Aug 06

THE BEATLES – “Hey Jude”

FT + Popular95 comments • 15,893 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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  1. 61
    Bobby on 13 Mar 2007 #

    Why the bloody hell would someone write a whole article jsut to critisize this beautiful song. You sir, are a wanker!

  2. 62
    Barry on 4 Apr 2007 #

    I think it is a wonderful song, considering it was one of Mr. Campbell’s earliest compositions.

  3. 63
    Tom on 4 May 2009 #

    An oddly apt song to end up as a corporate-backed Flashmob singalong.

  4. 64
    Lex on 5 May 2009 #

    I swear I would not have been able to restrain myself from committing acts of violence on those people, had I accidentally stumbled upon it. Horrific.

  5. 65
    Georgie on 2 Jun 2009 #

    It’s proven stupidity is a legend that never exsisted.While we blossom and dance the earth in all our early nude retirement gear.Our diplomas become old old memories.But of this illness thousands of college graduates receive,its similar to a pink panther cartoon starring Wedesday Ash.Life is just to much for the events that lay ahead of them.They were working their little heads off for years,only in time to find life is shit.As they should be instatutionulized ,for believing they were any kind of gift from God.

  6. 66
    Rory on 9 Sep 2009 #

    I’m not planning to make a habit of dipping into the archives of Popular to leave comments (not yet, anyway), but this one has been nagging at me a while. Through my Popular-inspired researches I’ve realised that “Hey Jude” must be my earliest musical memory other than nursery rhymes. It was number one in Australia for thirteen weeks, when I was nine to twelve months old, and I remember it being around – on radio, presumably. When I next encountered it in any kind of sustained way (on a Beatles singles compilation at age 15) it gave the strongest sense of deja vu of any of their songs, possibly because it wasn’t a radio staple through most of my childhood (too long, presumably, or our DJs had been burnt out on it), so I couldn’t pinpoint where I’d heard it before.

    So for me this is like “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep”: it’s not just music, it is music. I don’t listen to it much nowadays, and there are many Beatles songs I prefer, but McCartney tapped into something deep here, that his music could make such an impression on someone who couldn’t even talk. (I can’t give it a rating. How do you rate Music?)

    Lena’s comment #57 feels spot on to me, and for similar reasons: my parents are the same age as the fabs, and I’m the same age she was. I can think of far worse songs with far worse messages to have at the heart of your musical memories.

    I look at my little guy sometimes, age two and half, and wonder what his “Hey Jude” will be.

  7. 67
    Jack on 10 Sep 2009 #

    To the person who waffled about Menlove Avenue and working class hero, have you even READ the lyrics of that song? I think you have completely misunderstood the song. John never considered himself the working class hero, it’s not about him. I also find your over emphasis on class to be weird. John was middle class and was great, George was working class and he was great too. Their class is meaningless.

  8. 68
    Waldo on 27 Oct 2009 #

    Lennon always admired the line “The movement you need is on your shoulder” and the song is actually a prime example of a classical Macca melody, which is then completely bollocksed by that ludicrous fade, which itself was obediently taken up as a footy chant by all and sundry. I have never understood why George Martin didn’t put his foot down here. “Hey Jude” could have been cut by a good two minutes and then you can start to make it better.

    Okay, sorry.

  9. 69
    wichita lineman on 27 Oct 2009 #

    Rory at 66: How do you rate music? Here’s your answer:


    I’d guess George Martin didn’t put his foot down because he couldn’t – he wanted to trim the White Album down to a single but the group disagreed.

    My two cents. Paul was trying to keep the group together (John and George were both itching to get out) with an inclusive song that reached for the personal (are there any other Popular entries about a bandmate’s offspring?) and the universal (1968 was a year of mass demonstration, after all, which probably had some bearing on the coda). The screeching – not my favourite part – is Paul channeling their pre-fame sound, their love of Little Richard, reminding the others of their roots, attempting to take the group forward. In this respect alone, it’s a hell of a lot more successful and enjoyable than the Let It Be/Get Back debacle.

    As for specifically writing a terrace anthem, it’s nigh on impossible – there’s no ‘obedience’ involved (anyone remember the Shamen at Highbury? Or, conversely, why Bristol Rovers fans sing Goodnight Irene?).

    So the ending’s too long, it’s no biggie. Tape it and fade it a bit earlier. Likewise, make your own single White Album and lose Ob La Di/Honey Pie/Rev 9/Savoy Truffle, whatevs.

    Possible unlikely inspiration – the Bee Gees’ Words for that super-compressed piano sound. That was Maurice Gibb’s major contribution to their sixties recordings: Ringo was best mates and neighbours with Maurice and Lulu, QED.

    (this is possibly the only thread on Popular that pisses me off, makes me cross, and bored).

  10. 70
    Rory on 27 Oct 2009 #

    Nice link, wichita lineman!

    Most of my early listening to the White Album was Revolution-9-free (although I kept the “can you take me back” lead-in), because it wouldn’t fit on a C90 unless you cut something.

  11. 71
    lonepilgrim on 28 Oct 2009 #

    so it goes:


  12. 72
    punctum on 29 Oct 2009 #

    Finally (and by happy coincidence) Then Play Long reaches the White Album:


  13. 73
    Paulito on 30 Dec 2009 #


    I can’t help thinking that the review and rating for this song smack of iconoclasm for its own sake. While I accept your basic argument that “Hey Jude” is overrated, I think you’ve given in to the common critical fallacy (to which Beatles criticism is especially prone) of over-stating the case for the purpose of appearing edgy and controversial. While all criticism is necessarily subjective, it should always be balanced and I think you’ve had a (relatively rare) lapse here. The coda may well be too long, and McCartney’s ad libs somewhat contrived, but even so the song’s overall merits surely make it a curate’s egg rather than the dud suggested by a “4” rating. That you should rank this enduring standard lower than, say, Brotherhood of Man’s “Angelo” or Bucks Fizz’s “My Camera Never Lies” betrays a lack of perspective.

    Finally, critically comparing “Hey Jude” with “Yellow Submarine” is as pointless as rating a Bentley against a Mini.

  14. 74
    Tom on 30 Dec 2009 #

    Yes, it’s better than “Angelo” I grant you.

    Going back over the band’s career with the reissues I’ve come around to this one a fair bit – should’ve been a six perhaps.

  15. 75
    thefatgit on 5 Jan 2010 #

    It’s a football chant. “Na na na nanana na, nanana na (insert team/player here)”.

  16. 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…

  17. 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?

  18. 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:


  19. 79
    DietMondrian on 12 Feb 2011 #

    An interesting listen, Mark M, thanks.

  20. 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!

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 83
    Mark M on 14 Feb 2011 #

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

  24. 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!

  25. 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.

  26. 86
    Tom on 16 Feb 2011 #

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

  27. 87
    punctum on 16 Feb 2011 #

    #85 – linked by me in post #72.

  28. 88
    crag on 14 Apr 2011 #


    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).

  29. 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.

  30. 90
    tm on 25 Nov 2013 #

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


  31. 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

  32. 92
    lonepilgrim on 2 Oct 2016 #

    I have a vivid memory of hearing this as a kid playing on a juke box in a noisy pub on Fireworks Night in Lewes in Sussex – which if you are not aware is a particularly chaotic and almost pagan celebration. A drunken Scotsman in a kilt staggered into the machine and made the record jump to an early finish. Seeing me standing next to the player he thrust a half crown into my hand in compensation for what he thought was my my loss. I’ve had a residual affection for the song since. I like the coda and also think that ‘don’t you know that it’s a fool who plays it cool by making the world a little colder’ is a particularly pithy piece of hippie wisdom.

  33. 93
    Duro on 21 Nov 2017 #

    Bad things about this song:
    The memory of those interminable 2012 singalongs

    Good things about this song:
    That football chant that goes “Naa naa na nanananaa, nanananaa, YOU’RE SHIT”, which probably saves the entire project

  34. 94
    Precious Wilson on 9 Apr 2021 #

    I think 4/10 is generous. Fairly tuneless singing and banal lyrics from McCartney, this single certainly outstays it welcome.

  35. 95
    Gareth Parker on 8 Jun 2021 #

    (#74) Tom – I actually think you were right the first time around. This single does my head in I’m afraid. I’m much less generous than even you were originally – 2/10 imo.

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