Jul 06

THE BEATLES – “Hello Goodbye”

FT + Popular27 comments • 6,931 views

#241, 9th December 1967

HI DERE BYE DERESomeone 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.



  1. 1
    Steve Mannion on 17 Jul 2006 #

    The lyrical simplicity of the song frustrates me because I love the jolliness of the tune (but not as much as ‘Lady Madonna’). Possible pop paradox here. Maybe I should stick with E.L.O.

  2. 2
    Marcello Carlin on 17 Jul 2006 #

    Recently departed: the chap who played that odd violin on “Hello Goodbye”: an interesting life.

  3. 3
    Erithian on 18 Jul 2006 #

    There’s a quote from John Lennon which is quite instructive on how he at least saw this song. Lamenting the fact that one of his strongest songs, “Revolution”, was only a B-side, and having the kind of memory lapse unthinkable to a Beatle fan but excusable in a Beatle, he said “and what was on the A-side? “Hello Goodbye” or some s–t like that? Oh, no, it was “Hey Jude”, which was worth it – I take it back…”

    Re “Beatlesqueness” (great word) what sums it up for me is not the oom-pah stuff they could put out on an off-day, but the more driving rhythms and guitar sound of something like “And Your Bird Can Sing” from Revolver.

  4. 4
    Brian on 18 Jul 2006 #

    Seems to me that trying to label one “sound” as Beatlesque is a bit like calling all dogs black.

    Almost every Beatle album had its shift in writing and recording that gave each phase of their musical progression a signature sound. From ” Love Me Do’ to “Hard Days Night ” to “Help” to ” Norwegian Wood” to ” Elebnor RIgby ” to ‘Sgt. Pepper”….they all have readily indentifiable parts that immediately lets you know that it is The Beatles.

    So it gives a lot for other bands to drawn on from folkies to rockers, that they can probably find something in the Beatle catalougue that will float their boat….at the risk of soundiung Beatleesque – but all in all, not a bad aspiration.

    As for “Hello, Goodbye” – I only just realized that this is a Paul song. Because of the lyrical word play, I always thought of it as a John song. No wonder he didn’t like it much if the above quote is true.

    But I like this song. It’s like two songs going in different directions at once and has that effect from the background vocals singing a separate melody and lyric.

    You got yes coming and goodbye going. All ending up in one big ” aloha ” , which means hello and goodbye in Hawaiian.

    Crafty beggars…..

  5. 5
    Chris Brown on 21 Jul 2006 #

    I agree about the variety of Beatles sounds, of course – but when you hear records by other people described as “Beatlesque” there’s usually a certain thing in mind. This song always reminds me of a family holiday in France when we only had two Beatles tapes to listen to – this was one of the many songs thereon that I’d never encountered before. I loved it then, but I was only about six.

    I still like it now, but I always have in mind that if people dislike the Beatles, this is precisely the sort of thing they have in mind. I find it hard to imagine that this is any adult’s favourite, for all that it had their longest continuous run at the top of the charts since ‘From Me To You’.
    On a historical note, the flipside of this was ‘I Am The Walrus’ – another John song of course and also featured on the Magical Mystery Tour EP set which was at 2 for much of this time.

  6. 6
    Doctor Mod on 1 Aug 2006 #

    I find it puzzling that this release wasn’t a double A-side–surely “I Am the Walrus” is the stronger recording. But I’d imagine that this simple, catchy tune was put out as the single in order to alleviate the fears of many fans that “I Am the Walrus” and similar numbers would eradicate what they loved about the Beatles, namely simple, catchy pop tunes.

    No, nothing profound here. Did anyone really expect that from McCartney? But here, with the other Beatles making their contributions to the mix, the recording is free from that twerpy cloyingness that made the lack of profundity more readily evident in McC’s solo work and with Wings.

    So the Beatles gave the people what they wanted with “Hello Goodbye.” They wouldn’t do that too many more times afterwards.

    Still, I retain a lot of fondness for the song. It has its quirky charm. I always appreciated the intricate backing vocals that John and George did here and elsewhere, and, yes, I agree that the song is a definitive example of what being “Beatlesesque” was all about.

    Having been born in Honolulu, I’m always amused, too, at the weird mispronunciation of “aloha.” The only way I figured out what “hey-la hey-a-hey-lo-ah” meant was when I saw the video with the hula dancers wiggling about at the end. Ah, that tropical rhythm that Ringo puts down in the closing seconds– Mahalo, Beatles!

  7. 7
    Chris Brown on 2 Aug 2006 #

    I don’t think many would dispute that ‘Walrus’ is the better side, but this is the more commercial one. Plus ‘Walrus’ already had a home on the Magical Mystery Tour EP, which this didn’t.

    I was born in North London, so when I was that kid driving through France I had no idea there was such a word as “Aloha”. I just thought they were saying “Hello-Ah” (add your own Mark E. Smith joke).

    According to Mark Lewisohn’s book, they did a mix without the violas in the hope that the video could be shown on British TV without the Musicians’ Union objecting. It didn’t work.

  8. 8
    koganbot on 8 Aug 2006 #

    “Goodbye”/”Walrus” most certainly was treated as a double A side in the U.S., with “Walrus” getting massive play on Top 40 radio; there’s something about the way things were counted that made “Hello Goodbye” the official designation on the charts, or the songs were given different spots on the charts (charts considered airplay as well as sales even then in the U.S.). Other major double-A sides from that time were “All You Need Is Love”/”Baby You’re a Rich Man,” and “I’m a Believer”/”Steppin’ Stone,” the latter being a massive hit from a few months earlier.

    As for what’s Beatlesque, Brian’s right, there were distinct Beatles sounds; but I think the biggest difference would have been early Beatles tracks like “Cathy’s Clown” “Not A Second Time” and “No Reply” etc. as imitated by the Yardbirds in “Mister You’re a Better Man Than I” and the Kinks in “You Shouldn’t Be Sad” (and I think there’s an influence on Marley too, and I wouldn’t be surprised if spirituals and folk music are in the ancestry, as well as the Everly Bros. and the girl groups); I don’t have the music theory to explain it; something about melodies that circle up and down, often landing on a minor key. And something about the harmonies… I’d think the later “Beatlesque” has its rousing elements (stuff like “Baby You’re a Rich Man” and “Hello Goodbye”) but is most typified by the ethereal “aahs” during the break in “A Day in the Life,” right after Paul has a smoke and goes into a dream (which follows the chord pattern to “Hey Joe,” and was lifted whole by Deep Purple at the start of “Hush”).

    There’s other stuff too, of course.

  9. 9
    ghjm on 9 Oct 2006 #

    Hey Dr Mod, I agree with you that I Am The Walrus is a more interesting song than Hello Goodbye. But I can’t agree that all of McCartney’s post-Beatles work featured “twerpy cloyingness.” Seriously, give a listen to the Band On The Run and (particularly) Venus And Mars albums sometime. Sure, none of the songs quite equals “Imagine,” but then again, none of Lennon’s other post-Beatles songs did either. Give McCartney a chance!

  10. 10
    Kenneth Wright on 18 Oct 2006 #

    This may not be the Beatles’ finest three minutes, but I like the way it harks back to the innocence, exhilaration and joy that radiate from their early records. Also, only a heart of stone could contemplate the look on George Harrison’s face in the promotional film without laughing. Unlike Ringo, Harrison never appreciated how lucky he was.

  11. 11
    Marcello Carlin on 18 Oct 2006 #

    If “I Am The Walrus” had been an official double A-side with “Hello Goodbye” I would have given it about 48,000 out of ten. Still you can understand the then Controller of Radio 1 getting jittery over having to air “you let your knickers down” regularly on the J.Y. Prog.

    And in light of its appearance, not only on the B-side of “Hello Goodbye” but also as one of the six tracks on the Magical Mystery Tour E.P., “I Am The Walrus” does retain the unique position of being the only recording to appear simultaneously on the number one and number two records in the singles chart in the same week.

  12. 12
    Duncan on 11 Mar 2007 #

    Dear Daniel we hope voting skate off you can we did vote Duncan Dancing on ice Thanks for Helping you Look After safe Happy Judge Jason Have a Good Time Judge Have a Great Time Thank you i see you soon Love karen

  13. 13
    Alan on 11 Mar 2007 #

    How did ITV get this desperate for ratings?

  14. 14
    Rory on 30 Jun 2009 #

    What a suitable beginning!

    (In Australia this didn’t hit number one until shortly after I was born, but near enough. Although I’m fine with The Royal Guardsmen’s “Snoopy’s Christmas” too.)

  15. 15
    Waldo on 9 Nov 2009 #

    This was the only Beatles single I disliked. Lennon was right in describing it as “shit”, if this indeed had been the case. The wonderful thing about the mop-tops (and Abba after them) was the absolute guaranteed quality of their singles. “Hello Goodbye” (notwithstanding the might of the B-side) was trite and clumsy and quite frankly lets their astonishing portfolio down. To this day I still fast-forward from it when listening to Beatles comps.

  16. 16
    lonepilgrim on 15 Apr 2010 #

    this just got GLEEed in the latest episode (14?) although minus the hayla-shayla bit at the end

  17. 17
    swanstep on 16 Apr 2010 #

    @16, lonepilgrim. I like Glee quite a lot, but this latest episode had the fastest melodramatic spin-cycle yet (we’re together, no we’re not, oh yes we are, ok we are but no one can know, but they know…and so on), and was just exhausting. And topping it off with the Beatles pressed into the further service of that melodrama was…strange. We needed some relief through the music and dancing at that point (a trick the show’s worked well before), but in this case the music just continued the twisting/cycling melodrama… This show needs to calm down. Looking forward to ‘The Power of Madonna’ ep. next week tho’.

  18. 18
    lonepilgrim on 16 Apr 2010 #

    @17, totally agree with you – the plot switches were bewildering at times – perhaps because they were rebooting the series they felt they needed to mix things up. I liked the line about dolphins being gay sharks though

  19. 19
    swanstep on 16 Apr 2010 #

    @18. Yes, that dolphin line was funny, but I felt a little guilty about laughing at it because the whole turn with those two cheerleaders in the ep. was so odd. They were suddenly being made out to be pathologically airheaded and narcissistic, not to mention possibly just evil. I found that very hard to believe given how we’d come to know them as pretty functional glee club participants. Some of the hard-to-keep-going unreality of the Sue Sylvester character seems to be seeping out into some of the other characters now. I hope they pull that back pronto… otherwise this show may eat itself up very quickly. At any rate, I hope you are right that this was all just ‘restart over-doing it’.

  20. 20
    crag on 14 Apr 2011 #


    Tristan Jones, sailor(1980).

  21. 21
    Lena on 15 Nov 2011 #

    Tom Jones, human sat nav: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.com/2011/11/same-old-song-tom-jones-im-coming-home.html Merci for reading, tout le monde!

  22. 22
    Lena on 28 Nov 2011 #

    Say hello and then goodbye to them: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.com/2011/11/we-are-all-together-beatles-magical.html Thanks for reading (and waiting!) everyone!

  23. 23
    hectorthebat on 6 May 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 100 Greatest Beatles Songs (2010) 100
    Stephen Spignesi and Michael Lewis (USA) – The 100 Best Beatles Songs (2004) 76
    Mojo (UK) – The 101 Greatest Tracks by The Beatles (2006) 36
    New Musical Express (UK) – The Top 100 Singles of All Time (1976) 81
    Now & Then (Sweden) – The Beatles’ 50 Best Songs (1992) 38
    Gilles Verlant and Thomas Caussé (France) – 3000 Rock Classics (2009)

  24. 24
    lonepilgrim on 18 Apr 2016 #

    even when I was a kid I think I thought this was trite – not something I thought (or think) of ‘Yellow Submarine’. Both Lennon & McCartney seemed to adopt a less is more approach to some of their lyrics from this point and sailed perilously close to insipid doggerel. It also lacks the musical and sonic richness of their best work. This picks up a bit with the aloha bit at the end but it’s poor by their standards

  25. 25
    chrisew71 on 2 May 2018 #

    It’s catchy as hell, but if ever there was a period when The Beatles coasted it was that year after Sgt. Pepper.

  26. 26
    Richard Harrison on 9 Apr 2021 #

    Hard to defend this single. Meaningless lyrics from McCartney here.

  27. 27
    Gareth Parker on 1 Jun 2021 #

    Find this extremely annoying I’m sorry to say. 2/10 in my view.

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