“Hey Jude” is a Beatles’ single that reached the top of the charts in 11 countries across the world in 1968. The song also appears on a few of their albums too. The B-side is the heavy version of “Revolution” so the single release was a classic and a “must have” record in the 1960s.
Format: 7-inch Single (A-side), (B-side is “Revolution“)
Recorded: 29th, 30th, 31st July and 1st August, 1968
Studio: Trident Studios, London
Genre: Pop rock
Track Duration: 7:11
Record Label: Apple
Producer: George Martin
Engineers: Ken Scott, Barry Sheffield
Paul McCartney: lead vocal, piano, bass guitar, also the handclaps
George Harrison: backing vocal, electric guitar, as well as the handclaps
John Lennon: backing vocal, acoustic guitar, also the handclaps
Ringo Starr: backing vocal, drums, tambourine, as well as the handclaps
Uncredited 36-piece orchestra: 10 violins, three violas, three cellos, two double basses, two flutes, two clarinets, one bass clarinet, one bassoon, one contrabassoon, four trumpets, two horns, four trombones, and one percussion instrument; 35 of these musicians on additional backing vocals as well as handclaps
Written entirely by Paul McCartney with credits going to Lennon-McCartney, “Hey Jude” is The Beatles’ most successful single. It also was the first release on The Beatles’ own record label, Apple.
“Hey Jude is a damn good set of lyrics and I made no contribution to that.”
All We Are Saying, David Sheff
John Lennon separated from his wife Cynthia in May, 1968, due to his affair with Yoko Ono. So, in June, Paul McCartney drove to their family home, Kenwood, in Weybridge to offer comfort, especially to Lennon’s son, Julian.
While he continued on his his journey, his thoughts turned to song and started to compose a song especially for Julian.
“I thought, as a friend of the family, I would motor out to Weybridge 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 [then] I started singing: ‘Hey Jules – don’t make it bad, take a sad song, and make it better…’ It was optimistic, a hopeful message for Julian.
John Lennon’s Reaction
Despite this being 1968, a time when The Beatles were showing signs of stress and there were rumours of the band breaking up, they still had to have some form of working relationship. John Lennon as well as others think that McCartney wrote the song about John Lennon himself.
“He said it was written about Julian, my child, he knew I was splitting with Cyn and leaving Julian. He was driving over to say hi to Julian. He’d been like an uncle to him. You know, Paul was always good with kids. And so he came up with Hey Jude.
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. On a conscious level, he didn’t want me to go ahead. The angel in 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 Lennon, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff
The Beatles made two music videos for the song on the 4th September, 1968, and the promotional video is a composite edit of the two different takes. Both were for different shows so have different introductions from both David Frost and Cliff Richard.
The official release familiar to us on YouTube is that for the David Frost’s “Frost On Sunday” show airing on the 8th September. His introduction describes The Beatles as “the greatest tea-room orchestra in the world”. The video shows the band singing on their own at first, but just as the long coda kicks in the mixed audience comes up close to the band members.
The Beatles began rehearsing “Hey Jude” on the 29th July, 1968, in the EMI Studios and continued the next day. However, even though they taped the sessions, the band wanted to use the Trident Studios in London to record the song. Take 2 from the 29th, July is now available on their 1996 album, “Anthology 2”. There is also a much shorter version on their 2006 album, “Love”.
In the early 1960s single releases on 7″ vinyl records were not usually over three minutes long. This was due to engineering limitation at the time in both cutting and playback on domestic record players. However, improved mastering techniques and other advances enabled recording artists to increase the duration of their records by the mid-sixties.
“It was a long song. 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.”
At seven minutes and eleven seconds long “Hey Jude” was the longest single to top the charts so far.
The record became a massive hit around the world and topped the charts in most countries where released. This obviously included the UK, the US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada and many European countries. In America it stayed at number one for 9 weeks while in Australia the record stayed top for 13 weeks. However, in the fast moving British charts it only remained top for 2 weeks.
As a result of its commercial success in the sixties, “Hey Jude” remains The Beatles most successful single of all time.