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"HEY JUDE"

(John Lennon – Paul McCartney)

In 1968, it could easily have been said by many that the bloom of the rose that was the career of The Beatles had certainly seen its day and was in the process eventually of wilting away to nothing. As for their beginnings in America, their emergence in 1964 saw them holding down the entire Top Five positions on the Billboard singles chart on April 4th, 1964.  Nearly every subsequent single release thereafter had raced up the charts, either reaching the summit or nearly missing it.  Their live concerts consistently broke new ground with record breaking attendances.  Their growth in musicianship and songwriting paved the way for newer as well as already established acts to use as a template for their own success.

However, interviewers would regularly ask them when they thought the “bubble will burst” and their popularity would fade.  In 1966, concert attendance began to dip somewhat and then they decided to discontinue touring altogether.  The innocent pop songwriting that was expected of them gave way to mind expanding subject matter such as “Strawberry Fields Forever” which, at the time, left many die-hard fans disillusioned.  While 1967's “Sgt. Pepper” album was an artistic as well as commercial triumph, critics were merciless toward their “Magical Mystery Tour” film which was passed over entirely for American fans to witness at the time.  Their follow-up single, “Lady Madonna,” while a masterstroke in recorded music, failed to get any higher than #4 on the U.S. charts, which was quite uncharacteristic for them.  It appeared that maybe the “bubble” was indeed 'bursting.'


Then, on August 26th, 1968, The Beatles made the most remarkable comeback of their career, gaining back any naysayers who thought they'd already heard everything that the band had to offer.  Their new single, “Hey Jude,” released on their own new Apple Records with its stunning green label, took over the airwaves as well as our television screens.  The majority of music fans today who were alive at that time have vivid and cherished memories related to hearing the song, some remembering the first time they heard it. The impact was so great that it only took three weeks for it to reach #1 on the U.S. Billboard singles chart and stayed there for a remarkable nine weeks, becoming the most successful American single of their career.  It also ranked as the most popular record of the sixties, according to Billboard Magazine.

If anything had tarnished the reputation of The Beatles to any degree up to that point in history, they went way above and beyond to redeem themselves in most people's eyes with the release of “Hey Jude” in the fall of 1968.  And to this day, the respect generated by this one song is astronomical, and there is no hint of that respect abating any time soon.


John, Cynthia and Julian Lennon, circa early 1968

Songwriting History

"John and Cynthia were splitting up," Paul explains in the book "Anthology," "and I felt particularly sorry for Julian.  I had known them for so long.  We had hung out since John's art school days when I had a girlfriend called Dot and John had Cynthia, and we used to foursome it a lot and go to parties together. Since then, I'd seen them get married and seen them have Julian."

"I thought, as a friend of the family, I would motor out to Weybridge (John's former home with Cynthia) and tell them that everything was all right:  to try and cheer them up, basically, and see how they were.  I had about an hour's drive.  I would always turn the radio off and try and make up songs, just in case...I starting singing:  'Hey Jools – don't make it bad, take a sad song, and make it better...'  It was optimistic, a hopeful message for Julian:  'Come on, man, your parents got divorced.  I know you're not happy, but you'll be OK.'  I eventually changed 'Jools' to 'Jude.'  One of the characters in 'Oklahoma' is called Jude, and I like the name.”  On another occasion Paul stated: “I thought a better name was Jude.  A bit more country and western for me.”


Paul elaborates a bit more about this June 1968 drive to Weybridge in his book “Many Years From Now”: “'Hey Jude' was a song which I originally thought of whilst driving my car out to visit Cynthia and Julian Lennon after John's divorce from them.  We'd been very good friends for millions of years and I thought it was a bit much for them suddenly to be personae non gratae and out of my life, so I decided to pay them a visit...I was very used to writing songs on my way out to Kenwood because I was usually going there to collaborate with John...I always feel sorry for kids in divorces.  The adults may be fine but the kids...I always relate to their little brain spinning round in confusion, going, 'Did I do this? Was it me?'  Guilt is such a terrible thing and I know it affects a lot of people and I think that was the reason I went out.  And I got this idea for a song, 'Hey Jude,' and made up a few little things so I had the idea by the time I got there.”

Cynthia Lennon vividly remembers this visit from Paul.  “During the divorce proceedings, I was truly surprised when, one afternoon, Paul arrived on his own.  I was touched by his obvious concern for our welfare and even more moved when he presented me with a single red rose accompanied by a jokey remark about our future.  'How about it, Cyn?  How about you and me getting married?'  We both laughed at the thought of the world's reaction to an announcement like that being let loose.  On his journey down to visit Julian and I, Paul composed the beautiful song 'Hey Jude.'  He said it was for Julian.  I will never forget Paul's gesture of care and concern in coming to see us.  It made me feel important and loved, as opposed to feeling discarded and obsolete.”

It appears, though, that the entire song wasn't written to completion during that hour of driving. Paul's book “Many Years From Now” explains: “I finished it all up in Cavendish (Paul's home) and I was in the music room upstainrs when John and Yoko came to visit and they were right behind me over my right shoulder, standing up, listening to it as I played it to them, and when I got to the line 'The movement you need is on your shoulder,' I looked over my shoulder and I said, 'I'll change that, it's a bit crummy.  I was just blocking it out,' and John said, 'You won't, you know.  That's the best line in it!'  That's collaboration.  When someone's that firm about a line that you're going to junk, and he says, 'No, keep it in.'”

“So of course you love that line twice as much because it's a little stray, it's a little mutt that you were about to put down and it was reprieved and so it's more beautiful than ever.  I love those words now, 'The movement you need is on your shoulder.' Of course I now feel that those words are terribly deep words; I've had letters from religious groups and cults saying, 'Paul, you understand what this means, don't you?  The wherewithal is there, whatever you want to do...'  And it is a great line but I was going to change it because it sounded like a parrot or something; not entirely logical.  Time lends a little credence to things.  You can't knock it, it just did so well.  But when I'm singing it, that is when I think of John, when I hear myself singing that line; it's an emotional point in the song.”

Like many other Beatles songs, such as “A Day In The Life,” “Baby You're A Rich Man” and “I've Got A Feeling,” many have thought that the elongated second half of the song was originally intended as a totally different composition that Paul decided to piece together.  Even Mick Jagger interpreted it that way, Paul saying that Mick approached him after first hearing it and said, “It's like two songs, man. It's got the song and then the whole 'na na na' at the end. Yeah.”  However, Paul sets the record straight.  “The end refrain was never a separate song...It wasn't intended to go on that long at the end but I was having such fun ad-libbing over the end when we put down the original track that I went on a long time.  So then we built it with the orchestra but it was mainly because I just wouldn't stop doing all that 'Judy judy judy – wooow!' Cary Grand on heat!

John Lennon's only input in the writing of “Hey Jude” may have only been his insistence on keeping the line about the movement “on your shoulder,” but he certainly thought a lot of the song nonetheless.  In 1972, when asked about the song's authorship, John exclaimed:  “That's his best song!,” and in 1980 he claimed it as “one of his masterpieces.”  And although he was adamant at the time that his song “Revolution” should be the next Beatles single, he wasn't all that upset that it ended up as the b-side to a song of the caliber of “Hey Jude.” In 1970 he explained, “I wanted to put (“Revolution”) out as a single, but they said it wasn't good enough.  We put out 'Hey Jude,' which was worthy.”

John insists, though, there is a deeper meaning to the lyrics.  “He said it was written about Julian...but I always heard it as a song to me.  If you think about it, Yoko's just come into the picture.  He's saying: 'Hey, Jude – hey, John.'  I know I'm sounding like one of those fans who reads things into it, but you can hear it as a song to me.  The words 'go out and get her' – subconsciously he was saying, 'Go ahead, leave me.' But on a conscious level, he didn't want me to go ahead.  The angel inside him was saying, 'Bless you.'  The devil in him didn't like it at all, because he didn't want to lose his partner.”

John apparently had this opinion from the first time he heard it, as he stated in 1968:  “Well, when Paul first played 'Hey Jude' to me...I took it very personally.  'Ah, it's me,' I said, 'it's me.”  He said, 'No, it's me!'  I said, 'Check, we're going through the same bit.'  So we all are.  Whoever is going through a bit with us is going through it.  That's the groove.”  Paul's current discontent with his then fiance Jane Asher could easily be said to have been on his mind at the time the song was being written, Jane announcing on British television on July 20th of that year that their 5 1/2 month engagement was off.  And as Barry Miles explains in “Many Years From Now,”  “Both Paul and John were skilled at entering a half-trance state which enabled them to access material from their unconscious.  The lyrics are universal; many readings are possible.”  According to Bill Harry's book “The Ultimate Beatles Encyclopedia,” for example, even journalist Judith Simons of The Daily Express insists that the song refers directly to her, the 2014 Documentary "Hey Judy" highlighting this supposed fact!

Although the song can be interpreted in various ways, the message was clear enough to be embraced wholeheartedly worldwide.  As author Chris Ingham writes in “The Rough Guide To The Beatles,” it “clearly evolved into a song of encouragement to an adult not to be afraid to act on their feelings,” and described the forever fading conclusion as “an uninhibited terrace chant of encouragement, a veritable celebration of the excitement of letting go.”

"Hey Jude" must have been fairly close to being a completed song by the end of June, 1968 because Paul took it upon himself to test out this new composition to anyone who would be kind enough to listen.  One of these occasions was on June 30th, 1968, when he went into a local pub in a village in Bedfordshire to play the song to the patrons who happened to be there.  He would also premier the song in recording studios being utilized for recording other artists, such as The Bonzo Dog Band (during the recording of the McCartney produced song “I'm The Urban Spaceman”), The Barron Knights, and The Iveys (a band signed to Apple Records that would eventually become “Badfinger”).  However, according to Mark Lewisohn's book "The Beatles Recording Sessions," The Beatles took a break from recording sessions on July 26th, 1968, so that Paul and John could put "the finishing touches" on the writing and arranging of the song in preperation for their next session on July 29th, 1968.

Recording History

John Lennon's memory may have been a little sketchy when he was asked in 1968 about when he first heard "Hey Jude."  He stated, "When Paul first sang 'Hey Jude' to me, or played me the little tape he's made of it..."  This suggests that Paul may have made a home demo recording of "Hey Jude" and this is how John possibly first heard the song.  However, Paul vividly remembers first playing it to John in person as indicated above.  And since no home demo of "Hey Jude" has ever surfaced, it's most likely that Paul never made one and John was confusing this song with others around that time.

The first time the song was officially recorded was on July 29th, 1968, in EMI Studio Two, the session beginning at 8:30 pm.  George Martin had the night off, engineers Ken Scott and (new recruit) John Smith manning the recording process in what actually only turned out to be a rehearsal session for this new song that Paul had high hopes for as becoming their new single.


Nonetheless, six 'takes' of what they rehearsed were put to tape on this day, only three of which were complete versions.  'Take one' clocked in at 6:21, 'take two' was 4:30 long, and 'take six' came in at 5:25; the rest broke down early.  The instrumentation on these recordings were Paul on piano and vocals, John on acoustic guitar, George on electric guitar and Ringo on drums.

A faded down recording of one of these complete versions can be heard on the compilation album “Anthology 3,” George Harrison noodling around on lead guitar during the final minutes of the song.  A humorous introduction to the song is heard here, John saying “From the heart of the black country...” continued by Paul “...when I was a robber, in Boston Place, you gathered 'round me with your fond embrace...”  Boston Place, as explained in the liner notes for “Anthology 3,” was a small street in London where their newly formed Apple Corps. had just installed an electronics laboratory.  Slight differences in the lyrics can also be noted, especially the line “She has found you, go out and get her” instead of “You have found her.”

It appears that it was at the end of this session that Paul had a difficult interchange with George Harrison about the arrangement of the song.  “I remember sitting down and showing George the song,” Paul recalls in his book “Many Years From Now,” “and George did the natural thing for a guitar player to do, which is to answer every line of vocal.  And it was like, 'No, George.'  And he was pretty offended, and looking back, I think, 'Oh, sh*t,' of course you'd be offended.  You're blowing the guy out.  I said, 'No, no. You come in on the second chorus maybe, it's going to be a big build, this.'”  In a 1985 interview, Paul explained:  “He wanted to do echo riffs after the vocal phrases, which I didn't think was appropriate.  He didn't see it like that, and it was a bit of a number for me to have to 'dare' to tell George Harrison – who's one of the greats – not to play.  It was like an insult.  But that's how we did a lot of our stuff.”

In January of 1969, as captured in the “Let It Be” movie, Paul once again brings this very subject up as he once again is instructing George in how to play a current song, this resulting in George angrily exclaiming, “Whatever it is that will please you, I'll do it” and then temporarily quitting The Beatles for a few days!

Regarding the roles played by the band members regarding song arrangements, Paul continues in “Many Years From Now”:  “That's the difficulty of a group.  You are not the director bossing around a dance company where they naturally expect you to boss them around. You're just a guy in a very democratic unit; which a group, at best, is.  We were all equal in voting, our status within the group was equal. We were joking when we made the 'Anthology': I was saying, 'I realize I was a bossy git.'  And George said, 'Oh no, Paul, you never did anything like that!'  With a touch of irony in his voice, because obviously I did.  But it was essential for me and looking back on it, I think, Okay.  Well, it was bossy, but it was also ballsy of me, because I could have bowed to the pressure.”

In any event, this session was complete by 4 am the following morning, the only thing truly accomplished being a good part of the arrangement of the song.

Later that day, July 30th, 1968, The Beatles brought “Hey Jude” to EMI Studio Two for more work, the session shown to begin at 7:30 pm.  However it appears that, for various reasons, this session was not intended to officially capture the song to tape either.  The next three days were already booked for London's Trident Studios with intentions to record the song there with their eight-track recording capabilities, something that EMI Studios hadn't had in place yet.   Since a decision was made to utilize a large orchestra for the final minutes of the song, George Martin had already lined up the musicians to arrive at Trident Studios for a session two days later.  Also, a film crew from The National Music Council of Great Britain was scheduled to arrive at EMI Studios on this day to film the group recording the song (or appearing to) for a documentary entitled “Music!”  So, why not put on a good show for them?

In the process, seventeen further 'takes' of “Hey Jude” were put to tape, 'takes' 7 through 23, several hours of filming being done for this documentary with two small segments, running 2:32 and 3:05, making it to the finished product. “The film crew was supposed to work in such a way that no-one would realize they were there,” engineer Ken Scott recalls, “but of course they were getting in everyone's way and everyone was getting uptight about it.”  One person who did like the idea was Paul McCartney, who suggested doing the same thing on a larger scale.  A little over five months later, in early January of 1969, filming began for what eventually became the “Let It Be” project and movie.

One thing caught on film, making it to the released documentary, was George Harrison in the control room with George Martin and engineer Ken Scott, him being recently told by Paul that his services were pretty much not needed on the song.  It appears that he is still reeling from this turn of events, explaining his opinion to George Martin:  “You see, that's the difficulty, I find, because it's only a concept. 'Cause though his opinion says, 'No, it doesn't go like that, it goes like that,' but it goes like that and it goes through everything.  I mean, it can be, you know what I mean, just one bit of music can be pop, jazz, classic or whatever you're going to do to it, it is.

The recordings of “Hey Jude” done on this day consist only of Paul on piano and vocals, John on acoustic guitar and “nah, nah” backing vocals, and Ringo on drums with towels draped over the toms and snare drum to dampen the sound, something that he would use more regularly in later sessions.  At one point, as captured on bootlegs of this day, Paul leads John and Ringo into a rendition of a song entitled “I Hate To See The Evening Sun Go Down” in between takes of “Hey Jude.”  A tape reduction of the final take ('take 23') took that recording to takes 24 and 25, 'take 25' then being mixed into stereo for the purpose of giving to George Martin for him to use in arranging a simple orchestra score for the studio musicians to play two days later.  This session was complete by 3:30 am the following morning.

Now came the time to make a serious proper recording of “Hey Jude,” rendering all 25 previously recorded 'takes' of the song unsuitable.  July 31st, 1968 was the first scheduled Beatles recording session at London's Trident Studios, the session beginning at 2 pm. “Such independent studios were setting up all over London,” says engineer Ken Townsend. “They were really trying to attract work and were installing new technology which was leaving the EMIs and Deccas a bit behind.” Both Paul and George individually were already utilizing this independent studio for production work on artists recently signed to their new Apple Records, Paul producing Mary Hopkin and George producing Jackie Lomax.

Four 'takes' of the rhythm track were recorded on this day, the first one ending up being the best.  It was decided, apparently, that it would be best for the vocals to be recorded as overdubs so as to get the best performance possible, so the instrumentation fell to the usual Paul on piano, John on acoustic guitar, Ringo on drums, and George back on electric guitar.  According to Andy Babiuk's book “Beatles Gear,” George “played some melodic electric guitar lines at the end of each long verse.”  There was at least one overdub performed on this day, presumably another piano part played by Paul since this can be detected on the finished product.

In his book “Many Years From Now,” Paul recollects what transpired during the recording of 'take one' of “Hey Jude.”  “We were at Trident Studios in Soho, and Ringo walked out to go to the toilet and I hadn't noticed.  The toilet was only a few yards from his drum booth, but he'd gone past my back and I still thought he was in his drum booth.  I started what was the actual take, and 'Hey Jude' goes on for hours before the drums come in and while I was doing it I suddenly felt Ringo tiptoeing past my back rather quickly, trying to get to his drums.  And just as he got to his drums, boom boom boom, his timing was absolutely impeccable.  So I think when those things happen, you have a little laugh and a light bulk goes off in your head and you think, 'This is the take!' and you put a little more into it. You think, 'Oh f#ck! This has got to be the take; what just happened was so magic!'  So we did that and we made a pretty good record.”

Although engineer Geoff Emerick was not present for this recording session, he relates an occurrence of this day that made it onto the finished product.  In his book “Here, There And Everywhere” he explains:  “Just after the start of the third verse, right between the lines 'The minute you let her under your skin / Oh, then you begin,' you can clearly hear Paul curse off mic, saying 'F#cking hell!'  (Engineer) John Smith had a vivid memory of John Lennon pointing that out when they were playing the tape back. 'Paul hit a clunker on the piano and said a naughty word,' Lennon gleefully crowed, 'but I insisted we leave it in, buried just low enough so that it can barely be heard.  Most people won't ever spot it...but we'll know it's there.'  That was just the kind of sophomoric humor Lennon was into, but I have to admit it's amusing to think that millions of fans have heard the record millions of times without ever realizing that it contains a dreaded four-letter word that was strictly taboo back in 1968.”

By 4 am the following morning, the session came to a close with a usable rhythm track to build on later that day.

August 1st, 1968, brought the recording of the classic song “Hey Jude” to it's conclusion.  The Beatles entered Trident Studios at around 5 pm to record various overdubs to the rhythm track recorded the previous session.  Paul overdubbed his bass guitar part as well as his lead vocal, then double-tracking it in spots, such as just after the line “now go and get her” in the third verse when you hear him practice the line “let it out and let it in, hey Jude.” John, Paul and George overdubbed harmony vocals throughout the song and then were joined by Ringo in overdubbing backing vocals in the latter half of the song.  Ringo also put in a well heard tambourine overdub on this day.  By 8 pm all Beatles overdubs were complete.

At 8 pm the orchestra arrived for recording what was basically a backdrop of symphonic chords for the second half of this legendary song.  There were 36 instruments used but only two of their names are known to this day; Bobby Kok on cello and Bill Jackman on flute (the latter previously playing tenor sax on “Lady Madonna”).  Bill Jackman recalls, “We just played the refrain over and over, the repeated riff which plays in the long fade-out.”  George Martin's assistant Chris Thomas, who was also present on this day, remembers:  “The studio at Trident was long and narrow.  When we did the orchestral overdub we had to put the trombones at the very front so that they didn't poke anyone in the back!”  Interestingly, in order for the orchestra to have their own isolated track on the eight-track tape, Paul's bass guitar overdub was wiped at the point in the song where these musicians begin to play, the decision being made that the rich tones of the musicians would easily substitute for the lower frequencies on the finished recording.

Before they were allowed to leave, however, they were asked to participate further.  In his book “All You Need Is Ears,” George Martin relates:  “The only time we have had real objections from an orchestra was during the recording of 'Hey Jude,' the biggest-selling single of all.  I wanted them to sing and clap their hands as well as play, and one man walked out.  'I'm not going to clap my hands and sing Paul McCartney's bloody song,' he said, in spite of the fact that he was getting double rates for his trouble.”  Although documentation shows that the orchestral performers were only booked until 11 pm, documentation shows the session extending to 3 am the following morning.  The cleaning crew came in, I guess.

Later that day, August 2nd, 1968, George Martin and Trident engineer Barry Sheffield took a crack at creating the first stereo mix of the now complete “Hey Jude,” or should I say three cracks, in the control room of Trident Studios between 2 pm and 1:30 am the following morning.  The third of these three attempts was viewed as the best at this point.

Then on August 6th, 1968, the same engineering team met again in the control room of Trident Studios from 5:30 to 7:30 pm to put together the first mono mix of the song. However, this was done in a most unusual way for the time, combining both channels of the stereo mix made from the previous session instead of going back to the original eight-track tape.  The single attempt for a mono mix was considered suitable at the time and was taken back to EMI as a possible finished master for release as their next single.

This mono mix was brought back to EMI Studios the following day, August 7th, 1968, and a tape copy was made in the control room of EMI Studio Two between 3 and 7:45 pm by George Martin and engineers Ken Scott and John Smith.  On the next day however, August 8th, 1968, shortly after the session began in EMI Studio Two at 6:40 pm, something unusual about this recording was discovered.

Engineer Ken Scott relates:  “I went to Trident to see The Beatles doing 'Hey Jude' and was completely blown away by it.  It sounded incredible.  A couple of days later, back at Abbey Road (EMI), I got in well before the group. Acetates were being cut and I went up to hear one.  On different equipment, with different EQ (equalizing) levels and different monitor settings, it sounded awful, nothing like it had at Trident.  Later on, I was sitting in (EMI Studio Two) control room and George Martin came in.  I said, 'George, you know the stuff you did at Trident?'  'Yes – how does it sound?'  I said, 'In all honesty, it sounds terrible!'  'What?'  'There's absolutely no high-end on it, no treble.'”

“Just then Paul McCartney came in and George said to him, 'Ken thinks 'Hey Jude' sounds awful.'  The look that came from Paul towards me...if looks could kill, it was one of those situations.  Anyway, they went down to the studio floor, clearly talking about it, and one by one all the other Beatles came in and joined them.  I could see them talking and then look up at me, and then talk again, and then look at me.  I thought, 'Oh God, I'm going to get thrown off the session.'  Finally, they all came storming up and said, 'OK, let's see if it's as bad as you say.  Go get the tape and we'll have a listen.'  Luckily, they agreed with me, it did sound bad.  We spent the rest of the evening trying to EQ it and get some high-end on it.  But for a while there I wanted to crawl under a stone and die.”

In his book “Here, There And Everywhere,” Geoff Emerick continues the story.  “It was about an hour or so later that George (Martin) spotted me in the hallway and asked me to help out...'Geoff, are you busy doing something right now?' he asked.  'No, I'm just on my way to dinner,' I replied.  'Ah, good,' he said.  'Would you mind coming in and having a listen to something?'  George opened the control room door and I saw four very unhappy Beatles gathered around a flustered Ken Scott, who was tweaking the controls of a piece of outboard equipment that we called a Curve Bender.  The song they were listening to was called 'Hey Jude'...the recording quality was poor, with no top end whatsoever.”

“When the playback ended, George said, 'I've got a visitor here who might be able to help.'  Paul was the first to spot me; he broke into a big grin and gave me a wave from the back of the room.  'Ah, the prodigal son returns!,' John called out brightly.  Even George Harrison gave me a warm handshake and said quietly, 'Hello, Geoff.  Thanks for stopping in – we really appreciate it.'”

“'The boys recorded and mixed this track at Trident a few days ago,' George Martin explained, 'and we're having a bit of difficulty getting it to sound right.  Would you mind having a go?'  Ken (Scott) looked up from the console.  'I listened to the tracks at Trident and they sounded fine,' he told me anxiously, 'but when we got back here...well, you can hear how bad it is.'  Obviously something at Trident had been misaligned, and the only hope of salvaging the mix was to whack on massive amounts of treble equalization.  I walked over to the console and Ken motioned for me to sit down.  John Smith rewound the tape repeatedly while I worked at the controls.  Eventually we got it to sound pretty good, although the track still didn't have the kind of in-your-face presence that characterizes most Beatles recordings done at Abbey Road...I might not have done anything that Ken himself wasn't doing – I think that all they really wanted was my stamp of approval.  All four Beatles thanked me profusely as I left.”

Three attempts at creating a mono mix was made on this day, numbered 2 through 4, by George Martin, Ken Scott and John Smith (with assistance from Geoff Emerick), the final one being considered the best.  Since this song was earmarked by the group for their next single, its length became a concern.  “It was a long song,” George Martin explained in the “Anthology” book.”  “In fact, after I timed it I actually said, 'You can't make a single that long.'  I was shouted down by the boys – not for the first time in my life – and John asked, 'Why not?'  I couldn't think of a good answer, really – except the pathetic one that disc jockeys wouldn't play it. He said, 'They will if it's us.'  And, of course, he was absolutely right.”

“It was longer than any single had been,” Paul mistakenly assumes in the book “Anthology,” the Richard Harris single “MacArthur Park” being released four months prior to “Hey Jude” in April of 1968, clocking in at 7:20 as apposed to “Hey Jude” at 7:11.  Paul continues:  “We had a good bunch or engineers.  We asked how long a 45 could be.  They said that four minutes was about all you could squeeze into the grooves before it seriously started to lose volume and everyone had to turn the sound up.  But they did some very clever stuff, squeezing the bit that didn't have to be loud, then allowing the rest more room.  Somehow, they got seven minutes on there – which was quite an engineering feat.”

The mono mix made on this day was the one used on the released single.  Sometime around 11 pm, attention went to recording the rhythm track of George's composition “Not Guilty” for inclusion on what became known as the “White Album,” although the song ended up getting omitted from the album's lineup.  At the end of the session, a tape copy was made of the mono mix of “Hey Jude,” as well as the previously recorded “Revolution” (both numbered 5 for some reason) to be taken away by George Martin.  The session finally ended at 6:30 am the next morning.

The next time The Beatles messed with “Hey Jude” was at Twickenham Film Studios in London on January 3rd, 1969, while rehearsing new material for what became the “Let It Be” movie.  This was nothing more than an impromptu run-through which never officially saw the light of day.

Flash-forward to December 5th, 1969, where attention finally went to creating a true stereo mix of “Hey Jude,” the earlier attempt at Trident being scrapped long ago.  The engineering team of George Martin, Geoff Emerick, Phil McDonald and Neil Richmond met in Room 4 at EMI Studios between 2:30 and 5:15 pm to create this stereo mix, as well as one for “Revolution,” for inclusion on the album “Hey Jude” which was to be released primarily in the U.S. (not the U.K.).  Two attempts were made for “Hey Jude,” numbered 20 and 21, the latter being deemed the best.  While most fans were eager to finally hear the song in vibrant stereo, the majority of them probably didn't notice that it was five seconds shorter than what they were used to hearing, this stereo mix being faded out at 7:06.

Sometime in 1996, George Martin and Geoff Emerick returned to the EMI master tapes of July 29th, 1968 to create a rare mix of an early take of the song for inclusion on “Anthology 3.”  George and his son Giles Martin then went back to the master tape for the released version of the song to create a newly mixed, but shorter version (clocking in at 3:58) for inclusion on “Beatles Love.”  Giles Martin then brought the same tape out again sometime in 2015 to create yet another vibrant mix of the song to be included on a newly released version of the remarkably popular album “Beatles 1.”  

Paul recorded various versions of “Hey Jude” during his solo years, mostly from his tours as released on live albums.  The first was recorded on February 12th, 1990 in Cincinnati, Ohio, this version appearing on “Tripping The Live Fantastic” and its companion album “Tripping The Live Fantastic: Highlights!”  Various versions of the song were recorded during tour rehearsals in 1995, including humorous mock/parody versions, that were heard broadcast during Paul's 1995 radio show "Oobu Joobu," these versions never being officially released.  Sometime between April 1st and May 18th, 2002, a live version of the song was recorded in New York City for release on the American live album “Back In. The U.S.”  Sometime between November 2nd and 5th, 2002, a live version was recorded in Mexico City for inclusion on his live album “Back In The World.”  Then, sometime between July 17th and 21st, 2009, another live rendition of the song was recorded at Citi Field in New York to be a selection on the album "Good Evening New York City."

Song Structure and Style

The structure of "Hey Jude" is quite typical for the Lennon / McCartney catalog, namely a 'verse/ verse/ bridge/ verse/ bridge/ verse/ conclusion' (or aababac). What is anything but typical, however, is that the conclusion turns out to be longer than the entire body of the rest of the song put together.  And while the extended conclusion has become a lot more common in years to follow, such as with Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird" and The Allman Brothers Band's "Ramblin' Man," The Beatles didn't conclude "Hey Jude" with a guitar solo or the like, but instead made it interesting because of Paul's ad lib vocal gymnastics.

Paul brings in the first verse of the song by himself on piano and lead vocals, this verse being a standard eight measures in length.  Verse two brings in various other elements, most noteworthy is John's acoustic guitar strumming which is heard throughout the entire verse as well as Ringo's tambourine which accents the two- and four-beat of the first seven measures and then all four beats of the eighth measure.  The fifth through eighth measures bring in the background vocals of John, Paul and George harmonizing “aaah” until the end of the seventh measure when they sing the word “better” with Paul's lead vocals.  This verse is actually nine measures long, the extra measure acting as a nice segue into the first bridge that follows.  The eighth and ninth measures are also used as a vehicle for Ringo (who arrived from the toilet just in time to play this piece) to usher in the bridge with simple but unique drums fills.


The bridge that follows this is actually eleven measures long and is in 4/4 time throughout like the verses are but with one exception, measure nine being in 6/4 time.  The band is in full swing beginning in this bridge, Ringo playing his steady driving rock beat utilizing his ride cymbal along with Paul's bass guitar thumping right from the beginning of the first measure.  John, Paul and George's background harmony is also heard singing “aaah” in measures one through three and then six through eight before fading off into the distance for the time being.  Measure nine reveals George's lead guitar joining in with the piano melody line and Paul's “nah, nah, nah, nah” vocals which extend into measure ten.  Measure eleven then ushers in a “Beatles break” with just Paul's piano repeating the final melodic passage as heard in measure ten followed by a drum break from Ringo to bring in the next verse.

Another nine measure verse is heard next with full rhythm instrumentation of piano, acoustic guitar, bass and drums (Ringo switching to hi-hat instead of his ride cymbal) along with Paul's lead vocal and John's harmony vocal in measures five through eight.  Ringo's overdubbed tambourine plays a prominent role here as well, him playing a full shaking 16th-note beat rhythm in measures one through eight.  Measures four and five are particularly interesting with Ringo's drum fill and Paul's practiced vocal line “let it out and let it in, hey Jude” being heard in the cracks before its official appearance that begins in measure nine of this verse.  Ringo also puts in a similar drum fill in measures eight through nine as he had previously done in verse two.

The second bridge comes next which is nearly identical to the previous one except for different lyrics and some small changes.  George plays a simple guitar piece in measures four and five to accentuate the simple piano melody line heard there, this being followed by Paul's excited lead vocal phrase “and don't know know that it's just you.”  Ringo adds a quick additional drum fill at the end of the fourth beat of the 6/4-time ninth measure, right where you would expect one if the measure was in 4/4 like the rest of them are.  Paul then differentiates this bridge from the previous one vocally in the tenth and eleventh measure with a simple “yeah” which resonates because of being double-tracked.

The fourth and final verse is then heard which is basically a repeat of the first verse but with the full instrumentation and extra measure of the third verse.  Differences include Paul's distinguishable “Ju-u-u-u-u-ude” in the first measure, the early appearance of harmony from John later in this measure on the line “don't make it bad” and continuing with harmony throughout the verse, and Paul's expletive “ooooh....f*cking hell” as heard in the sixth measure.  A not-so-noticed lyrical difference is heard here as well, them singing “let her under your skin, then you'll begin” instead of “let her into your heart, then you can start” as heard in the first verse.  Highly noticed, however, is the eighth and ninth measure where Paul (double-tracked) and John repeat the final word ascending vocally to a blood curdling scream, resulting in “better, better, better, better, better, better, OOOOOOOOH!!!”  Ringo also does his part in reaching this crescendo by performing drum fills throughout measures eight and nine until the pinnacle is reached, lightly tapping the hi-hat on the four-beat of the final measure while Paul's vocals are at fever pitch.

What follows next is a total of eighteen repeated four-measure refrains that, as a whole, comprise the entire conclusion of “Hey Jude.”  Instrumentation includes Paul on piano, John on acoustic guitar, George on electric guitar (in the background), Ringo on drums and tambourine and, starting from the fourth refrain, a 36-piece orchestra playing a simple score to accentuate the excitement as a backdrop.  Paul's excited screamed ad libs are panned down considerably for the first four measures but are still discernible, these being brought to the fore beginning in the fourth measure of the fourth refrain with the startling “Ju-Judy-Judy-Judy-Judy, Jude, ow, wow!.”  As mentioned above, the bass guitar is missing from this entire refrain section due to the need for the orchestra, it being recorded over the bass part Paul previously recorded as an overdub for this seciton.

And for those of you who may be counting, the word “nah” appears 216 times in the song, not forgetting the nine “nah”s at the end of each of the two bridges. Just saying.

American Releases

On August 26th, 1968, "Hey Jude" was released as the very first Beatles single on their newly created Apple Records.  However, The Beatles weren't actually signed to Apple Records because they were already under contract to Capitol Records in the states.  That is why the "Hey Jude" single was assigned a Captiol Records number (#2276) instead of a number in the Apple 1800 series like the other Apple artists were.  Nonetheless, most sources consider this Bealtes single to be the first single release from Apple Records.

The success of the single is not questioned by anyone. After the relatively lackluster sales of their last single, “Lady Madonna,” nearly six months earlier, “Hey Jude” debuted on the Billboard singles chart way up at #10 and, two weeks later, jumped up to the #1 spot for an astounding nine weeks straight.  The record finally succumbed to the popularity of “Love Child” by Diana Ross & The Supremes who replaced The Beatles in the top spot.  The single's B-side “Revolution” also grabbed a good amount of attention, peaking at #12 for three straight weeks.


The “Hey Jude” single was also made available in a new format for 1968 called the “Pocket Disc.” These four inch flexible discs were manufactured by Americom Corporation in New York and made available to consumers either from store counter displays or vending machines for 50 cents.  While it was claimed that the sound quality of these thin flexible discs were every bit as good as vinyl, the shallow grooves could not contain the same amount of audible information and could only contain about three-and-a-half minutes of music per side at the most.  “Hey Jude” suffered tremendously in particular since it had to be faded out at 3:25 after only two “Nah, nah, nah” refrains.  This release is quite collectible today, however.

The next American release was on February 26th, 1970 on the album “Hey Jude,” which originally was titled “The Beatles Again” as the labels on the first pressings indicate.  This was the first time “Hey Jude” was made available in stereo which was widely anticipated and happily received by record buyers.  This album was made up of songs previously released as singles in America but never contained on a Capitol album, following the pattern set in the earlier Beatles years by the record label. Even though it was released while “Abbey Road” was riding high on the Billboard album charts, it still pushed up to #2 for four straight weeks.  It was eventually released on compact disc on January 21st, 2014.

Being that “Hey Jude” was the biggest-selling American single of all time, it was an obvious candidate for their compilation album “The Beatles/1967-1970,” aka the “Blue Album.”  This double-album was released on April 2nd, 1973 and quickly reached #1 on the Billboard album chart, being replaced the following week by Paul McCartney & Wings' album “Red Rose Speedway.”  On September 20th, 1993, this set was first released on compact disc, a re-mastered version then being released on August 10th, 2010.

A single-album compilation was released on October 11th, 1982 entitled “20 Greatest Hits” which obviously had to include “Hey Jude.”  Since the attempt was to contain 20 songs on one vinyl album, it was necessary to edit “Hey Jude” down to 5:05 which was understandably disappointing to many Beatles fans at the time.

With the ushering in of the compact disc era, “Hey Jude” found its way onto a newly created album entitled “Past Masters, Volume Two.”  This was released on March 7th, 1988 and then was re-mastered and re-released as a double CD set with it's companion album as “Past Masters” on September 9th, 2009.

A special reissue of the “Hey Jude” single was released by Capitol in January of 1994 as part of their Cema Series “For Jukeboxes Only.”  This release was on blue vinyl and is somewhat collectible today.

On October 28th, 1996, the double-disc compilation album “Anthology 3” was released which contained “take two” of “Hey Jude” as recorded on July 29th, 1968.  As indicated above, this interesting glimpse of an early take of the song with George touching on lead guitar fills is worthy of being in the avid Beatles collectors catalog.

Then comes the highly regarded and world-shattering successful compilation album “Beatles 1,” which was first released on November 13th, 2000.  “Hey Jude” was among the 27 titles on this album, which has sold over 31 million copies worldwide.  A remastered version of this album was released in 2001 and a newly mixed version was released on November 6th, 2015.

Not to be forgotten is the interesting newly mixed version of "Hey Jude" that appears on the November 20th, 2006 released album "Love," the creative soundtrack used in conjunction with the Cirque du Soliel show of the same name.

On September 9th, 2009, the box set "The Beatles In Mono" was released which included all of the original mono versions of the Beatles catalog, "Hey Jude" being included on a CD set entitled "Mono Masters," the near equivalent to the "Past Masters" set already made available.


Paul was seen fit to release concert versions of “Hey Jude” on various live albums throughout the years, these being: “Tripping The Live Fantastic” (November 5th, 1990), “Tripping The Live Fantastic: Highlights!” (November 12th, 1990), “Back In The U.S.” (November 11th, 2002) and “Good Evening New York City” (November 17th, 2009).

Live Performances

The Beatles may never have brought "Hey Jude" to the concert stage, but they did make a very visible semi-live performance of the song at Twickenham Film Studios in Londond on September 4th, 1968.  This was in the form of a promotional film created to visually premier the song to the world as the single was released.

The initial idea for this film was brought together by film editor Roy Benson, this conceived as an imaginative 38-scene storyboard undoubtedly similar to music videos we've become more acquainted with from the 1980's MTV era. Roy Benson had just worked with The Beatles on their “Hello Goodbye” promo film as well as on “Magical Mystery Tour” and he had something more elaborate in mind this time around, which the group initially agreed to do.  However, when they were informed that his idea would take up to three days to shoot, The Beatles lost interest.  Those plans were canceled as of August 29th, 1968 when Twickenham Studios were booked for a more straightforward mock-live performance of the song.


Director Michael Lindsay-Hogg was hired for filming both “Hey Jude” and its b-side “Revolution,” both films being shot on this day.  Lindsay-Hogg had previously worked with The Beatles on their “Paperback Writer” and “Rain” videos two years prior and so he was a natural candidate for director this time, he being available at relatively short notice.  The Beatles entered Stage One of Twickenham Studios at 1:30 pm for work on both songs, which lasted well into the evening.

The set used for “Hey Jude,” which was assembled during the previous three days, consisted of risers which put Ringo on drums at the highest level, John and George sitting beneath him playing guitars (John on his Epiphone Casino and George on Fender VI six-string bass guitar) and Paul on the floor at an upright piano.  No live instruments were actually being heard during this footage, the previously recorded studio version being played for them to mime to.  The microphones were wired for sound, however, allowing Paul and the others to sing live on top of the previously recorded song, this satisfying the Musicians' Union in Britain which didn't allow miming on televised performances (although they were miming their instruments).

Also present during this film shooting was a 36-piece orchestra wearing white tuxedos to simulate the strings heard in the second half of the song, although these musicians didn't actually play on this day. An estimated group of 300 extras also make their presence known during this second half of the song as they rush over and join The Beatles in singing the repeated “nah, nah, nah” refrains.  This crowd, representing various nationalities and age groups, were explained in Mark Lewisohn's book “The Complete Beatles Chronicle” as being “recruited after 20 students had distributed leaflets in the area,” but also says that roadie “Mal Evans had invited along fans congregated outside EMI Studios during a recent recording session.”

One such lucky member of the crowd on this day was Londoner Margaret Morel.  She relates the events that happened the day before the promo film was shot, September 3rd, 1968: “I was staying with my friend’s family in Feltham, Middlesex when one evening I got a telephone call from my American pen friend, who was on holiday in London at the time.  She said that my friend Coral and I should go quickly to the EMI studios in Abbey Road as The Beatles were looking for people to take part in an event.  No one knew what the event was at the time.  As Coral and I both knew Mal Evans, The Beatles road manager, quite well, I phoned him at the studios.  He said we should go to sign a paper if we wanted to take part.  So we went along to the Abbey Road studio and asked for Mal, who brought us the papers to sign.  I don’t remember exactly what we had to sign for, but if me and Coral remember correctly, it was to say we wouldn’t ask for any payment for whatever we were going to do.  We still had no idea what that was.”

Margaret continues: “We were given instructions to go to a meeting point in London next morning at a certain time...the coaches were waiting for all the extras like us. As the coaches set off, we still didn’t know where we were going...When we arrived at the entrance of the studios, we were told that we were going to be filmed in a video with The Beatles, who were up at a window watching us all, giving us smiles and waves.  Everyone was very excited and happy, of course.  Some of the people were regular fans like us, others were students, who I think had been invited from various London schools.  When we were taken inside the studio where the "Hey Jude" video was going to be filmed that morning, we were told what we had to do...when The Beatles got to the end of the song we had to go up on the stage or gather round them and sing the "nah nah nahs."  Paul helped by saying “now” when it was time to join in.  We were all sitting around the studio, waiting for our cue.”

“My friend Coral and I got up onto the stage each time and stood next to George Harrison...Coral is the girl with the long blonde hair and me...with my bright yellow dress and big hair...They filmed lots of takes of "Hey Jude" all day…we seemed to sing our "nah nah nahs" dozens of times.  They must have been wanting to choose the best versions of the song.  If I remember correctly, they began filming during the morning and we finished about 10pm or later.”  Two complete versions of the “Hey Jude” promo film were made on this day, although many 'takes' were filmed for consideration.  One of the completed promo films was actually a composite of two 'takes' edited together, one for the first half of the song and another for the finale.  A third promo film has also surfaced in bootlegs.

A British celebrity was also present on this day for a particular reason.  “David Frost came down to Twickenham,” explains road manager Neil Aspinall, “and introduced it like it was done for his show or something.”  George Harrison concurs:  “It wasn't done just for David Frost, but it was shown on his show and he was actually there when we filmed it.”

Four days later, on September 8th, 1968, David Frost did premier the song in Britain on his show “Frost On Sunday.”  His filmed sequence begins with The Beatles running through an ad libbed version of David Frost's television theme music entitled “By George! It's David Frost Theme” (written by George Martin).  This spurs the host to exclaim: “Magnificent! A perfect rendition! Ladies and Gentlemen, there you see the greatest tea-room orchestra in the world.  It's my pleasure to introduce now, in their first live appearance for goodness knows how long in front of an audience, The Beatles.”  (It wasn't live, of course.)  On the show, this segues directly into the beginning of “Hey Jude” but, in actuality, The Beatles begin a few seconds of a humorous rendition of Elvis Presley's hit “It's Now Or Never” which was caught on film and has become available on various sources.

Interesting things to watch or listen for on these promo films include Paul making eye contact with John wondering why he didn't come in on harmony vocals when he should have, John later acknowledging the reminder and rectifying it.  Also, during the extended refrain of the song, Paul loudly sings the lyric “Take a load off Fanny, put it back on me” from the recently released hit song “The Weight” by The Band.

As for the film's debut in America, it was featured exclusively on “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” on October 6th, 1968, about six weeks after the single was released in the states.

Paul began including “Hey Jude” in his concert tours on September 26th, 1989, this being the opening date of his “Paul McCartney World Tour.”  Thereafter, every tour he's embarked on since then has included the song, the only exceptions being his “Unplugged Tour” of 1991 and the occasional “Secret Tour” dates he's known to play at unannounced times and locations.  In fact, it's fair to say that a Paul McCartney concert that does not include “Hey Jude” would most likely be a disappointment to concert goers since it's become very expected.

Conclusion

"Hey Jude" was not the most complicated of compositions, just two verses, two bridges and a faded conclusion.  The production was also very bare-bones; no psychedelic rave-ups or masterful overdubs were needed here.  So why did the song have such an amazing and long-standing impact on the music scene, one that lasts to this day?

John Robertson's book “The Complete Guide To The Music Of The Beatles” puts it this way. “'Hey Jude' sounded like a community anthem, from the open-armed welcome of its lyrics to its instant singalong chorus. The fact that it didn't come with a controversial political message made its universal application complete.” Even though the lyrics don't make any distinguishable sense, its delivery makes it appear as a song of hope and encouragement despite the trials and drama one can experience in life. Whatever “sad song” may be our story, The Beatles made us believe that we can learn from these experiences and, with a little help from our friends, we can truly “make it better.

Song Summary

"Hey Jude" 

Written by: John Lennon / Paul McCartney

  • Song Written: June – July, 26, 1968
  • Song Recorded: July 31, August 1, 1968
  • First US Release Date: August 26, 1968
  • US Single Release: Apple #2276
  • Highest Chart Position: #1 (9 weeks)
  • First US Album Release: Apple #SW-385 “Hey Jude” (Apple #SO-385 “The Beatles Again)
  • British Album Release: Apple #SKBO-3404 “The Beatles / 1967-1970”
  • Length: 7:11
  • Key: F major
  • Producer: George Martin
  • Engineer: Berry Sheffield

Instrumentation (most likely):

  • Paul McCartney - Lead Vocals, Piano (Bechstein Grand #44064), Bass (1964 Rickenbacker 4001 S )
  • John Lennon - Rhythm Guitar (1964 Gibson J-160E), backing vocals
  • George Harrison - Lead guitar (1961 Fender Sonic Blue Stratocaster), backing vocals
  • Ringo Starr - Drums (1964 Ludwig Super Classic Black Oyster Pearl), tambourine, backing vocals
  • Bobby Kok - cello, backing vocals
  • Bill Jackman - flute, backing vocals
  • 10 unknown musicians - violins, backing vocals
  • 3 unknown musicians - violas, backing vocals
  • 2 unknown musicians cello, backing vocals
  • unknown musician - flute, backing vocals
  • unknown musician - contra bassoon, backing vocals
  • unknown musician - bassoon, backing vocals
  • 2 unknown musicians - clarinet, backing vocals
  • unknown musician - contra bass clarinet, backing vocals
  • 4 unknown musicians - trumpets, backing vocals
  • 4 unknown musicians - trombones, backing vocals
  • 2 unknown musicians - horns, backing vocals
  • unknown musician - percussion, backing vocals
  • 2 unknown musicians - string bass, backing vocals
Written and compiled by Dave Rybaczewski
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