The Beatles Song That Was Too Expensive for ‘The Sopranos’ to Use

During the long run of The Sopranos (1999-2007), viewers heard plenty of great music on the soundtrack — often in the credits. It started with the pilot, when you can hear Nick Lowe’s “The Beast in Me” close the episode.

When Bruce Springsteen (“State Trooper”) and Jefferson Airplane (“White Rabbit”) followed in the show’s first season, it became clear that Sopranos fans would be entertained until the final credits rolled. And, as in the case of “White Rabbit,” you might hear the song more than once in an episode.

But that doesn’t meant the biggest show on HBO could afford whatever song David Chase and his team wanted. As producers of the Yesterday film learned, the rights to Beatles songs can get pricey.

In fact, Chase couldn’t get an early Beatles track he wanted to close out a Season Six episode. And it came down to the money.

Chase wanted ‘I’ll Follow the Sun’ for a late ‘Sopranos’ episode.

Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) enjoys a moment with his crew after recovering from gunshot wounds in Season 6. | HBO

Early in the final (sixth) season of The Sopranos, viewers find Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) in an induced coma after being shot by Uncle Junior (Dominic Chianese). While unconscious, Tony dreams he is a salesman attending a conference in California.

Later (still dreaming), Tony has an encounter with Buddhist monks who address him as Kevin Finnerty, a heating system salesman. In the following episode (“Mayham”), Tony appears on the verge of death before he awakens. To close “Mayham,” Chase had a Beatles tune in mind.

In The Sopranos Sessions, Chase said he wanted “I’ll Follow the Sun” from Beatles For Sale (1964) for that moment. However, he said he “didn’t want to devote that much money to it.”

Given that Yesterday paid around $10 million just to cover Beatles songs, you can see how most budgets wouldn’t support an original recording. Asked by Alan Sepinwall which songs he couldn’t get over the years for The Sopranos, “I’ll Follow the Sun” was the only one Chase pointed out.

Paul McCartney wrote ‘I’ll Follow the Sun’ as a teenager.

The Beatles run down an empty London street in a scene from the movie ‘A Hard Day’s Night,’ 1964. | Bettman

By the time the Fab Four recorded Beatles For Sale in August ’64, they’d been going nonstop — record dates, Ed Sullivan, A Hard Day’s Night — for more than a year. So they didn’t have much time to write new songs, and Paul McCartney pulled “I’ll Follow the Sun” from his own back catalog.

“I wrote that in my front parlour in Forthlin Road. I was about 16,” Paul recalled in The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions. “I remember standing in the parlour, with my guitar, looking out through the lace curtains of the window, writing that one.”

While Beatles For Sale doesn’t rank among the band’s best records, “I’ll Follow the Sun” definitely stood the test of time (as so many McCartney melodies have). Some 40 years later, it played in Chase’s head as he visualized the final moments of “Mayham.”

Instead, “The Deadly Nightshade” by Daniel Lanois close out that episode.

Also see: The Gay Mobster ‘Sopranos’ Writers Used as the Basis for Vito Spatafore