Beatles – Hey Jude

This is one of McCartney’s best written songs. Like a lot of other great songs it builds… from McCartney’s lone voice and piano to a giant sing a long at the end. Hey Jude is one of the most famous songs in rock history.

This was their debut single for their new record company Apple. The A side was Hey Jude and the B side was Revolution. That is a great way to start. This was one of the best double A side singles ever.

The song was not on an album at the time. Hey Jude peaked at #1 in the Billboard 100, UK, Canada, and New Zealand in 1968.

Paul McCartney wrote this as “Hey Jules,” a song meant to comfort John Lennon’s 5-year-old son Julian as John and Cynthia were getting a divorce. The change to “Jude” was inspired by the character “Jud” in the musical Oklahoma! Paul went to visit Cynthia and Julian when the divorce was happening and he composed most of it then.

John wanted Revolution released as a single right away but when he heard this song he agreed to have Revolution as the B side.

It was the Beatles longest single, running 7:11. George Martin was afraid radio stations would not play it but John said ‘They will if it’s us.” When this became a hit, stations learned that listeners would stick around if they liked the song, which paved the way for long songs like “American Pie” and “Layla.”Disc jockeys loved it…they got a break.

The Beatles filmed a promotional video for this song, which was directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg who directed Let It Be. He had the Beatles sing the song (the music was on a backing track) in front of an audience of about 100 people, who sang it with them. This was the closest the Beatles had come to a live performance since they had stopped touring two years earlier.

The clip first aired on the UK program The David Frost Show in 1968, and was quickly picked up by other shows, giving the song a big promotional push.

Paul McCartney: “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 Jules – 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 ‘Jules’ to ‘Jude.’ One of the characters in ‘Oklahoma’ is called Jude, and I like the name.” 

Cynthia Lennon: “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.”

Paul McCartney: “I finished it all up in Cavendish (Paul’s home) and I was in the music room upstairs 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.’

John Lennon: “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 Lennon: “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.”

From Songfacts

This was named as the song most often referred to in literature in a list compiled by culture interpretation website Small Demons. Amongst the 55 books the site says it’s mentioned in are Stephen King’s Wolves of the Calla (“Why do people over here sing Hey Jude? I don’t know”) and Toni Morrison’s Paradise (“Soane had been horrified – and he drove off accompanying Hey Jude on his radio”).

Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel” was runner-up on the list and Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven” came in third place

In 1987 Julian ran into Paul in New York City when they were staying at the same hotel and he finally heard Paul tell him the story of the song firsthand. He admitted to Paul that growing up, he’d always felt closer to him than to his own father. In Steve Turner’s book The Stories Behind Every Beatles Song, Julian said: “Paul told me he’d been thinking about my circumstances, about what I was going through and what I’d have to go through. Paul and I used to hang out quite a bit – more than Dad and I did… There seem to be far more pictures of me and Paul playing at that age than me and Dad. I’ve never really wanted to know the truth of how Dad was and how he was with me. There was some very negative stuff – like when he said that I’d come out of a whisky bottle on a Saturday night. That’s tough to deal with. You think, where’s the love in that? It surprises me whenever I hear the song. It’s strange to think someone has written a song about you. It still touches me.”

The Beatles inner circle was shifting when Paul McCartney wrote this song. John Lennon had recently taken up with Yoko and cast off his first wife, Cynthia; McCartney had broken off his engagement with his longtime girlfriend Jane Asher. He was the only Beatle to reach out to Cynthia and Julian at this time.

The drive to the Lennon home in Surrey was one of reflection for McCartney, who thought about Julian and how difficult life could be as a child of divorce. He wrote the line, “Don’t make it bad, take a sad song and make it better” thinking about how he could encourage the boy.

Paul was conditioned to think up songs on this trip, as he used to drive to the home for songwriting sessions with John – there were instruments and recording equipment in the attic.

In a 2018 interview with GQ, Paul McCartney talked about how he came up with the idea for this song: “John and his wife Cynthia had divorced, and I felt a bit sorry for their son, who was now a child of a divorce. I was driving out to see the son and Cynthia one day and I was thinking about the boy whose name was Julian – Julian Lennon, and I started this idea, ‘Hey Jules, don’t make it bad, it’s gonna be OK.’ It was like a reassurance song.

So that was the idea that I got driving out to see them. I saw them and then I came back and worked on the song some more. But I like that name, Jude.”

This was the first song released on Apple Records, the record label owned by The Beatles. It was recorded at Trident Studios, London, on July 31 and August 1, 1968 with a 36 piece orchestra. Orchestra members clapped and sang on the fadeout – they earned double their normal rate for their efforts.

Paul McCartney on his songwriting partnership with John Lennon in Observer Music Monthly October 2007: “I have fond flashbacks of John writing – he’d scribble it down real quick, desperate to get back to the guitar. But I knew at that moment that this was going to be a good collaboration. Like when I did ‘Hey Jude.’ I was going through it for him and Yoko when I was living in London. I had a music room at the top of the house and I was playing ‘Hey Jude’ when I got to the line ‘The movement you need is on your shoulder’ and I turned round to John and said: ‘I’ll fix that if you want.’ And he said: ‘You won’t, you know, that’s a great line, that’s the best line in it.’ Now that’s the other side of a great collaborator – don’t touch it, man, that’s OK.”

This song hit #1 in at least 12 countries and by the end of 1968 had sold more than 5 million copies. It eventually sold over 10 million copies in the United States, becoming the fourth-biggest selling Beatles single there. Factoring in the price of records in 1968 vs. 1964, when the top-seller “I Want To Hold Your Hand” was released, “Hey Jude” might be the biggest earner.

When McCartney played this song for John Lennon and Yoko Ono, John interpreted it as being about him; he heard the line “You were made to go out and get her” as Paul imploring him to leave his first wife and go after Yoko (“I always heard it as a song to me,” said Lennon). This was one of Lennon’s more narcissistic moments, as he failed to grasp that the song was written for his son.

This was going to be the B-side to “Revolution,” but it ended up the other way around. It is a testament to this song that it pushed “Revolution” to the other side of the record.

George Harrison wanted to play a guitar riff after the vocal phrases, but Paul wouldn’t let him. Things got tense between them around this time as McCartney got very particular about how Harrison played on songs he wrote.

Julian Lennon didn’t find out that this song was written for him until he was a teenager. It was around this time that he reconnected with his dad, whom he would visit in New York from time to time until his death.

In terms of songcraft, this is one of the most studied Beatles songs. It starts with a vocal – Paul’s voice singing “Hey” – then the piano comes in (an F chord). The song gradually builds, with McCartney alone playing on the first verse, then the sounds of George Harrison’s guitar, Ringo’s tambourine, and harmony vocals by George and John. The drums enter about 50 seconds in, and the song builds from there, reaching a peak of intensity with McCartney delivering the “better… better… better” line punctuated by a Little Richard-style scream, then the famous singalong resolution.

The “na na na” fadeout takes four minutes. The chorus is repeated 19 times.

“Jude” is the German word for “Jew,” but nobody in the Beatles camp knew that. In 1967 and 1968, the group owned a retail store on Baker Street in London called the Apple Boutique, which they closed around the time this song was released. On the shuttered building, an employee scrawled the words “Revolution” and “Hey Jude” to promote the new Beatles single. Without proper context, this proved offensive to Jewish residents, who read it as hateful graffiti.

Wilson Pickett recorded this shortly after The Beatles did. His version hit #16 UK and #23 US and provided the name for his album. Duane Allman played on it and got a huge career boost when the song became a hit. He spent the next year as a session guitarist for many famous singers and then formed The Allman Brothers, who are considered the greatest Southern Rock band of all time.

Thanks to the communal nature of this song, it is sometimes used to pay tribute to those who have passed. When Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr appeared on the 2014 CBS special The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to the Beatles, Paul dedicated the song John Lennon and George Harrison. Musicians who performed earlier in the show joined on stage for the ending, which closed the telecast.

In America, an album called Hey Jude (originally titled “The Beatles Again”) was released in 1970 containing this and several other Beatles songs that were released as singles or B-sides. The album has not appeared as a CD because Apple Records made the decision to copy only the British LP releases onto CD. In the ’60s the American record company managed to get extra LPs off the British releases by cutting down the number of tracks, then putting them out with singles and B-sides as additional albums. 

As discussed in the DVD Composing the Beatles Songbook, while Paul wrote this song for Julian, in a lot of ways McCartney wrote this song about his brand-new relationship with Linda Eastman.

After the “Oh” in the crescendo, McCartney sings “YEAH!” in a non-falsetto voice. The note he hits is F Natural above male High C, a very difficult note for a male to hit in a non-falsetto voice.

The original 1968 version was recorded in mono, and many listeners find it far superior to the stereo remake from 1970, which is much more heavily produced.

On The Beatles Anthology 3, there is a version of this song with an introduction spoken by John and Paul: “From the heart of the black country: When I was a robber in Boston place You gathered round me with your fine embrace.”

“Boston place” (mentioned by Paul) is a small London street where The Beatles’ company Apple had just installed an electronics laboratory. In a more familiar scene, Boston Street was that street in which The Beatles ran for the title sequence of their film A Hard Day’s Night. John spoke of the “Black Country,” which was the name of the old smokestack industrial region in the middle of England.

Richie Havens played this at Woodstock when he opened the festival in 1969.

If you listen at about 2:55, you hear a sound from John Lennon while Paul keeps singing. It sounds like “Ohh!” at first, but it is really him saying “…chord!” You can barely hear it, but if you listen really closely, you can hear him say “Got the wrong CHORD.” He says “chord” much louder than the other words. And about two or three counts later, you can hear McCartney say “F**king hell.” 

The song debuted at #10 in the Hot 100, and in doing so it made history by becoming the first ever single to reach the top 10 in its first week on the chart.

When the Beatles music was made available for download for the first time – on iTunes November 16, 2010 – “Hey Jude” was the most downloaded Beatles song that day.

McCartney played this at the 2005 Live8 concert in London. He started with “The Long and Winding Road” and flowed it into the end of “Hey Jude,” which closed out the Live8 concert. 

Paul McCartney played this at the 2005 Super Bowl halftime show. He performed the year after Janet Jackson’s breast was exposed on stage, causing an uproar. McCartney was deemed a safe and reliable choice for a nudity-free performance.

Sesame Street did a parody of this (and tribute to healthy eating) called “Hey Food.”

With hundreds of crowd favorites to choose from in his catalog, Paul McCartney mixes up his setlists when he plays live, but this one always seems to stick. “I’ll switch up the songs, but I’ve got to do ‘Hey Jude’ because it is such fun and it’s great handing that over to the audience,” he told GQ. The greatest thing is, you feel this sense of community, and in these times when it’s a little dark and people are separated by politics and stuff, it’s so fantastic to see them all come together singing the end of ‘Hey Jude.’ I’m very happy about that, so I keep it in the show.”

This appears frequently throughout Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series, including the first installment, The Gunslinger (1982). The fantasy western is set in a parallel universe where a lone gunslinger is on a quest for revenge. King explained the significance of the song in a 1988 interview with The Guardian: “I see the gunslinger’s world as sort of a post-radiation world where everybody’s history has gotten clobbered and about the only thing anybody remembers anymore is the chorus to ‘Hey, Jude.'”

Hey Jude

Hey Jude, don’t make it bad
Take a sad song and make it better
Remember to let her into your heart
Then you can start to make it better

Hey Jude, don’t be afraid
You were made to go out and get her
The minute you let her under your skin
Then you begin to make it better

And anytime you feel the pain
Hey Jude, refrain
Don’t carry the world upon your shoulders
For well you know that it’s a fool
Who plays it cool
By making his world a little colder
Na-na-na, na, na
Na-na-na, na

Hey Jude, don’t let me down
You have found her, now go and get her (let it out and let it in)
Remember to let her into your heart (hey Jude)
Then you can start to make it better

So let it out and let it in
Hey Jude, begin
You’re waiting for someone to perform with
And don’t you know that it’s just you
Hey Jude, you’ll do
The movement you need is on your shoulder
Na-na-na, na, na
Na-na-na, na, yeah

Hey Jude, don’t make it bad
Take a sad song and make it better
Remember to let her under your skin
Then you’ll begin to make it better
Better better better better better, ah!

Na, na, na, na-na-na na (yeah! Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)
Na-na-na na, hey Jude
Na, na, na, na-na-na na
Na-na-na na, hey Jude
Na, na, na, na-na-na na
Na-na-na na, hey Jude
Na, na, na, na-na-na na
Na-na-na na, hey Jude (Jude Jude, Judy Judy Judy Judy, ow wow!)
Na, na, na, na-na-na na (my, my, my)
Na-na-na na, hey Jude (Jude, Jude, Jude, Jude, Jude)
Na, na, na, na-na-na na (yeah, yeah, yeah)
Na-na-na na, hey Jude (yeah, you know you can make it, Jude, Jude, you’re not gonna break it)
Na, na, na, na-na-na na (don’t make it bad, Jude, take a sad song and make it better)
Na-na-na na, hey Jude (oh Jude, Jude, hey Jude, wa!)
Na, na, na, na-na-na na (oh Jude)
Na-na-na na, hey Jude (hey, hey, hey, hey)
Na, na, na, na-na-na na (hey, hey)
Na-na-na na, hey Jude (now, Jude, Jude, Jude, Jude, Jude)
Na, na, na, na-na-na na (Jude, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)
Na-na-na na, hey Jude
Na, na, na, na-na-na na
Na-na-na na, hey Jude (na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na)
Na, na, na, na-na-na na
Na-na-na na, hey Jude
Na, na, na, na-na-na na
Na-na-na na, hey Jude
Na, na, na, na-na-na na (yeah, make it, Jude)
Na-na-na na, hey Jude (yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!)
Na, na, na, na-na-na na (yeah, yeah yeah, yeah! Yeah! Yeah!)
Na-na-na na, hey Jude
Na, na, na, na-na-na na
Na-na-na na, hey Jude
Na, na, na, na-na-na na
Na-na-na na, hey Jude
Na, na, na, na-na-na na
Na-na-na na, hey Jude

Author: badfinger20 (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

25 thoughts on “Beatles – Hey Jude”

  1. I remember I was disappointed when I first heard this song back in 1968. It seemed there was no end to it: it was slow, boring and especially this “na-na-na-nananana hey Jude” thing seemed to last forever.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. While I have admiration for The Beatles and can appreciate their significance in music, I think this is far from the masterpiece people claim it to be and think they have a numerous other tracks that are better.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It’s not my favorite Beatles song by any means but I do have a fondness for it…of his piano based songs…Long and Winding Road is the one that I think gets too much praise.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Three minutes of song, four minutes of “na na na nanana na, nanana na, hey Jude.” I think they could have trimmed it, maybe start fading at the 4-minute mark. The song is a beauty, but the “na na”s don’t add a whole lot.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. We would add the na na na’s to other songs when we played. Everyone sings a long…Live it works.
      I guess they did the na na na’s instead of solos like Free Bird lol.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yea…he probably if I had to guess could have been nicer about it. It probably wouldn’t have fit too well but there is a way of doing it….but they were pretty much straight forward.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s a great story about the inspiration and being for Julian. But I’m the guy – thought I was the ONLy one, but comments here suggest otherwise – who love the Beatles but thought this song only so-so and WAY too long. Too much of the na-na-nas at the end. however, the point about it opening the door for songs like ‘Layla’ and other 6 minute + ones is good.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It reminds me of Brown Eyed Girl a little but longer…hearing it live all those na na na’s work. I was going to put it with the other epic songs lol….glad I didn’t.
      Long songs get to me also…like Free Bird and others…there are only a few I like.

      Like

  4. This one, I do not like. Musically, it’s not interesting. Lyrically, it’s annoying (na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, hey jude, over & over). Culturally, it has been played to death. Personally, for Julian, a terrible reminder of his father’s betrayal.

    I have many layers of dislike for this one.

    Sorry…

    Liked by 1 person

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