'Yesterday': Danny Boyle and Richard Curtis' curate an exclusive Beatles playlist just for us

Tom Butler
Senior Editor
Danny Boyle and Richard Curtis attend the UK Premiere of 'Yesterday'. (Photo by James Warren/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

This week sees the release of Yesterday, a unique collaboration between two of Britain’s greatest filmmakers, inspired by the music of Britain’s greatest ever band.

Here comes the sum: Danny Boyle + Richard Curtis x The Beatles = Yesterday.

We’re thrilled to have spent time with the minds behind Brit hits such as Slumdog Millionaire and Trainspotting, Love Actually and Four Weddings and Funeral, to produce an exclusive Beatles playlist, inspired by their work on Yesterday, in cinemas 28 June.

The film tells the story of Jack, an aspiring musician played by Himesh Patel, who wakes up after an accident to find himself the only person in the world who remembers The Beatles. He sees this as an opportunity to exploit the timeless music of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, and becomes an international star by passing their tunes off as his own.

28-year-old Patel, who was EastEnders’ Tamwar Masood for nine years, recorded 18 Beatles tunes in all for the film, all captured as live on set. The Fab Four committed over 200 songs to tape during their decades together, but screenwriter Richard Curtis admits it was pretty easy to choose which songs of theirs to include in the film.

“It was a little bit self-selecting,” Curtis tells Yahoo Movies UK. “Because the joke of the movie is that these songs are incredibly famous, and no one's heard them. So we were going for the top edge, for the cream on the coffee.”

“So it wasn't as hard picking as it would have been if we'd actually argued for our favourite 15 Beatles songs.”

Boyle says everyone tried to dissuade him from recording the songs live on set, but Patel’s audition - which saw him playing ‘Back In The USSR’ on acoustic guitar - convinced the Oscar-winning director to stick to his guns.

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“[Himesh’s] versions of the songs were remarkably superior to everyone else we saw, they were quite distinctive. And you can see through them to the beauty of the song. So it's there - his version - whether it's very accurate or not, and they vary in terms of the originals. But they never put any ego between him and the song.”

So, please please hold our hand as we go on a magical mystery tour through the Beatles back catalogue, with Danny Boyle and Richard Curtis as our guides. Subscribe to their playlist below.

The Beatles songs that helped them find their way into the film...

The Beatles showing their MBE Insignias in the forecourt after receiving them from the Queen. (l-r) Ringo Starr, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison.

Richard Curtis: Well, I think ‘Help’ should be the one. The Beatles, the thing I love about them, particularly, I love their joy, but I love the joy in their sadness. A lot of their songs have melancholy themes. But there's still something very wonderful about listening to them that is not not depressing and Help is a classic example, which is massive cry for help, which launched an exuberant album.

Danny Boyle: And there's a song on Help isn't there: ‘I’ve Just Seen A Face’. I love that song. The fast song. It's just ridiculously fast. That's a beautiful song.

The first Beatles song they remember hearing...

Richard Curtis: There's a very early one called ‘This Boy’, which I really love. I couldn't believe it - I went to see my 17-year-old son, who's got a band now. And they're playing music, which sounds like a sort of mixture between, I don't know, there's a lot of Arctic Monkeys in there. And then suddenly said, ‘We'd like to cover a song’. They did ‘This Boy’.

Danny Boyle: They did it?!

Richard Curtis: So I love that song. That has that sort of that thing, you actually fell in love with The Beatles for. Those amazing harmonised voices and the relationship between the guys and everything. I love that one.

Danny Boyle: The first one is linked to my first memory, which is playing upstairs in our house. When we went to bed, me and my twin sister when we were seven, and my parents were playing the original seven inches downstairs and I still have them. ‘Please, Please Me’, ‘Love Me Do’. I mean they’re just incredible.

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Because we would we would be pretending to be them. And obviously we were picking up from the news. We were seven. So we were just picking up that they were a big thing. And we'd no idea. But she was in love with Paul. It was driven by love. She adored Paul. It was a heartbroken love for Paul. So I was John.

Not that I knew what John symbolised that was going to come to symbolise and our youngest sister Bernadette, who was four just got to play everyone else. George, Ringo, managers, whatever was necessary to make the game work, whatever. But downstairs they were playing the original seven inch singles.

Their favourite Beatles B-side

Paul MCCARTNEY, George HARRISON, Ringo STARR and in front John LENNON interpreting the song I'M THE WALRUS disguised as animals, in a scene from the film MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)

Richard Curtis: ‘I Am The Walrus’.

Danny Boyle: Which [John Lennon] was furious about, that it ended up a B side. It was the B side of ‘Hello Goodbye’, and [he was] rightly. Understandably [furious]. But it's such an amazing song. Truly an amazing song.

Richard Curtis: It's interesting. What did ‘Hello Goodbye’ come after? Was it ‘Penny Lane’ and ‘Strawberry Fields’? They went cheerful. And I'm sure that ‘I Am The Walrus’ would have been a bit weird. They were trying to reestablish like a straight, more poppy thing.

There's a song called ‘You Can't Do That’, which I think might have been on the flip side of ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’, which I love a lot. I've certainly got a copy I bought in Sweden, of The Beatles in Victorian swimsuits. You know, those stripy ones on a beach, like a sort of parody of the Beach Boys.

Their favourite solo Beatles track

Richard Curtis: I've become very obsessed with [George Harrison’s] ‘All Things Must Pass’. Which I just think is such a profound song, and in fact, I wrote a note to Olivia [Harrison] the other day to thank her for something. And I said, perhaps in life all things must pass. Except ‘All Things Must Pass’, just because it looks like everything in the world is changing. But The Beatles are always going to be going to be here. So I'll say that. I think that's a sublime song.

Danny Boyle: ‘Maybe I'm Amazed’ [by Paul McCartney]. It's funny, I have an intellectual side of me, which has a preference for John. It wasn't just the fact that that was the character I played when I was seven.

Former Beatle Paul McCartney, with wife Linda in background, on the opening night of his three sold-out concerts at London's Empire Pool, Wembley on October 19, 1976. (AP Photo/John Glanville)

But actually, when I nominate songs, I realise that often they're those Paul melodies. When we did the Olympics, which we worked on together on the Rowan Atkinson thing, Paul was our last appearance. And when we were describing the show to anyone and we would say ‘this is the Mozart of pop’, in terms of melody.

You compare him to Mozart, in terms of melodies, you know, just endless and effortless really,

Richard Curtis: I think we have to put in a John one so I'm going to put in ‘Woman’ which I still can't just... John never wrote an untrue word. And that is a sort of achingly true non-pretending song.

Their most-played Beatles song

Richard Curtis: There’s one call ‘And I Love Her’, which whenever - I as I so often do - when I'm writing my movies, grind to a halt… I listen to ‘And I Love Her’, and I think ‘oh yeah, bright are the stars that shine, dark is the sky’ and I think ‘oh yeah’. It's just the most beautiful representation of what love might feel like.

Danny Boyle: ‘Day in the Life’. Just because it's so... what they did they wrote separately. You know all the stories you read about the separateness of them or what they can connected on or what they did that was just: this verse is him, then this verse is him. It’s John, it’s Paul, it’s John.

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I love that. And obviously they mentioned Blackburn, Lancashire, which for me coming from Lancashire was just like such a thrill. To hear about these places like the Albert Hall and I thought I'll never see the Albert Hall in my lifetime...

The Beatles song that has a personal resonance

Richard Curtis: I'll say one, which is one I'm very fond of which is ‘I’m So Tired’. As I got older it more seems to be true.

There's a line in that which I so love, which is the line where it says ‘I'm gonna have another cigarette and curse Sir Walter Raleigh, he was such a stupid git.’

Rock star John Lennon (L) & his second wife Yoko Ono (R). (Photo by David Mcgough/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images)

I remember not for ages spotting the connection between finding tobacco and otherwise I just thought so great. Just randomly picking out Sir Walter Raleigh from the history of England saying he was a git, but… I’m often tired!

Danny Boyle: When you get really into it it’s Abbey Road. The second half of Abbey Road just for me... it's that medley on the second half, it’s never been matched I don't think. For just how cheeky you can be, you know... that it's cheeky.

That pop music is so meaningful because it's just very moving and touching and... but it's also just cheeky. I love that about it that insolence with which they just cobbled together the second half of the record, and it's a huge influence, and so all of that really. But also Her Majesty.... the one where it’s… [sings]

‘Her Majesty's a pretty nice girl

But she doesn't have a lot to say

Her Majesty's a pretty nice girl

But she changes from day to day

I want to tell her that I love her a lot

But I gotta get a bellyful of wine

Her Majesty's a pretty nice girl

Someday I'm going to make her mine, oh yeah

Someday I'm going to make her mine’

Richard Curtis: I pushed I tried so hard to get Danny to play the lead in this film. You can see why, that was extraordinary!

The Sergeant Pepper song, as there are none in the movie

Richard Curtis: ‘Penny Lane’ should have been on Sergeant Pepper...

Danny Boyle: It was left off.

The Beatles pose for the press with their newly completed album, 'Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band'. (Photo by Mark and Colleen Hayward/Getty Images)

Richard Curtis: The last time I listened back through Sergeant Pepper, when they released the remix; this sort of new, fuller version. I was very struck as a dad by the incredible lyrics of ‘She's Leaving Home’. What an amazing act of imagining from a young man about what it might feel like to be both a girl leaving home and a parent left at home and he gives absolutely equal compassion and argument to both sides. It really is one of the great story songs - “Leaving the note she hoped would say more”.

The most difficult to shoot on Yesterday

Danny Boyle: ‘All You Need Is Love’. Because when Himesh performed that there wasn't anybody there. It was just the empty Wembley Stadium, and with a song like that, which is about this huge response.

Richard Curtis: We nicked a bit of Ed’s crowd.

Danny Boyle: We did indeed. And then we recorded a bunch of people and they looped it thousands of times to give the sense of [scale].

Himesh Patel as Jack in Yesterday. (Universal)

But he’s there singing it on his own, and it’s a very lonely song. But actually as a song, it's meant to be a great connective, reach of a song, isn't it? And there’s Himesh singing it on his own, so that for a long time that sounded very disappointing. I remember saying ‘it will be much better don't worry once we fix that once we've added the voices to it, it’ll sound much better’.

Everything you hear him sing, is him live. It was the middle of the night. They'd all gone home. It’s 3am. There's me and Richard trying to look encouraging.

Richard Curtis: All he needed was sleep.

Danny Boyle: And he's there singing....

Richard Curtis: All you need is coffee.

Danny Boyle: People look at it and think ‘that's a great performance in front of 80,000 people’.

It’s a much greater performance because he's not in front of an audience. But he’s pretending he is.

Favourite cover versions of The Beatles

Richard Curtis: This is such an obvious answer, but I do think that the Joe Cocker version of ‘A Little Help From My Friends’, is still just completely extraordinary and showed as it was set a path for you can do what you like.

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And in a way that's the path we follow. Which is you think these Beatle songs are like Fabergé eggs that they're just sort of perfect in every detail, and then you realise they're like Fabergé eggs built around solid gold because actually, you can mess around with them like crazy and the fundamental beauty of tune and lyrics in there still leaves you in a very, very, very strong place.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 11: Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie and The Banshees performs on stage at Hammersmith Odeon, on November 11th, 1978 in London, England. (Photo by Pete Still/Redferns)

Danny Boyle: And on a different tip entirely: Siouxsie and the Banshees version of ‘Helter Skelter’. And the influence of that, is that we pushed ‘Help’ towards being a punk song. Because they are the only band that punk didn't slag off.

They slagged off everyone that came before punk. That was the whole point of that punk it was scorched earth. Everything that went before was merited nothing. Zeppelin, Floyd, forget them. But they left the Beatles

They didn't torch The Beatles. So her version of ‘Helter Skelter’. I love that version.

Yesterday is in cinemas from Friday, 28 June. Watch a trailer below.