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Aug 06

THE BEATLES – “Hey Jude”

FT + Popular91 comments • 11,187 views

#258, 14th September 1968

Great sleeve though!There’s a little to admire about “Hey Jude” but almost nothing to love. For a start, it’s far too long: the most obvious of criticisms, yes, but the last two or so minutes of the coda are pure baggage, the sound of a band imposing themselves just because they can. The song comes from the start of the Apple period, in fact it helped launch the boutique label: that may explain why they wanted to get something Big onto the market, but the length of “Hey Jude” just wastes its expertly constructed build-up. It’s also from the era when Paul McCartney was trying hard to persuade the Beatles back on the road – for a non-touring outfit to invent the lighters-out stadium ballad is ironic, if not cruel. McCartney’s excruciatingly well-drilled “Joo-joo-judy-jude” yowls as the coda starts give some hint of how lucky the world was that the other three resisted his plans.

Lop the end in half and the rest isn’t so bad. “Hey Jude” crystallises a lot of familiar Beatley themes – you’re not alone, you don’t have to be ashamed of needing help, some of that help is best found in a huge great singalong. The track has undeniable weight but I always feel a little sorry for Jude, who starts off getting an avuncular chat and ends up squeezed in the world’s biggest bear hug. The song is at its prettiest and most effective when it’s at its most conversational – “Hey Jude, you’ll do” – but that delicate balance of intimacy and inclusiveness doesn’t last. If you’re looking for a Beatles singalong, “Yellow Submarine” is catchier, funnier, less bludgeoning and more adaptable.

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Comments

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  1. 76
    AndyPandy on 14 Jan 2010 #

    I can’t get my head around the criticism of the coda on this – to me that’s the best bit of it – its called a groove and a song has a groove or it doesn’t and when it does you don’t want it to end – and ‘Hey Jude’ most defintely gets into a wicked groove. ‘Hot Love’ by T Rex is another one of my absolute favourites and I just want it to go on forever.
    For those who moan about it just turn it off when you get bored.

    I’ve never understand people complaining about records going on to long if you dont like it just reach for the off button but if I’m compleely immersed in a track I you want it to go on as long as possible.Hence thats why I love the way my favourite hard trance tracks are usually 8-10 minutes long.And Tangerine Dream or Klaus Schulze anything from 25 minutes to over 50 minutes long…in those cases taking you to another world.

    It similar to people complaining about novels going on to long if you’re really sucked into for instance a sprawling Victorian novel why would you want it to end. When I read George Eliot’s “Middlemarch” the perfectly realised world of a Victorian small town and the characters who inhabited it was so peerlessly created and real that I dreaded the pages dwindling as I neared the end of its 800 pages.

    This impatience to finish books, or records rto me smacks of the modern plague of instant gratification short attention spans and only a superficial appreciation of the works in question.

    Thank goodness George Martin didn’t have is way…

  2. 77
    Nancy B on 8 Apr 2010 #

    My brother tells me that Hey Jude was written for Donovan Leitch, whose nickname was Jude. This is the first I’ve heard of this, only heard that
    it was written for Julian. Has anyone else heard of the Donovan connection?

  3. 78
    Mark M on 11 Feb 2011 #

    Proto-poptimist Nik Cohn reconsiders The White Album (starts when the slider indicates about 18 mins left) and decides it’s less godawful than he thought in 1968:

    http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/tag/nik-cohn/

  4. 79
    DietMondrian on 12 Feb 2011 #

    An interesting listen, Mark M, thanks.

  5. 80
    swanstep on 13 Feb 2011 #

    That *was* a good listen. Thanks. Interesting for me to – ahem – finally be forced to grasp that Acid and Speed are completely different things (and that the difference was socially crucial in the late ’60s). I guess sometime as a kid I learned that acid was LSD and then assumed that ‘speed’ was just a synonym based on a pun and contraction from LSZ = limited speed zone. Amazing that it’s taken me 30 years to straighten out this misunderstanding o’ mine!

  6. 81
    swanstep on 14 Feb 2011 #

    Cohn in 2011 explaining some of his allergic reaction to The White Album at the time (when he was 22):
    “You can’t *imagine* the level of adulation there was for The Beatles in ’68 and how *nauseating* it was to be told endlessly that the universe had begun, as it were, with Sergeant Pepper, that all the answers were posessed…. [that] They were the containers of all human wisdom and genius.”
    Haw haw. I hope Rosie listens to the interview (and reads Cohn’s original review) and shares her take on it with us.

  7. 82
    enitharmon on 14 Feb 2011 #

    swanstep @ 81

    Well of course the universe didn’t begin with Sgt Pepper, it began with Rubber Soul{1}!

    Nik Cohn is entitled to his view. I agree with him sometimes – he, like me but evidently not like Tom, thought House of the Rising Sun a great record (see entry for same). But he isn’t some kind of omniscient deity, he’s a better-than-average critiquer of popular music when he’s not in danger of disappearing up his own rectum. He has his own likes and dislikes and he has been exposed to particular cultural environments, most of which I’ve never been anywhere near. I had my own cultural influences mostly drawn from places as angry and menacing and exciting as the Wirral and suburban Hertfordshire. All the same I know enough to know that the universe didn’t begin with anything by the Beatles, not even Love Me Do, any more than it began with Tutti Frutti or Anarchy in the UK or Autobahn or, for that matter, Sumer is icumen in.

    I was also 14, not 22, when the White Album came out. I was given it, at my own request, for Christmas that year. It was one of the numbered ones and it was nicked when I was in the 6th form but there you go. I thought it a rum old thing, with some brilliant bits, some god-awful bits, and some bits that just felt like they were there to make up the numbers. As far as I remember, most people responded to the White Album pretty much as I did. It was the first album they had done without Brian Epstein to keep them in order, their stock was so high that EMI let them do more-or-less what they wanted to in the studio, and the result was something like what happens when you turn a bunch of adolescent boys loose in a paint factory. Actually, 43 years on I feel much better disposed to the White Album; even to the dreaded Revolution 9 since I’ve been exposed to a good deal more musique concrète. That was Yoko’s contribution I believe. Only Wild Honey Pie still eludes me but even there I feel something like being confronted with a fiendishly difficult crossword to solve.

    Cohn makes much of comparing TWA unfavourable to Beggar’s Banquet. As a one-off, BB is undoubtedly a very fine album and a much better one than TWA taken as a slice of the time. Of course at 14 you weren’t supposed to like the Beatles and the Stones although any actual rivalry was a friendly one. There was mutual admiration and influence but they were chalk and cheese. The Beatles as essentially provincial as the Stones were essentially metropolitan – compare the urbane, confident Jagger with the sarcastic, self-doubting Lennon – and that provincialism spoke to us provincials. The Stones did one thing and they did it supremely well – basically snark whether raw aggressive sexual snark or reptilian, creepy snark. They did snark better than the Beatles, but then the Beatles did it first. They took it from the Beatles and ran with it. They’ve been running with it ever since and for quite a long time I’ve been feeling they look ever more pathetic with every passing year. Meanwhile the Beatles could have run out of steam half a dozen times, but they kept reinventing themselves. Beatles For Sale sounds to me like a farewell, an acknowledgement that the Stones and the Kinks and the Who had picked up the baton and were racing ahead. But no, there was always something surprising to come. Cohn charges them with narcissism. Of course they were bloody narcissistic, especially Lennon who was also a bully and all-round bastard (there were mitigating circumstances. It’s precisely that narcissism that fuelled the Beatles phenomenon. The Stones could trade on raw, unchanging rocking for nigh-on fifty yearts but the Beatles couldn’t stand still, they wanted to be ahead of the game, they got bored easiuly and wanted to try new things. The new things often worked; a lot of the time (especially on TWA) they either didn’t work or their audience simple wasn’t ready for it. But there were always others to pick up the broken pieces and work on them.

    Of course, the best thing the Beatles ever did was to break up when they knew the game was up, when each of them knew they wanted to beat their own path. What remains is legend – nothing any of them ever did on their own comes close to what they did together. But it still bears repeating – that much of what others did for decades afterwards owes a huge debt to that restless narcissism.

    I’m not sure that what I finished writing has anything to do with what I started writing but there you go. No, I haven’t listened to the podcast. I started out to do so but couldn’t be doing with the rest of the podcast.

    {1} Actually I’d rate Sgt Pepper as only 3rd or 4th (depending on how I feel about Rubber Soul in any given day.

  8. 83
    Mark M on 14 Feb 2011 #

    You can fast-forward past the Paramore bit, you know…

  9. 84
    swanstep on 14 Feb 2011 #

    @Rosie/enitharmon. Thanks for that – great stuff. I do hope you get around to hearing Cohn talk about acid-bores, etc.. The whole energy of the period is fascinating to me!

  10. 85
    Tom on 16 Feb 2011 #

    Thanks for that post Rosie – only just read it: really good comment.

    I find the White Album hard to get through, I admit, it’s probably my least favourite Beatles record (actually no, Let It Be is worse). I dunno if it’s linked upthread but Marcello’s Then Play Long take on it is really worth reading – a real extended wrestle with the record which makes the best case I’ve read for taking it as a unity.

  11. 86
    Tom on 16 Feb 2011 #

    I seem to think everything is really real this morning, man.

  12. 87
    punctum on 16 Feb 2011 #

    #85 – linked by me in post #72.

  13. 88
    crag on 14 Apr 2011 #

    DESERT ISLAND DISCS WATCH:

    Rachael Hayhoe, poet(1969)

    Kenneth Allsop, writer(1971)

    Alan Pascoe, Hurdler(1976)

    John Hurt, actor(1984)

    Ismail Merchant, film producer(1986)

    Sue Lawley, broadcaster(1987)

    Brendan Foster, runner(1988)

    Keith Floyd, TV Chef(1990)

    Carmen Callil, writer, publisher(1992)

    John Updike, writer(1995)

    Gordon Brown, politician(1996)

    Richard Noble, driver(1998)

    Martin Pipe, horse trainer(1999)

    Rolf Harris, musician, artist(1999)

    Professor Raymond Tallis, poet(2007)

    Lord David Cobbold, Owner of Knebworth House (2010).

  14. 89
    Pete on 21 Aug 2011 #

    I get more and more fond of this song. I used to hate it but it now I don’t want it to end. It’s like an iceberg floating by.

  15. 90
    tm on 25 Nov 2013 #

    Shameless plug: check out my friend Greg’s Beatles map of London for iPhone: a snap at 69p!

    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/mapville-london-beatles-edition/id651212083?mt=8

  16. 91
    hectorthebat on 14 May 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010)
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Dave Marsh & Kevin Stein (USA) – The 40 Best of the Top 40 Singles by Year (1981) 9
    Life (USA) – 40 Years of Rock & Roll, 5 Songs for Each Year 1952-91 (Updated 1995)
    Paul Williams (USA) – Rock and Roll: The 100 Best Singles of All Time (1993)
    Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (USA) – 500 Songs That Shaped Rock (1994?)
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 100 Best Singles of the Last 25 Years (1988) 29
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 100 Greatest Beatles Songs (2010) 7
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (2004) 8
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (Updated 2010) 8
    Stephen Spignesi and Michael Lewis (USA) – The 100 Best Beatles Songs (2004) 6
    The Recording Academy Grammy Hall of Fame Albums and Songs (USA)
    VH1 (USA) – The 100 Greatest Songs of All Time (2000) 9
    Guinness Book of Hits of the ’60s (UK, 1984) – Paul Gambaccini’s Top 10 Songs
    Mojo (UK) – The 100 Greatest Singles of All Time (1997) 7
    Mojo (UK) – The 100 Greatest Songs of All Time (2000) 29
    Mojo (UK) – The 101 Greatest Tracks by The Beatles (2006) 12
    New Musical Express (UK) – The Top 100 Singles of All Time (1976) 38
    New Musical Express (UK) – The Top 150 Singles of All Time (1987) 149
    Uncut (UK) – The 50 Greatest Beatles Tracks (2001) 13
    Zig Zag (UK) – Gillett & Frith’s Hot 100 Singles (1975)
    Nerikes Allehanda (Sweden) – The 50 Best Rock Songs of All Time (1992) 11
    Now & Then (Sweden) – The Beatles’ 50 Best Songs (1992) 24
    Pophandboek (Netherlands) – Errit Petersma’s Top 20 Singles from the 60s (1970)
    Berlin Media (Germany) – The 100 Best Singles of All Time (1998) 13
    Rolling Stone (Germany) – The Best Singles of 5 Decades (1997)
    Gilles Verlant and Thomas Caussé (France) – 3000 Rock Classics (2009)
    Toby Creswell (Australia) – 1001 Songs (2005)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)
    Grammy Awards (USA) – Record of the Year Nominee

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