Aug 06

THE BEATLES – “Hey Jude”

FT + Popular95 comments • 15,439 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. 1
    Tom on 29 Aug 2006 #

    That bloody tambourine can get lost too.

  2. 2
    Tom on 29 Aug 2006 #

    Also, before anyone calls me on it, factual inaccuracy alert: “Hey Jude” WASN’T the first single on Apple, but it was meant to be.

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    Steve Mannion on 29 Aug 2006 #

    I prefer the Jose Ferrante version.

  4. 4
    blount on 29 Aug 2006 #

    i prefer the anthony michael hall version.

    their biggest hit (by far i think) in the states and when i was a kid at least well known as such, their towering unending monolith. very possibly their worst single with very possibly their best single on the flip, and in the states it was a double-a though a lopsided one i’m sure.

    ‘hey dude’>’hey jude’

  5. 5
    Tom on 29 Aug 2006 #

    Yes, not a double-A in the UK.

    I suspect it’s not their worst single, unfortunately.

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    jeff w on 29 Aug 2006 #

    This is the classic song to do the “i prefer the [x] version” to, because so many people tried it.

    It’s not in the same league as Yesterday as far as sheer numbers of cover versions goes, but it’s one of the half dozen Beatles tunes that was quickly assimilated into the popular song repertoire.

    And it’s one of the more interesting cases to study, because of the length and structure of The Beatles version. (Also IMHO because the original’s so awful, for the reasons Tom points out.) What to DO with the lengthy coda was the challenge for arrangers. Some make light of it or fade it early to achieve “normal” pop song length, others (particular those doing instrumental covers) push it further than even McCartney does, beyond mere singalong Jam into the improvisational, making it the centrepiece of their cover.

    Latest discovery to leave me gobsmacked: The Temptations’ version from ’69. Starts with a boogie woogie piano riff and scarcely gets any more reverent thereafter.

  7. 7
    Doctor Mod on 29 Aug 2006 #

    OK, but what was the first Apple single? If I were to take a guess, was it something early by Badfinger (then the Iveys?) Mary Hopkin? Jackie Lomax? Doris Troy? James Taylor?

    But seriously, I think Tom is quite right about the context (i.e., the state of the Beatles at that moment) and I think the strain is quite evident in the performance–the occasional bit of backing vocal from John and George sounds as if both were utterly bored and vaguely going through the motions. The is also the story of the “White Album” that followed soon after–a few stunning gems and a lot of throwaway stuff from people who could no longer get along with each other. (And I’m not entirely taking John’s side against Paul–“Revolution #9” is mildly provocative but ultimately unlistenable.)

    And, as with “Hello Goodbye,” the flip side (John’s side) was the much superior recording. Too bad we aren’t discussing “Revolution” instead–now that was a recording worth talking about. It was a double-A side here in the States, “Revolution” being an apt evocation of the zeitgeist here–and elsewhere, I assume. It was a rare show of fireworks in their late period, and it actually had something to say that was worth saying.

    I still play “Revolution” for my own pleasure and enjoyment now and then, but not “Hey Jude”–though I’m more apt to hear the latter as background music in some public place these days. Too, too long and repetitive (not to mention a bit lugubrious)–but one must remember that such concerns don’t matter when you’ve smoked a lot of pot, and a lot of pot got smoked in those days. By my own admission, I can recall feeling that it was somehow really “heavy” when under said influence. And we ALL sang along, “na-na-na-na hey Jude!” Now I think that it paved the way for such self-indulgences as the fifteen-minute free-form drum solos that became mainstays of stadium rock–and one really has to be stoned to enjoy that–all of which seems, well, quite silly these days to everyone except certain middle-aged male academic rock-critics.

    There were, alas, worms in the Apple from the very inception. So sad, because the whole project had the potential for being great.

    And you’re right again, Tom. I wasn’t the worst–that one’s yet to come.

  8. 8
    Andrew Hickey on 29 Aug 2006 #

    Of course, Hey Jude does have the great moment where John hits completely the wrong note and mumbles ‘fuckin’ hell’…
    And I doubt very much that it’s coincidence that Hey Jude is exactly 1 second longer than Macarthur Park, which had recently come out and was the longest single ever released at the time…

  9. 9
    Klepsydra on 29 Aug 2006 #

    ‘Hey Jude’ had the Granny Smiths label but Parlophone made them give it a Parlophone number, the blue big meanies.

    Hence there was no ‘Apple 1’.

    Apple 2 was Mary Hopkin’s “Those Were The Days”, 3 was Jackie Lomax’s “Sour Milk Sea”, 4 was the Black Dyke Mills Band with “Thingumybob” (sic). After that it all got a bit mad…

  10. 10
    pˆnk s lord sükråt cunctør on 29 Aug 2006 #

    i heart mary hopkin!! also i heart the lovely green apple!! that is all i have to contribute here

    except to note that there is a ptee-style joke to be made out of “black dyke mills band” but LUCKILY I AM NOT PTEE

  11. 11
    Doctor Casino on 30 Aug 2006 #

    I suppose there’s not too much point to chiming in with a defense of “Hey Jude” here – y’all have heard it all before, and perhaps there’s something to the project of trying to thoroughly articulate an often-expressed irritation with a sacred cow. But really, come on, “Hey Jude” is lovely. It got picked up by so many others not because of the singalong but because of two things essential to any lounge act/Piano Man type:
    1) it’s really, really easy to play and sing at the same time (see also “Imagine”)
    2) the melody is absolutely fantastic. Gliding, sweet, tender, and very enjoyable to sing. Certainly it’s among McCartney’s best in this regard.

    #1 probably has little bearing on whether it’s a good song or not, but I feel like #2 counts for a lot, especially as in this recording McCartney delivers it perfectly. It would be easy – especially for Paul McCartney, to really ham up the sentiment of this song, as perhaps he does in the singalong section. But for the real meat of the song, he sells it in an IMO very convincing way. It just sounds like he really cares about Jude.

    And, really, I do think it’s unfair to hate on any song for what it might have inspired. Bad drum solos and singalong jams of the future aside, the merits of this singalong jam are really quite considerable. If you really like “Yellow Submarine”‘s better, that’s fine, but placed on the overall scale of such things, I say this beats “All Around The World” – but I imagine we’ll find out when you reach that taut little ditty!

  12. 12
    Doctor Mod on 30 Aug 2006 #

    Doctor Casino,

    I never said I “hated” “Hey Jude”–it is simply that, in retrospect, I realize that it isn’t all that some of us thought it was in 1968. I don’t think it has aged well. It might have aged better if it hadn’t droned on repetitively at the for four minutes at the end.

    And, as Tom said, it certainly wasn’t the worst Beatles number 1–but it certainly wasn’t the best. Then, on the other hand, it was surely far, far better than most of McCartney’s post-Beatles work. The other three were there to offer some sort of checks and balances on Paul’s excesses.

    P.S. The final sentence in my previous post should have read “It [not “I”] wasn’t the worst–that one’s yet to come.”

  13. 13
    Tom on 30 Aug 2006 #

    If it wasn’t for the fade it would have scored higher, definitely. The version I have on the CDs I made at the start of the project cuts off at about 4’30” and listening to that I found myself warming to the song. But the long version was the single version here, so there it is.

    And I don’t think I’m giving a huge amount away if I say that, even though I don’t mark a song until I finish a review, “All Around The World” will almost certainly get less than this does.

    The single that actually broke “Hey Jude”‘s ‘longest #1’ record in the UK though was “I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” by Meat Loaf.

  14. 14
    Tom on 30 Aug 2006 #

    The “Yellow Sub” comment is partly based on the (second-hand) empirical evidence of football terrace chants, where it beats “Hey Jude” comfortably! (But also see my Eleanor Rigby review for why I think YS is better too.)

  15. 15
    Tim Hopkins on 30 Aug 2006 #

    “Hey Jude” remains popular on the (now largely proverbial) terraces, though, though as far as I know only the la-la singalong bit. As in: “la la la LALALA laaa, LALALA laaa, Ci-ty” etc etc.

  16. 16
    Pete Baran on 30 Aug 2006 #

    This was one of the five singles my parent bought I believe, and I was allowed to play with it on the old dansette as a kid. Therefore
    a) I always believed Revolution was the A-side (it was clearly better)
    b) In my neophyte scratching days, Hey Jude got a lot of needle abuse.

    Am I right in thinking that Hey Jude is a song for/about Julia(n) Lennon? And as a Macca composition it then takes on a wee bit of snide?

    Also Hey Jude is clearly responsible for Imagine in my book, maybe Lennon trying to get his own back vis a vis the piss easy plinky-plonker.

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    pˆnk s lord sükråt cunctør on 30 Aug 2006 #

    i think it is written to julian lennon’s SON!! it is dynastic encouragement even unto the third pop generation: “take a sad song and make it better” = even tho yr dad (ie julian) is going to be a RUBBISH POP STAR you in yr turn will possibly not be so bad

  18. 18
    Erithian on 30 Aug 2006 #

    Yes, it was addressed to Julian, and I think even Lennon was prepared to take it at face value, so why shouldn’t we?

    I agree with the points about the second half of the song. Someone once described it as “a three-minute song with a four-minute fadeout” which sums it up (maybe someone with a stopwatch can establish whether T Rex’s “Hot Love” has similar proportions!) Sadly the point about the stadium ballad was emphasised at Live 8 when the end-of-show singalong dispensed with any of the song and just cut to the “na-na-na’s”. Now if only “Let It Be” had worked at Live Aid…

    (Obscurity corner: “Sour Milk Sea”, the George Harrison song released as Apple 3 – referred to above – was later the name of a band which recruited a young Freddie Bulsara (aka Mercury) in 1970.)

  19. 19
    Tom on 30 Aug 2006 #

    The monster fade-out in “Hot Love” I think is awesome and I look forward to explaining why!

  20. 20
    Doctor Mod on 30 Aug 2006 #

    I was going to mention the Julian Lennon connection. I’ve heard this, too, but the “you have found her, go out and get her” and “let her under your skin” do seem odd bits of advice to a five-year-old whose Mum and Dad are splitting for well-publicized reasons.

    I’ve also heard Macca say in an interview that he wrote the song as sort of a self-affirmation in pursuing Linda Eastman. (But if he were really attempting to succour Julian and Cynthia, is it fair to ask what ever happened to Jane Asher? Hmmmm…..)

    As to the snide, well the tripe-slinging between those two surely had a long, occasionally amusing, and generally embarassing history post-split, inspiring:

    Too Many People (Macca)
    How Do You Sleep (Lennon)–invective par excellence!
    Silly Love Songs (Macca)

    Anyone care to add more?

    Lennon eventually gave us “Working Class Hero” and “Imagine” among others. McCartney eventually gave us “Hands Across the Water” and “High High High.”

    Maybe it was really George who came out of the fray the most intact?

  21. 21
    Tom on 30 Aug 2006 #

    Macca’s towering post-Beatles achievement is the “reggae bit” in Live And Let Die, which is the single greatest pop moment any post-Beatle put to tape and one of the most startling and life-affirming incidents in 70s pop!

  22. 22
    Marcello Carlin on 30 Aug 2006 #

    I think you’re mixing up the “reggae bit” in Live And Let Die with the moment when Jack Nitzsche’s strings surge into Ringo’s “Photograph.”

  23. 23
    Marcello Carlin on 30 Aug 2006 #

    Ringo of course being the one who came out most intact. Thomas the Tank Engine and Barbara Bach…who could truly ask for more?

  24. 24
    Brian on 30 Aug 2006 #

    I’ve always understood that the song was for Julian Lennon. I met him once over fish n’ chips – nice bloke. Didn’t ask him about this though. He was pushing ” Valotte” at the time.

    But with some of Macca’s contributions around this time I think that he knew it was over and was looking to write the Beatles swan song. Long & Winding Road particularily. And this would be typical of Macca’s modus operendi as the music hall master ( aka Sgt Pepper ) , it’s a reoccurring theme for him. The big closing number which he was able to realize on Abbey Road.

    I think a lot of the same criticism levied ” All You Need Is Love ” can be applied to the long fade/sing along . Shooting for mass appeal and trying to send a message of encouragement to the world. And on that level it obviously works, hence its popularity.

  25. 25
    Marcello Carlin on 30 Aug 2006 #

    It might be considered Paul’s more “realistic” response to John’s “All You Need Is Love.” Certainly the long fadeout suggests the end of something, as does the promo film they did where whatever passers-by they could drag in from the streets of Twickenham crowd around the band, and finally obscure them altogether.

  26. 26
    Doctor Casino on 30 Aug 2006 #

    (But if he were really attempting to succour Julian and Cynthia, is it fair to ask what ever happened to Jane Asher? Hmmmm…..)

    Ask “I’m Looking Through You,” I think…

    As for Jude – I hope my comments didn’t come off as particularly hostile to Tom or Doc Mod, as I love these discussions in general! And, for the record, I also love “All Around the World,” although that one is squarely in guilty pleasure territory, whereas I really do think “Hey Jude” is good. :) And “Hi Hi Hi” for that matter, so perhaps I’m just coming at this from a whole different musical ballgame.

    Tripe-slinging between these two […] Anyone care to add more?

    “Dear Friend” on Wild Life is Macca’s response to “How Do You Sleep,” I think. And of course he has a (slightly schmaltzy) John eulogy song on Tug of War, “Here Today.”

    As for Julian – I get the impression Macca visited Julian, started thinking about what a bummer of a situation that was, started writing a song about him (purportedly originally titled “Hey Jules”), and found he could hammer words into it better if he abandoned the little kid. At least the guy knows where his strengths are, eh?

  27. 27
    Marcello Carlin on 30 Aug 2006 #

    Oh, and of course it’s the first number one with swearing on it – John drops his guitar during the final verse and is clearly heard yelling “Oh…fucking hell!” in the background.

  28. 28
    blount on 30 Aug 2006 #

    my understanding is originally written for julian as ‘chin up lad’ encouragement, reworked by neccessity into pop context (though seemingly ‘oi kid don’t let yr parents’ divorce get you down’ would seemingly be a marketable message, esp at this point judging by whichever/whenever song tom carmodized re: divorce rates earlier)(this has been tapped in movies obv and kiddie selfhelp books no doubt but are there any big hit songs aimed at this?), with john then thinking it applied to his end of the situation (understandably w/ ‘you have found her/go out and git r (done)’). question for the sunshine boys: how immediate was the backlash to john+yoko? i always think of it as primarily post-bag-ins/two virgins and amping up post-breakup, yet he’s clearly feeling heat by this point i guess. and is ‘we love you’:’all you need is love’::’you can’t always get what you want’:’hey jude’ (probably not)?

  29. 29
    Ward Fowler on 30 Aug 2006 #

    I have always ‘read’ the fade as Paul’s – possible – response to, and emulation of, minimalism (eg ‘droning on repetitively’, as Doctor Mod puts its above). The Beatles/Epstein/Velvet Underground connection is well known, as is Macca’s cutting edge/avant-garde credentials (this is, after all, the man who played an Albert Ayler rec to a horrified George Martin at a dinner party – it doesn’t seem that much a stretch for McCartney to also be aware of LaMonte Young.)

  30. 30
    pˆnk s lord sükråt cunctør on 30 Aug 2006 #

    i think the public backlash was pretty immediate — i seem to recall in shout! there’s a description of gangs psychotic girlfans staking out abbey road (philip norman’s attitude to yoko is not much more elevated, mind you)

    i could look it up even but it would mean going four feet across the room!!

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