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. 31
    Tom on 30 Aug 2006 #

    My only problem w/that reading Ward is that it’s Macca who disrupts the transcendent drone effects with his bloody shouting about judy-judy-judy.

    Unless maybe he knew about LaMonte Young AND HATED HIM!

  2. 32
    pˆnk s lord sükråt cunctør on 30 Aug 2006 #

    lamonte young meets cary grant!

  3. 33
    Doctor Casino on 30 Aug 2006 #

    My only problem w/that reading Ward is that it’s Macca who disrupts the transcendent drone effects with his bloody shouting about judy-judy-judy.

    But that’s the genius, right? The tension between a boy schooled on Little Richard and a man looking up to Young? (Not that I know who LaMonte Young is, mind you.) I infinitely prefer this type of thing to “All You Need Is Love”‘s turgid, wheezy repetition (where, again, McCartney is trying to interject some sort of liveliness with his “All together now!”s and so forth). The whole world can sit on a hill, sing “na na na” and buy itself a Coke, but to keep it from just being one long, dreamy, listless smoke-out there needs to be somebody leaping around on speed, inflaming the passions.

  4. 34
    wwolfe on 30 Aug 2006 #

    Well, I’m going to cast a lonely vote for thoroughly enjoying the long fade-out. Paul’s vocal interjections, Ringo’s drum fills, the sound of George’s rhythm guitar and the way he strums it, the slow build of the orchestration – all of these together hold my interest for the entire length of the “Na-na” part.

    And I’ll say I think this is an excellent record. As several have pointed out, Paul’s initial inspiration for the lyric was his feeling of empathy for Julian, a feeling that was expressed, in Tom’s words, as “you’re not alone, you don’t have to be ashamed of needing help.” Paul quickly realized that these ideas applied to himself, vis a vis his situation with Linda and the Beatles. What I hear him saying is: I’ve found the love of my life and I’m going to summon the courage to choose that love – something real and lasting – over the glamour of life as a Beatle. John said essentially the same thing – less appealingly, to my ears – over the length of “Plastic Ono Band.” (This similarity in ideas and emotions must be why John always cited “Hey Jude” as one of his favorites of Paul’s songs.)

    The beauty of the long fade is exactly the thing that Tom dislikes, if I’m reading him right – the bliss of the “Na-na’s” contrasted with Paul’s screaming vocals, with the two fighting it over a long haul. To me, all of this is essential to expressing the message of the lyrics – true love isn’t easy to find, or keep, it’s rough and painful breaking free of all the barriers standing between you and it, but it’s wonderful if you can find it and get it. In my opinion, that contrast – pain and bliss, struggle and release – IS the song, and it needs to last every bit as long as it does in this record. Finding and keeping love is a grown-up’s job, I think is one message of this song, and I hear that in Paul’s voice – it’s the first record where he sounds like a man, not a boy. He didn’t always live up to the standard he set here, and other lesser artists may have used his approach to regrettable ends (which I don’t hold him responsible for, any more than Buddy Holly is responsible for Bobby Vee); however, neither of those factors lessen his achievement here. I read in the Village Voice several years ago, in an essay about over- and under-rated singles, that you wouldn’t listen to “Hey Jude” if you knew the world was ending tonight. Well – yeah, I would.

  5. 35
    Brian on 30 Aug 2006 #

    blount asked : for the sunshine boys: how immediate was the backlash to john+yoko?

    I remember it as being pretty quick and pretty negative. Although Macca was spending a lot of time with Linda he didn’t run into the heat as John & Yoko. There’s a few reasons for this , even prior to Two Virgins ; there was a drug bust for pot ( at Hendix’s old house in London ) and Yoko was named on John’s uncontested divorce from Cynthia as an adultress. And there was also a miscarriage but I am not sure if that made it to the press.

    Also the weirdness of the upcoming ” The Beatles” album ( aka The White Album )shocked a lot of people and they tended to think that this was Yoko’s avante garde reputation. So indirectly , she got fingered for that, too.

    So there was enough going on to feed the flames of anti – John + yoko – ism.

  6. 36
    Brian on 30 Aug 2006 #

    Blount :

    there was a country song : D-I-V-O-R-C-E that was a hit….

    ” Our little kind’s only six years old ” etc

  7. 37
    Chris Brown on 30 Aug 2006 #

    Apparently Lennon assumed the song was a message to *him* telling him to pursue Yoko, which I rather suspect tells you a lot about his state of mind at the time. Oddly enough, Leigh & Clayson (in their book “The Walrus Was Ringo” speculate that Paul might have been contemplating an affair with Cynthia Lennon.

    It’s clear that Lennon liked the song though, and I think that’s what distinguishes this from a lot of the White Album material – as a recording it’s very much an ensemble work that they were all committed to; that’s probably why it was the first Beatles track recorded on 8-track, which required them to go to an independent studio as there wasn’t one available at Abbey Road. I can hear how much care’s gone into the band’s own arrangement, which certainly contrasts with a lot of the album (and a lot more so with the stuff they did in the second half of 1967). I might even go so far as to give the first three minutes an 8…
    …But then there is that outro. Apparently “nah” is the 25th most frequently-ocurring word in Beatles lyrics. In Mark Lewisohn’s Chronicle he suggests that had there been such things at the time, they could have saved the long version for a 12″ single, I give the finished article a 6. Ironically enough, by the time this hit the shelves Ringo had actually stormed out on the band, though of course that wasn’t made public at the time.

    Of course, I’d make ‘Revolution’ an 8, but that’s sadly not the question. I’ll be back with more trivia later.

  8. 38
    Doctor Mod on 31 Aug 2006 #

    I was discussing this debate with my sister last night, and she made an interesting observation. She thought one factor in the great popularity of “Hey Jude” was its giving the fans exactly what they wanted: an affirmation that the Beatles would go on. There had been so much negative publicity, and rumors of intra-group strife were running amok. No matter how any of us felt about the drugs, Yoko, the Maharishi, or any other thing that seemed distressing in the context of the 60s (all of which would hardly raise an eyebrow these days), it was too painful to think of life without the Beatles. I doubt that any other pop/rock performers have ever burned so deeply into the public cultural consciousness. (It is probably not coincidental that Elvis staged his big comeback concert less than three months later.) Considering that “Hey Jude” was actually performed live on television, it seemed to give the lie to the rumors and allayed our fear of loss for the time being.

    But such was not to be. In retrospect, it’s amazing they stayed together as long as they did after this and turned out an extraordinary album like Abbey Road before it was all over.

  9. 39
    Doctor Mod on 31 Aug 2006 #

    I’d give “Revolution” a 9.

  10. 40
    Tom on 31 Aug 2006 #

    wwolfe: thanks for that excellent post – I still don’t agree, but that perspective hadn’t occurred to me and it’s certainly a reason someone could like the fade.

  11. 41
    Mark Gamon on 31 Aug 2006 #

    I’m going completely off-message here.

    Could not care less about the song. LOVE the coda.

    Everyone loves to pick on Mccartney because A/he can be a jerk; B/he’s not the holy St John what was murdered tragically and yes, we can ALL remember exactly where we were when we heard the news just like President Kennedy being killed and now John’s one of the greatest Britons of all time rather than a very important rock star with a great voice who wrote some great songs and some arrant rubbish too. Just like his partner.


    In the late 60s, McCartney was at the peak of his vocal powers. Go back to ‘Got to Get You Into My Life’ and listen to the soul shouting at the end. Then listen again to ‘Hey Jude’. Not the la-las, but McCartney’s improvising. It’s random, it’s chaotic, it’s packed with passion. Just like great soul singing should be.

  12. 42
    Tom on 31 Aug 2006 #

    Couldn’t agree less! It sounds to me like a really self-conscious attempt to do a bit of soul singing by someone who’s confusing ‘soul’ with ‘shouting’ (like 90% of rock singers ever I grant you).

  13. 43
    Tom on 31 Aug 2006 #

    I admit, though, that this is a bit of a blindspot for me – cf. Small Faces review, upcoming Joe Cocker write-up, god forbid the Charlatans ever get to #1 etc etc.

  14. 44
    Mark Grout on 31 Aug 2006 #

    I remember seeing this in Minchella’s in south shields (look for it, it’s still there) and the effect seemed to be “Look! The beatles, after getting a bit strange, are back! and they look like the beatles again!)

    (i.e. PMac had shaved his tache off.)

  15. 45
    Martin Skidmore on 31 Aug 2006 #

    I’m with Tom re this odd soul claim – it’s not at all random, and not at all passionate. I’m rarely convinced by claims of genuine passion for studio recordings anyway. It’s all chatting with the musicians and engineers and producer, then yelling into the mic. Paul McCartney seems less plausible than almost anyone for claims of passion and randomness and chaos, to be honest. Possibly more plausible than, say, the Pet Shop Boys, but less so than about 95% of pop stars ever.

    I also don’t at all think that is what soul is about – this was a major part of what I was saying in my old Al Green article here. I hear very little chaos and randomness in any soul records – there is the odd moment of thoughtlessness, like Otis’s ludicrous and notorious live “Sock it to her tenderly” moment, but that’s just a dumb improvised misstep in an otherwise thoroughly rehearsed and controlled set.

    I don’t think I’d have given Hey Dude as much as 4, personally – goes from ‘pleasant but don’t care’ to tedious even before the decline into the singalong.

  16. 46
    blount on 31 Aug 2006 #

    o come now martin – ‘hey dude’ is very probably kula shaker’s best single!

    somewhat echoing wwolfe and mark gamon i’m voting coda>songproper – chop them in half and you’re left with a dull ‘let it be’ precursor and an epic/bizarre powerballad take on ‘flying’ – it might still be garbage worth no more than a 4 but it’d be alot more fun.

  17. 47
    Chris Brown on 31 Aug 2006 #

    I think the thing about McCartney is that he’s hugely talented and is very good at a lot of things (in the musical field I mean) but he’s not always reliable in deciding how to use it. Hence his singing on that outro is, in its own right, fine – but it’s not in the right place here. ‘Got To Get You Into My Life’ is far better, because it’s a more apposite use of the technique.

    Oh, and on a semi-pedantic point, they didn’t exactly play ‘Hey Jude’ live on TV – David Frost turned up at what we’d now call the video shoot and faked it.
    Which reminds me that I promised more trivia – how’s about the fact that George Martin was paid £25 for the orchestral arrangement, and this massive sum of money required special authorisation from EMI? And one of the string players refused to sing along on that coda, even with the promise of a double fee. And as has been suggested before, Jimmy Webb didn’t think it a coincidence that this is a second longer than ‘McArthur Park’ [on the original 45 – the stereo mix is actually slightly shorter].

    Is this now the most-commented post, aside from Mike Sarne spam?

  18. 48
    des on 1 Sep 2006 #

    What a strange bunch of contributions.
    I’ve read it all now.
    Actually, Hey Jude was the Beatles biggest selling single anywhere and lots of people adored it – and still do if you go to any concert from Robbie Williams to Macca himself where the refrain gets picked up. Someone did it at our wedding and it was fantastic.

    What is loud and clear from all the above is the animosity Paul draws. Have you guys read any of the books about the Beatles – the people who actually worked with them?

    It’s quite clear that some of you think spouting left wing politics whilst high guarantees you credibility in perpetuity, but seriously, apart from being fans, have you guys ever trying performing a Lennon song? Jeez – one note melodies sung with passion (or is that just shouting?) and collage lyrics that don’t make much sense. You get bored very very quickly.

    the Beatles won 17 Ivor Novello awards for songwriting. They were all Paul songs.

    Good for you if you are stuck in your teenage rebellion years and really think John was some kind of saint, but I know you’d be an arse to have a pint with! I was in Liverpool recently for work and found myself, to my amusement, in Menlove Avenue where Mimi lived. It’s like a flipping country estate. Working Class Hero my foot. You poor, deluded fools.

    Hey Jude is genius from first to last. Revolution is Eddie Cochran slowed down with very distorted guitars and a painfully of the time lyric. It’s embarrassing to listen to now.

    Get over it…the Walrus was Paul. Or…oh dear…would admitting that mean you have to completely re-evaluate your entire life as a rebel?

    ha ha

    PS I actually love John’s stuff but in 100 years time I know whose songs they’ll be singing.

  19. 49
    Tom on 2 Sep 2006 #

    Des if you dug around a tiny bit on the site you’d see that Paul’s songs have tended to do very well here – “Eleanor Rigby” is one of two singles to have got 10/10. I personally don’t see the need to treat liking the Beatles as a schoolyard “ooh ooh I’m in HIS gang” fight.

  20. 50
    pˆnk s lord sükråt cunctør on 2 Sep 2006 #

    i’m in klaus voorman’s gang

  21. 51
    CarsmileSteve on 2 Sep 2006 #

    i thought you were in julia’s gang?

  22. 52
    wwolfe on 3 Sep 2006 #

    I’m in Murray the K’s gang – he’s the Fifth Beatle!

  23. 53
    Doctor Mod on 3 Sep 2006 #

    I’m with Polythene Pam’s gang

  24. 54
    Doctor Casino on 4 Sep 2006 #

    Not ten minutes ago I woke up from a dream in which – among many many other things – I got involved in a conversation about Hey Jude. I of course attempted to draw from this thread, but got a little muddled somewhere in the discussion. I do remember specifically wanted to come here and explain my grand theory that the two greatest lines are the two “shoulder” bits, especially the “the movement you need is on your shoulder,” on the grounds that it was the most vulnerable thing Paul had ever written (????????)… I need to spend less time on the Internet…..

  25. 55
    pˆnk s lord sükråt cunctør on 4 Sep 2006 #

    i think i speak for the entire thread community when i draw the OPPOSITE CONCLUSION dr casino :D

  26. 56
    intothefireuk on 6 Sep 2006 #

    I’m chiming in late on this one. I have had very different experiences with this song. As a child I disliked it. I found it turgid, maudlin and compared to their previous output just boring – this was the first Beatles single to sound ‘down’ (according to my young ears) and actually was the beginning of the end of my love affair with them. I think I moved on very swiftly to The Monkees around this time. I actually don’t recall the end being that long because I suspect radio DJs talked inanely over it. However as an adult re-assessing my love of the Beatles I can see it has it’s merits and I even caught myself singing along to it during one of Maccas concerts – it suits that environment very well. On record though it still struggles to ignite and leaves me feeling cold. Whatever Paul’s intentions are the emotion doesn’t reach me. It does sound like a group in its death throes as Tom has accurately pointed out.

    ‘here we come, walking down the street…………………’


  27. 57
    Lena on 7 Sep 2006 #

    To me, this song is an example of the Silent Generation (those born before & during WWII; Boomers come afterwards, of course) talking directly to what would become Generation X; “And don’t you know that it’s just you?/Hey Jude, you’ll do.” The Silent Generation’s general faith that GenX would turn out to be okay without much help from their elders, parents, what-have-you…(for more on this, 13th Gen tells the whole story…)…is poignant as hell to me, as is McCartney’s encouraging of himself vis a vis his own life (also fits the pattern of the Silents…) “Hey Jude, don’t be afraid.” He is singing to himself as much as young Julian.

    Sorry if this is obscure but I was one when this was a hit and must have heard it so many times then and only now do I hear it in a different way.

    As for being a downer: the local ‘classic rock’ station here had its usual big Labor Day Weekend countdown and “Hey Jude” sounds downright merry compared to the songs just before (“Hotel California” & “Stairway to Heaven”) and the only song to best it, “Comfortably Numb.” (Yes, it’s still a battle between Led Zep & The Beatles, with the Stones somewhere in the background, and Pink Floyd at #1 again.) But I can understand its seeming ‘down’ at the time.

  28. 58
    Brian on 7 Sep 2006 #

    HEY JUDE :A couple of intersting things about this tune that I just read…..

    1) The hand writen lyrics ( not sure which version ) were bought by Julian Lennon at an auction of Beatles personal memorabilia. He paid 25,00.00 British Pounds for them in 1997.

    2) During Lennon’s lost weekend in the States he was asked if the song was written for Julian. He replied that it was written for Brian Epstein and was originally called ” Gay Jew ” !!!!

  29. 59
    Lenya on 21 Nov 2006 #

    to Brian: That’s absolute rubbish. The song “Hey, Jude” was written by Paul McCartney, in his car as he was driving to visit Cynthia and Julian to comfort them in the wake of the divorce. The lyrics were originally “Hey, Jules,” but “jude” was easier to sing because the of the ‘s’.

    However, John did think that Paul was telling him to “go and get” Yoko as his love. He figured that “Jude” was some sort of code for Paul.

  30. 60
    Lenya on 21 Nov 2006 #

    Code for “John”, rather. *curses her typing*

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