Hey Jude

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Musical Recordings and compositions

"Hey Jude"
"Hey Jude" cover
Single by The Beatles
Released August 26, 1968
Format 7"
Recorded 1968
Genre Pop
Length 7:11
Label Apple Records / EMI (UK)
Apple Records (U.S.)
Producer(s) George Martin
Chart positions
The Beatles singles chronology
"Hey Jude"
" Get Back"/" Don't Let Me Down

"Hey Jude" is a ballad recorded by The Beatles at Trident Studios. It was written by Paul McCartney but credited to Lennon-McCartney and originally written for the The Beatles album (also known unofficially as The White Album), but was released instead as a single. Despite the song's length at seven minutes, eleven seconds, it lasted two weeks as number one in the British charts. Due to concerns among American radio stations about the length, a shortened version was also released, which spent nine weeks as number one in the United States — the longest spell at the top of the American charts a Beatles single ever made. Although it has often been claimed that "Hey Jude" was The Beatles' best-selling single, in reality, that record is held by "I Want to Hold Your Hand".

The song, originally titled "Hey Jules", was written by McCartney to comfort John Lennon's son Julian when John Lennon and his first wife, Cynthia Powell, were divorced. The song and its single release have made many "Best of..." lists compiled by magazines such as Rolling Stone and other media outlets.

Sympathy of a friend

In 1968, Lennon was living with Yoko Ono, and on the verge of divorcing Powell. McCartney was profoundly affected, and decided to cheer up Lennon's son, Julian, by writing a little song for him while he was on his way to see him at Powell's home. McCartney said later, "I started with the idea 'Hey Jules', which was Julian, 'don't make it bad, take a sad song and make it better. Hey, try and deal with this terrible thing.' I knew it was not going to be easy for him. I always feel sorry for kids in divorce... I had the idea by the time I got there."

Later, Powell recalled, "I was truly surprised when, one afternoon, Paul arrived on his own. I was touched by his obvious concern for our welfare... On his journey down he composed 'Hey Jude' in the car. I will never forget Paul's gesture of care and concern in coming to see us."

Julian Lennon only discovered the song had been written for him almost twenty years later; however, he did remember being closer to McCartney than to his father: "Paul and I used to hang about quite a bit — more than dad and I did. We had a great friendship going and there seems to be far more pictures of me and Paul playing together at that age than there are pictures of me and my dad."

McCartney was dissatisfied with the original song draft, particularly with the line "The movement you need is on your shoulder", thinking it sounded like he was talking about a parrot. However, Lennon was strongly opposed to the idea of drastically altering the song, especially the aforementioned line, considering it "marvellously avant-garde". McCartney recalled in 1974: "I remember I played it to John and Yoko, and I was saying, 'These words won't be on the finished version.' Some of the words were: 'The movement you need is on your shoulder,' and John was saying, 'It's great!' I'm saying, 'It's crazy, it doesn't make any sense at all.' He's saying, 'Sure it does, it's great.'"

McCartney eventually came to the conclusion that Jude was a much easier name to sing than Jules, and modified the song accordingly.

Although McCartney originally wrote the song for Julian Lennon, John Lennon thought it had been actually written for him: "...I always heard it as a song to me. Now I'm sounding like one of those fans reading things into it... Think about it: Yoko had just come into the picture. He is saying. 'Hey, Jude' — 'Hey, John.' Subconsciously, he was saying, 'Go ahead, leave me.' On a conscious level, he didn't want me to go ahead." Others have speculated that as McCartney was about to leave Jane Asher for Linda Eastman when he wrote "Hey Jude", the song was a subconscious "message to himself".

Much as he did with " Yesterday", McCartney played the song to anyone he met. A member of Badfinger, the first band to join The Beatles-owned record label Apple Records, recalled that on their first day, "Paul walked over to the grand piano and said, 'Hey lads, have a listen', and he sat down and gave us a full concert rendition of 'Hey Jude'. We were gobsmacked."

Working in the studio

The Beatles, excited by the song, insisted on recording as flawless a rendition of "Hey Jude" as possible. They tried as many as twenty-five takes at the Abbey Road Studios on July 29 and July 30, 1968, but eventually decided that they needed an orchestra for the recording. Upon hearing of the availability of an eight-track recording machine at Trident Studios, they decamped there on July 31, as the Abbey Road machine was still undergoing testing. They proceeded to try several different versions, but eventually settled on their very first take at Trident.

This decision was surprising, as the drumming came in much later than expected. It turned out that Ringo Starr, The Beatles' drummer, had left for a toilet break, and not noticing his absence, the other Beatles started recording. In 1994, McCartney said, "Ringo walked out to go to the toilet and I hadn't noticed. The toilet was only a few yards from his drum booth, but he'd gone past my back and I still thought he was in his drum booth. I started what was the actual take — and 'Hey Jude' goes on for hours before the drums come in — and while I was doing it I suddenly felt Ringo tiptoeing past my back rather quickly, trying to get to his drums. And just as he got to his drums, boom boom boom, his timing was absolutely impeccable."

On August 1, George Martin arranged for the 36-piece orchestral accompaniment that would later be edited into the recording. The Beatles asked the orchestra members if they would mind clapping their hands and singing along to the refrain in the song's coda. Most complied, but one obstinately replied, "I'm not going to clap my hands and sing Paul McCartney's bloody song!" and stormed out of the studio.

Other arguments had also emerged over the course of the song's recording. George Harrison had wanted to do a guitar riff for the song, but McCartney refused to allow it. McCartney later said, "I remember on 'Hey Jude' telling George not to play guitar. He wanted to do echo riffs after the vocal phrases, which I didn't think was appropriate. He didn't see it like that, and it was a bit of a number for me to have to 'dare' to tell George Harrison — who's one of the greats — not to play. It was like an insult. But that's how we did a lot of our stuff."

It later emerged that John Lennon had shouted "fucking 'ell!" 2:58 into the song after playing the wrong chord on the song's initial take. Sound engineer Ken Scott later said, "I was told about it at the time but could never hear it. But once I had it pointed out I can't miss it now. I have a sneaking suspicion they knew all along, as it was a track that should have been pulled out in the mix. I would imagine it was one of those things that happened — it was a mistake, they listened to it and thought, 'doesn't matter, it's fine'."

Instant classic

"Hey Jude" had originally been made for The Beatles' self-titled The Beatles, which was released in the same year as the single. However, the idea of releasing the song on the album was abandoned, and "Hey Jude" was never released on an original album by The Beatles. Instead, it was decided to pair "Hey Jude" on the A-side with " Revolution" on the B-side of a 7" single. "Revolution" had originally been written by John Lennon as the A-side of a single he had planned to release as a statement about the Vietnam War (manager Brian Epstein had insisted that they avoid mentioning it), but, by the time he had polished the song sufficiently, McCartney had finished "Hey Jude", which the other Beatles felt was more deserving of the single's top billing. Lennon said: "We were getting real tense with each other. I did the slow version and I wanted it out as a single: as a statement of The Beatles' position on Vietnam and The Beatles' position on revolution."

The single came out in the U.S. on August 26, 1968 on the Apple Records label, entering the charts on September 14, where the song would stay for the next nineteen weeks. Two weeks later, "Hey Jude" was propelled to number one in the charts, and held on to that position for the following nine weeks, in the process setting the U.S. record for the longest time spent by a Beatles single at number one, as well as being the longest-playing single to reach number one. As mentioned earlier, however, American radio stations were averse to playing anything longer than the regulation three to three-and-a-half minutes, and Capitol Records pressed a shortened version specially for airplay.

Due to the U.S. practice of counting sales and airplay for the A- and B-sides of a single separately, at one point, Record World listed "Hey Jude" at number one, followed by its B-side partner, "Revolution", at number two. "Hey Jude" was also the first Beatles single to be issued in a paper sleeve instead of a picture cover. Five months after its release, 3.75 million copies of "Hey Jude" had already been sold. To date, five million have been sold in the U.S. alone. The record was certified gold just the day before it entered the U.S. charts, but took almost 30 years to be certified platinum, on February 17, 1999.

Meanwhile, "Hey Jude" came out in the United Kingdom four days after the American release, on August 30. It became the biggest-selling debut release for a record label ever, selling over eight million copies worldwide and topping the charts in eleven different countries. The single began its sixteen-week chart run on September 7, claiming the top spot a week later. It only lasted two weeks, before being knocked off by another single from Apple, this time Mary Hopkin's " Those Were the Days". However, to this day, "Hey Jude" remains The Beatles' most commercially successful song, fending off stiff competition from songs such as " Let It Be" and " Yesterday", both of which were also McCartney compositions. The released version clocked in at seven minutes and eleven seconds. The only other chart-topping song worldwide in the 1960s that ran over seven minutes was Richard Harris' " MacArthur Park". In the UK, where "MacArthur Park" did not top the chart, "Hey Jude" remained the longest number one hit for nearly a quarter of a century, until it was surpassed in 1993 by Meat Loaf's " I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)", which ran seven minutes fifty-eight seconds as a single.

The Beatles hired Michael Lindsey-Hogg, who had previously directed their "Paperback Writer" promotional video, to shoot the "Hey Jude" promotional video. They settled on the idea of performing in front of a live — albeit controlled — audience. Hogg shot the promotional film for The Frost Programme, with McCartney himself designing the set. A friend of The Beatles later described the set as "... the piano, there; drums, there; and orchestra in two tiers at the back." The eventual final film was a combination of two different takes, with David Frost introducing The Beatles as "the greatest tea-room orchestra in the world". The video was broadcast also in the States on the "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour".

It has often been claimed that "Hey Jude" is The Beatles' best-selling single. However, the title-holder is actually "I Want to Hold Your Hand", The Beatles single that led the " British Invasion" of America.

Awards, acclaim and cover versions

"Hey Jude" was nominated for the Grammy Awards of 1968 in the Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal categories, but failed to win any of them. However, it did win the 1968 Ivor Novello Award for "A-Side With the Highest Sales". In the NME 1968 Readers' Poll, "Hey Jude" was named the best single of the year.

In 2001, "Hey Jude" was inducted into the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Grammy Hall of Fame. The song was ranked as the eighth best song of all time by Rolling Stone magazine, and came in third in Channel 4's 100 Greatest Singles. Broadcast Music Incorporated also places "Hey Jude" as the 11th-best jukebox single of all time.

In addition to acclaim from music industry media, "Hey Jude" has also been covered by several artists. The most commercially successful cover version was by Wilson Pickett, whose rendition featured the Allman Brothers' guitarist, Duane Allman, as a session player. Elvis Presley, Maynard Ferguson, and the Grateful Dead also produced cover versions. Metallica also recorded a short parody consisting of the lines of "Hey junkie Jude, don't shoot up again, or you'll get AIDS" during a recording session for their album Load which later surfaced on bootlegs and as part of a box set released to fan club members of these sessions entitled "FanCan". After playing this, lead singer and rhythm guitar player James Hetfield remarked that this would be a particularly relevant and topical cover to record. . The song has also been covered by reggae band,Toots & the Maytals for the "Here Comes the Sun: A Reggae Tribute to the Beatles (Reggae Rocks Series)" album.

Auctioned lyrics

In 1996, Julian Lennon paid £25,000 for the recording notes to "Hey Jude" at an auction. Lennon spent another £35,000 at the auction buying John Lennon memorabilia. John Cousins, Julian Lennon's manager, stated, "He has a few photographs of his father, but not very much else. He is collecting for personal reasons, these are family heirlooms if you like." Lennon reportedly later sold the production notes back to McCartney. As of 2006, Lennon owns the publishing rights to "Hey Jude", one of the few Beatles songs not controlled by Michael Jackson.

In 2002, the original handwritten lyrics for the song were nearly auctioned off at Christie's in London. The sheet of notepaper with the scrawled lyrics had been expected to fetch up to £80,000 at the auction, which was scheduled for April 30, 2002. McCartney went to court to stop the auction, claiming the paper had disappeared from his West London home. Richard Morgan, representing Christie's, said McCartney had provided no evidence that he had ever owned the piece of paper on which the lyrics were written. The courts decided in McCartney's favour and prohibited the sale of the lyrics. They were originally sent to Christie's for auction by Frenchman Florrent Tessier, who purchased the piece of paper at a street market stall in London for £10 in the early 1970s. In the original catalogue for the auction, Julian Lennon had written, "It's very strange to think that someone has written a song about you. It still touches me."

Lyrics and melody

The first half of the song is written in a traditional two-bridge manner. McCartney alternates the bridges, using "Let her into your heart" followed by "Let her under your skin". At one point McCartney sings a duet with himself, something which comes to prominence in the latter half of the song, comprising a single musical phrase repeated 18 times. McCartney sings a wordless melody culminating at the end of each cycle with the song's title. Midway through the song's finale the orchestra's brass section counterpoints the vocal melody, whilst the string section joins slightly later, almost inaudible, holding a single note until the song fades.

The melody elaborated in the verses has several arches, and incorporates high and low points in a way that conceals the composition's subtlety behind a veneer of singalong simplicity reminiscent of hymns or nursery rhymes. The bridge is based around a characteristically "Beatlesy" descending chord sequence, whilst the melody for the second half's refrain is an unbalanced arch somewhat biased toward the upper end. The first half uses the common chords of I, II, IV, and V, but the latter half instead opts for the double plagal cadence.

The song starts to fade out mid-way through the latter section, the fade lasting over two minutes. One reviewer described it as "an astonishingly transcendental effect," while another stated "[w]hat could have very easily been boring is instead hypnotic".

Preceded by:
" Harper Valley PTA" by Jeannie C. Riley
Billboard Hot 100 number one single
September 28, 1968
Succeeded by:
" Love Child" by Diana Ross & the Supremes
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