“The Fool On The Hill” is a Beatles’ song from their Magical Mystery Tour EP and album, of course. The song also appears in the Magical Mystery Tour film as well. Furthermore, Paul McCartney has his solo demo on the 1996 album, “Anthology 2”. Then we have this song as one of the “extra” tracks on the 2006 “Love” album (iTunes download only).
Recorded: 25th-27th September, and 20th October, 1967
Studio: EMI Studios, London
Genre: Baroque pop, psychedelic folk
Track Duration: 3:00
Record Label: Parlophone, Capitol, EMI
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Ken Scott
Paul McCartney: vocals, piano, acoustic guitar, recorder, bass, also the penny whistle
John Lennon: harmonica, also the Jew’s harp
George Harrison: acoustic guitar, also the harmonica
Ringo Starr: drums, maracas, zill
Ray Thomas, Mike Pinder: harmonica
Christopher Taylor, Jack Ellory, Richard Taylor: flute
The Fool On The Hill
The lyrics for “The Fool On The Hill” depict the subject character as a loner and other people give him the cold-shoulder. However, this rather isolated figure is actually a wise man. In fact, “He knows that they’re the fools.”
Paul McCartney says he relates the “fool” to a character like Maharishi Mahesh Yogi:
“‘Fool on the Hill’ was mine and I think I was writing about someone like Maharishi. His detractors called him a fool. Because of his giggle, he wasn’t taken too seriously. It was this idea of a fool on the hill, a guru in a cave, I was attracted to … I was sitting at the piano at my father’s house in Liverpool hitting a D 6th chord, and I made up ‘Fool on the Hill'”.
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
That Mysterious Incident
Writing in his book, “Yesterday”, Alistair Taylor tells of a mysterious incident while he and Paul McCartney took a morning stroll with Martha (McCartney’s dog). They walked on Primrose Hill then sat down to soak up the views. Once they decided to leave, Martha went missing. However, as they turned to look for Paul’s Old English Sheepdog, they noticed a man who seemed to appear silently.
After a quick hello and goodbye greeting, Taylor and McCartney once again turned to look for Martha. Spinning round again in an instance, the mysterious man had gone. It seemed almost impossible to comprehend and while walking back to the car, they kept looking round. Because of this incident, Taylor believes it inspired McCartney to write the song.
The Fool On The Hill sequence for the TV movie, Magical Mystery Tour, took place at dawn in the mountains close to Nice, France.
“I just ad-libbed the whole thing. I went, ‘Right, get over there: let me dance. Let me jump from this rock to this rock. Get a lot of the sun rising. Get a perfect shot and let me stand in front of it.’ I just had a little Philips cassette to mime to and roughly get the feeling of the song. There was no clapper because there was no sound… It was very spontaneous, as was the whole of Magical Mystery Tour. Later, when we came to try to edit it all, it was very difficult because I hadn’t sung it to synch.
We shouldn’t have really had just one cameraman, it was anti-union. That was another reason to go to France. The unions wouldn’t have allowed it in Britain, nor probably in France, but they didn’t know we were doing it.”
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
According to author Jonathan Gould, the film sequence was “over-lush footage of Paul on a hill … playing the Fool as if the Fool were a model in a fashion ad”.
Recording the song for the “Magical Mystery Tour” EP and album officially began on the 25th September with The Beatles recording three takes. The overdubbing of take three the next day was so significant that Mark Lewisohn said the updated version was “almost a re-make”.
They finally completed “The Fool On The Hill” on the 20th October, 1967 after adding further tweaks such as the flutes.
The “Anthology 2” album features a demo version from the 6th September 1967 which Paul McCartney recorded without the other Beatles. Soon after this recording, the band recorded “Blue Jay Way“.
Although a remix version appears on The Beatles’ “Love” album, you can only get this as a bonus track from the official iTunes store as a download. In other words, it is not available on the commercially available CD.