Yesterday

I really am going to write some more about the film Yesterday. But for now, here’s one of my little treasures.

In the mid-80s, I had a part-time freelance gig working on a putative pop music history series. It was going to be presented by the Beatles’ producer George Martin, whose company was co-funding it, and it was going to be based on his book All You Need is Ears. When I had to introduce myself to people and say the title, a little of me died inside, because it was so illiterate.

My job was to find pop musicians who would be interviewed by George. They often said yes. I would contact them, set things up, and research their lives and works. Then I would write the questions, hand them to George, and he would read them out.

I found him a slightly pompous individual, very conscious of his status, who had no interest in me whatsoever. But I recognised his greatness as a musician and a historical figure, and the content of the programme was potentially interesting. It made a welcome change form my usual gig, which was as sole sub-editor on Private Eye, metaphorically wiping Ian Hislop’s journalistic backside (he had just become editor) and preventing the venerable “organ” from being sued out of existence.

When we recorded an interview with Eric Clapton, I had to hide under the music desk in the studio to be out of the line of sight of the camera. Eric sat there on a sofa with a little acoustic guitar.

About three questions in, George suddenly stopped short and began to splutter. “I can’t ask Mr Clapton this,” he said. “Who wrote this?”

I emerged from my hiding place, raising my hand. “I did. I write all the questions. You know that.”

“Well I can’t ask it.”

“You can ask me anything,” said Eric.

The question was about drugs. I wanted to know how he had managed to play so well when he was a heroin addict. I’ve always been interested in that. If I have a half of cider I lose coordination in my hands. Sometimes I couldn’t type after lunch. How do drug addicts play the guitar?

I don’t think George ever asked the question.

But that’s all a digression. One day, when I was at Private Eye, the crew went with George to interview Mark Knopfler. While the crew were setting up, George and Mark chatted. The tape was rolling. I managed to salvage just this tiny fragment afterwards. I think it is rather lovely. Apologies for the appalling picture quality.