The Carpenters’ “Yesterday Once More” can transport you back to the time and place you first heard it, no matter how long ago.
Released in 1973 off their album Now & Then, the song peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and was The Carpenters’ biggest-selling record worldwide. It is also the duo’s best-selling single in the United Kingdom.
It’s How A Song Could Come Back Like A Long Lost Friend
Written by the one-half of the hit 70s duo Richard Carpenter with lyricists John Bettis, “Yesterday Once More” is about a song’s wistful power. It’s reminiscing about songs of a generation gone by, how’d they’d come back just like a long-lost friend when you start listening to them.
“Every sha-la-la-la, every wo-o-wo-o, still shines. Every shing-a-ling-a-ling, that they’re startin’ to sing’s so fine. All my best memories come back clearly to me. Some can even make me cry, just like before. It’s yesterday once more,” the song goes.
In one documentary, Richard Carpenter said that it was his favorite of all the songs that he had written. “The oldies were enjoying a resurgence in popularity during the early ’70s, much to Karen’s and my delight,” he said.
“I thought it would be nice to write a song about this and use the piece to bookend the oldies medley we were planning to record for the second side of our first album release for 1973, Now and Then. The resulting ‘Yesterday Once More’ became our eighth domestic gold single, and one of our biggest hits worldwide.”
Bettis also clearly remembers the day the hit came to fruition. “Yesterday Once More” was written during the time when The Carpenters were on the road a lot, and Richard no longer had the time to find new materials, so he enlisted Bettis’ help.
“I wrote maybe five pages of (song) titles. There must have been 70 of them, and I got them over to Richard’s house. He never said anything to me. I didn’t know which one he took if any,” Bettis recalled to Tennessean. “I showed up in his piano room and saw my sheets of paper all over the floor. I saw a circle, and it was ‘Yesterday Once More.'” However, Richard and Bettis could not figure out how to do the verses and ended up wasting about five hours of the two to three days left for them to write some songs.
“Karen was always checking on us. She wouldn’t bother us, but she’d make sure we weren’t just fooling around,” Bettis continued. “She came in and said, ‘What have you got for me?’ We said, ‘Well, it’s not done.’ We played her the chorus, and she, of course, loved it.”
When they were finally done with the song, Karen came back in and sang it. “It was one of those moments you live for, and Richard could play so well that you could feel the arrangement,” Bettis said. “The record just kind of bloomed in front of me. It was never any better than that, and the record really wasn’t that much different.”
Even though The Carpenters were only able to record together for some fourteen years before the untimely death of Karen Carpenter, the duo has given us enough songs that would make us think it’s yesterday once more! Tune in and watch The Carpenters’ remarkable performance of the timeless song in the video below.