The Movie Yesterday and My Very Own Beatles Story. No. Really. Well, sort of. "Let me take you down, 'cause I'm going to, Irish Green Fields ... [Sing along now]." So. I had a great relationship with the Notre Dame Marching Band. I had taught lots of its members Intro to Philosophy, where we had tons of fun. In fact, one semester, I was worried about the second exam in that huge class. Lots of students had done poorly on the first exam, and I knew they'd be nervous. I had to change the atmosphere. So, once the hordes had taken their seats in the large auditorium and we were ready to hand out the hundreds of exams, lots of doors suddenly banged open in the back, scores of young thinkers swiveled around to see what was going on, and the Notre Dame Marching Band came into the room, playing the famous fight song! The Freshmen jumped onto their chairs, yelling and clapping and singing along. The song ended in a thunderous ovation and the band left. It was shocked, happy pandemonium. And everyone scored higher on that exam. Everyone.
But that's not the story I want to tell. I had just written the first rock and roll fight song for a university, called The Fightin' Irish Are Back, to celebrate our new coach Lou Holtz turning the team around and returning it to its legendary greatness. I had talked to previous championship coaches like Ara Parseghian and Dan Divine to get the lyrics just right. Champion sportswear had decided to make up a special T Shirt to celebrate the song, with a big version of the mascot Leprechaun on the front, playing my sunburst 1964 Fender Stratocaster rock guitar with my initials on the headstock: TVM. The front of the shirt would say The Fightin' Irish Are Back. The back of the shirt would announce: Bringing Back the Rock and Roll. I would assemble a studio band and record it soon. An NBC Affiliate would do a music video. It was all planned out. But then that October I got a call from the famous Coach Holtz himself. He had heard about the song. He asked me to wait a year to release it. I asked why. He said, "This year, we'll have a winning season, but next year we'll win the national championship, so if you can hold it for a year, it can be our celebration song." I said, "I will if you will." And that was football history. National Champions: 1988.
But that's not the story I want to tell. I had written out the song and decided I wanted to start it with a guitar solo borrowing from the classic Notre Dame Fight Song. I'd call the Band department and get permission. They were my buddies. It would be no problem. So I told them my plan and that I probably needed written permission to use part of the famous tune they played all the time. "Boy, Professor Morris, your song sounds great! But we don't own the rights to our fight song."
What? "Who owns it?" The band guy said, "Paul McCartney." Whaaaaaaat?
He had bought it as an investment. So I had to talk with his lawyer in New York to get the permission I needed. A Beatle owns the rights to our fight song. Notre Dame has to pay him every time it's played in the stadium. Yep. SIr Paul's attorney turned out to be a nice guy. He said to me, "We'll give you seven bars of the song for free. But if you use one note beyond that, it will cost you more money than you can even imagine." I used exactly seven bars. I sang and played the guitar part and we had great musicians to fill out the band. When it was mixed in my absence, another musician had come into the studio and listened and said, "How the hell did you get Boz Scaggs to do a Notre Dame song?" Yeah, that was me. Boz Tom. And so we released the recording just in time for the championship season and the song was launched with the T shirts and Regis Philbin played it on his national morning show and danced to it, and whenever you went to a game you could hear it on the radio and on boomboxes around the stadium in lots of the tailgate parties.
And so, I know from first hand experience how utterly remarkable it was for Paul and Ringo to give permission to the new movie Yesterday to use SO MANY of their songs. MUCH more than seven bars. There's a reason you never hear Beatles songs in movie, soundtracks or on tv commercials. The rights are that dear, that controlled and pricey. But then, one movie comes along and does the impossible and uses song after song after song. Paul and Ringo loved the concept and made it happen. Relationships do rule the world. The seemingly impossible can happen. After all, the Beatles did. So if you see it or have seen the new film and agree with me that it's a remarkable movie, I wanted you to know how remarkable it really is that it got made at all. The gang who wrote and produced it had the luck of the Irish for sure. And, there's only one thing left to say.
Hey, Dude: Go Irish!
PS: Someone just posted on FaceBook a low tech digital conversion of the original tape, with its cover and liner notes pictured. Just so you guys will know that I'm not just making this up. Ha! So for The Fightin' Irish are Back, go here and turn on your speakers loud: