Thursday, 12 December 2019

Beatles film asks the audience to Imagine

Beatles film asks the audience to Imagine

IMAGINE, for a moment, that the Beatles had never existed. Someone would have had to invent them, surely? Or reinvent them.

That’s pretty much the thought animating Danny Boyle and Richard Curtis’s collaboration on Yesterday, a new British musical comedy about dreams of stardom and unexplained phenomena.

Aspiring singer-songwriter Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) is struggling with his career.

Living in the relatively unglamorous environs of Clacton-on-Sea, he’s a man with big dreams and a guitar, loved and supported by his childhood best friend, Ellie (Lily James) — but he’s far from famous.

Until one day, during a mysterious global blackout, a car hits him and he comes round to find that nobody remembers the Beatles — apart from him! Naturally, he feels obliged to bring the legendary melodies of the Fab Four back to life.

With a little help from his steely American agent, Debra (Kate McKinnon), Jack rises to global stardom faster than you can say “Love Me Do”.

But he may have taken on more than he can handle. As his star continues to rise, he risks losing Ellie — the one person who has always believed in him.

The song from which the film takes its name famously came to Paul McCartney in a dream.

Waking up in the home of his then girlfriend Jane Asher, he hurried to a piano and played what he had to avoid forgetting it.

McCartney’s first thought was that the melody was not in fact his — and for the next month or so he asked various people in the music business whether they had ever heard it before.

“Eventually it became like handing something in to the police,” he recalled. “I thought if no one claimed it after a few weeks then I could have it.

“It took me a little while to allow myself to claim it, but then like a prospector I finally staked my claim — stuck a little sign on it and said, ‘Okay, it’s mine! It had no words — I used to call it ‘Scrambled Eggs’.”

The music may have come to him overnight, but it took McCartney some time to hone the lyrics.

Eventually, though, he struck gold. Since its release in 1965, more than 2,200 artists have covered Yesterday, making it one of the most covered songs in the history of popular music.

Boyle and Curtis were reported to have paid around $10 million for the rights to the Beatles songs featured in the film.

If their story is even half as compelling as the true story behind the writing of Yesterday, it will have been worth every penny.

The film is showing at the Regal Picturehouse cinema from today (Friday).

Matthew Wilson

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