written by Noel Gallagher
25 - Hey Jude Written by John Lennon & Paul McCartney
26 - Help ! Written by John Lennon & Paul McCartney
27 - Yellow Submarine Written by John Lennon & Paul McCartney
28 - You need me, I don’t need you Written by Ed Sheeran, Performed by Ed Sheeran (Courtesy of Warner music UK Ltd)
29 - All you need is love Written by John Lennon & Paul McCartney
30 - One Life Written by Steve Mac, John McDaid & Ed Sheeran, Performed by Ed Sheeran (Courtesy of Warner Music UK Ltd)
31 - OB-LA-DI, OB-LA-DA Written by John Lennon & Paul McCartney
32 - Hey Jude Written by John Lennon & Paul McCartney, Performed by The Beatles (Courtesy of Calderstone Productions Limited Under License from Universal Music Operations Ltd)

Synopsis :
Yesterday, everyone knew The Beatles. Today, only Jack remembers their songs. He’s about to become a very big deal. From Academy Award®-winning director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting, 28 Days Later) and Richard Curtis, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually and Notting Hill, comes a rock-n-roll comedy about music, dreams, friendship, and the long and winding road that leads to the love of your life. Jack Malik (Himesh Patel, BBC’s Eastenders) is a struggling singer-songwriter in a tiny English seaside town whose dreams of fame are rapidly fading, despite the fierce devotion and support of his childhood best friend, Ellie (Lily James, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again). Then, after a freak bus accident during a mysterious global blackout, Jack wakes up to discover that The Beatles have never existed … and he finds himself with a very complicated problem, indeed. Performing songs by the greatest band in history to a world that has never heard them, and with a little help from his steel-hearted American agent, Debra (Emmy winner Kate McKinnon), Jack’s fame explodes. But as his star rises, he risks losing Ellie — the one person who always believed in him. With the door between his old life and his new closing, Jack will need to get back to where he once belonged and prove that all you need is love.

Directed by Danny Boyle
Produced by Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Bernie Bellew, Matthew James Wilkinson, Richard Curtis, Danny Boyle
Written by Richard Curtis
Story by Jack Barth, Richard Curtis
Starring Himesh Patel, Lily James, Kate McKinnon, Ed Sheeran
Music by Daniel Pemberton
Cinematography : Christopher Ross
Edited by Jon Harris
Production company : Working Title Films, Decibel Films
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date : 4 May 2019 (Tribeca), 28 June 2019 (United Kingdom), 3 July 2019 (France)
Running time : 116 minutes

Video under copyright Universal Pictures for press purposes

(Source : press notes)