Someone on I Love Music recently asked the sharp question, when someone says a song is “Beatlesque”, which Beatles records are they actually thinking of? Pop critic Douglas Wolk immediately named this one, and I agree. The band hopped readily from sound to sound, but in “Hello Goodbye” you can spot the future ghosts of later imitators more clearly than usual. For me, the signature sound of Beatlesqueness is the oom-pa oom-pa rhythm – not a musicological term, I grant you – on this and “I Am The Walrus” (and “Sowing The Seeds Of Love” and “All Around The World”, to name two pastiches). It’s a solid base on which any weight of studio tricknology could be piled, and was.
“Hello Goodbye” is a trite song that’s been overcooked, or a simple song given a luxurious arrangement, or a bit of both. McCartney’s love for the big global singalong is obvious in the all-together-now ending, but I think it’s what leads him to keep the lyric quite so basic (or maybe, like the Beatles who let him just get on with it, he had other things on his mind). George Martin’s arrangement is, you’d think, way too rich for such a plain song, but whatever charm “Hello Goodbye” has is in its rococo details – the chugging false ending, the harmonies, the way the instruments go walkabout round your head between lines. In the end it’s like Willy Wonka gum – a whole meal in one throwaway chew.