What If “Yesterday” Was Today’s Reality?

Universal Pictures describes the film “Yesterday” as "a rock 'n' roll comedy about music, dreams, friendship and the long and winding road that leads to the love of your life".

When I first saw the trailer earlier this year, just based on the premise of a world where the Beatles never existed as a group, it was for me a “must see” movie for the summer.

Screenwriter Richard Curtis and one of my favorite directors (and fellow Frank Turner fan) Danny Boyle did some awesome work behind the writing and the camera. Actor Himesh Patel along with Lily James, Kate McKinnon and Ed Sheeran brought believability to the film’s concept within each of their roles.

Without giving away too much, Patel plays Jack Malik, a struggling musician who unexpectedly finds himself in a world where only he remembers the Beatles and their songs. Performing the tunes and claiming them as his own, he finds himself as one of the biggest stars on the planet.

Originally, “Yesterday” was scheduled for a September release, but Universal Pictures did us all a solid by moving the opening to summer.

Here are a few quick thoughts on the film:

Boyle is an Academy Award-winning director and like so many of us, a self-professed Beatles fan. Boyle called the movie “a perfectly workable and decent film with the most extraordinary music in the world” during a conversation with The Independent.

"Yesterday" is Patel’s first starring role in a film. Patel’s musical delivery stood out among the rest according to Boyle. “He has this ability to make you feel them anew,” the director recently told “Billboard” of Patel’s Beatles covers. “They’re familiar, but strange at the same time.”

Sheeran playing himself brings the film some perspective.  As one of the bestselling artists of the past decade, Sheeran's presence gives audiences new and old an opportunity to compare the models of what it took in the past to break through in the music world to what it takes today. Apparently, Coldplay’s Chris Martin was also considered, which could explain one of the actors on screen reaction to first hearing of the song “Yesterday”: "Well, it's not Coldplay. It's not 'Fix You.'"

The main reason to spotlight the film “Yesterday” in Listen Up! is to get you thinking about how so many artists were and are influenced by the music, message and model of the Beatles.  In the film we learn that without the Beatles, there would be no Oasis.  Many may argue so what?  But if you were to fact check the number of artists, past and present, that count the Beatles as major influences, it is an awesome and somewhat scary premise to think if members of the Beatles had never “Come Together” and travelled “The Long and Winding Road” differently or separately, we could find ourselves Beatle-less. Simply put, in a world where the Beatles never existed, a number of great bands and artists may not exist. Perhaps the entire music landscape would be different.

In an upcoming Listen Up! column I will write about another potentially devastating music related event that could have changed music over the past 50 years as well.  Stay tuned for a “what if” music lesson steeped in history.

In the meantime, Listen Up! and go see “Yesterday.” Then Listen Up! to the soundtrack and celebrate the fact we have the Beatles' catalog to enjoy. The film features 18 new versions of Beatles classics, recorded by Patel. While many of the tracks, such as “Let It Be,” “Here Comes the Sun” and “She Loves You,” are studio recordings, “Back in the U.S.S.R.” and “All You Need Is Love” are live recordings.

Thank goodness this is only a movie. To paraphrase philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, “A world without (Beatles) music would be a mistake.”

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