I met Deke when I published a Georgia Satellites song and fellow blogger Graham told me about Deke after he posted a Satellites song a little earlier. Since then Deke has me listening to all sorts of things I wouldn’t have dreamed of before. Go visit his WordPress site. He also has a youtube channel to visit. I can tell you from experience…it’s worth subscribing to the youtube channel. Ok Deke…take it away…
Thanks to Max for the invite. My name is Derek but all my pals call me deKe and I have been blogging at WordPress for almost 10 years now. As many know I’m a huge fan of hard rock as my blog tends not to deviate from that style lol. I also have a Youtube page titled The Distortion Den that takes up a fair bit of time (but in a good way mind you) where I have had the fortunate pleasure of talking to friends, musicians and book authors.
Recently along with a pal from Moncton named Jex we have started a show called Retro ThrowDown (on Youtube) where we pit two rock albums against each other and rate each one out of a score of 10. We don’t discuss beforehand with each other what we were thinking on each album. That’s the charm and oh we keep these shows around the 30 minute mark so they are action packed!
I will be the first to admit I’m no way the biggest Beatles fan in the world but I like their music as they were innovators and it really wasn’t into the back half of the 80s when the catalog of Beatles music started coming out on CD that I started picking away at getting their music.
My contribution to Max’s Beatles week is the time Nike ran their TV ad with Revolution being the music to it.
Why well for me, it was the power of that Nike ad that made me want to start getting some more Beatles music.
I didn’t care for the running shoe part, I wanted the song which was, of course, the John Lennon powered Revolution!
So along with my good pal T-Bone, I came across one of those mixed Beatles tapes as there were many on the market and I believe it was called Rock N Roll Volume 1 that had Revolution on it along with a few other Beatles standards.
I purchased it on cassette tape for the sole purpose of cranking Revolution in T-Bones car.
Man I still recall at one point as (now remember we’re talking the summer of 87) we were cruising the streets of Thunder Bay windows down cranking Revolution over and over like no one’s business and I’m sure we lost some hearing along the way as that stereo in T-Bones car could crank out the decibels.
One of the moments that is etched in my brain forever is we were sitting at a red light on that warm summer evening the windows down and the warm summertime air blowing our mullets around and as I looked over to my right was an older dude and his female companion (older by that I mean me and T-bone were 21 years old at the time whereas the fellow and his lady friend were probably our ages now).
I will always remember sitting at that red light and the dude looking over at us and giving us the thumbs up! That for me was like winning Olympic Gold lol. Maybe that guy thought “hey, look at these young punks digging on the Beatles or maybe he thought we were posers because of the commercial)
Whatever way that guy was thinking it was one of those fun moments and the power of a song connected at that red light!
Revolution to this day is still my favourite Lennon song. Love that it’s just the four of them laying it down with basically just drums, bass vocals, and guitar.
At the time when the Nike commercial aired The surviving Beatles sued Nike for 15 million which was crazy considering Michael Jackson owned the Beatles catalog which we all know drove McCartney nuts.
But if anything I have to give Nike credit as they did a really cool commercial for it all in black n white and even had John McEnroe and Micheal Jordan in it as well.
The commercial made me seek out and buy the song, not the running shoe!
We wrapped up Hanspostcard’s album draft…100 albums in 100 days. We are going into extra innings and extending three more picks from these categories… favorite Soundtracks, Greatest Hits, and a music related movie. This is my pick for greatest hits…Hey Jude Greatest Hits by the Beatles.
It wasn’t my intention to go to the Beatles three times but…there is a reason for this one as I will explain…I didn’t know this album was a greatest hits package when I purchased it. I’m picking this album because of the personal connection to it…and it might be the album that influenced me the most in my life.
Is this the best Beatles greatest hits album? No, not by a long shot but it was the first Beatle album (or any album) I bought and was not handed down by my sister or relatives. I had some money given to me by a relative and mom helped me with the rest. The first Beatle album I listened to was my cousin’s copy of Meet The Beatles…he let me borrow it for while. The Hey Jude album sent me down the road of getting into music that was at least a generation before me…and I’m still in that generation…and I don’t regret a thing…because I’m still discovering new old music and new music that has it’s influences.
My cousin kept telling me of this great song called “Paperback Writer” and he didn’t have a copy. He built the song up so much that I had to listen to it. I found this album at a record store that I begged my mom to take me to. I went through the Beatle albums and this one had Paperback Writer. I couldn’t believe these bearded guys were the same band as on Meet The Beatles. So when I was 8 years old I got two albums… one was a birthday present… the soundtrack to Chitty Chitty, Bang Bang (that I requested) and then I bought this one. My mom asked…are you sure? A nod of my head and I bought a ticket to enter the Beatles world which I still reside.
It has an slight mixture of older, middle, and at that time, newer songs. This was a collection of non-album singles and B sides from the Beatles on the American Capitol label.
The album was conceived by Allen Klein (boooo) and Apple Records and released in 1970. The original name was going to be “The Beatles Again” but they wanted to capitalize on the hit Hey Jude. It was a nice album that should have included more of their earlier hits but it gave us a couple in Can’t Buy Me Love and I Should Have Known Better.
My favorite at that time was of course Paperback Writer…that guitar and those backing vocals…were/are great! Remember… all I’d heard to that point was their first album with Capitol… Meet The Beatles…so I couldn’t believe that “Rain” and the rest came from the same band that played I Want To Hold Your Hand. I didn’t know the history…my 8 year old mind thought…”What the hell happened?…” Where I am musically now…all started with this album purchase.
Rain…the B side to Paperback Writer…I grew to like Rain more than Paperback Writer through the years…in fact it is in my top 10 of Beatle songs.
Lady Madonna… Terrific driving piano riff that is relentless.
I will close out with an earlier Beatles song. I Should’ve Known Better is an instantly catchy song with a harmonica that they would stop using as much in the future. When looking back on their career…the early ones get forgotten sometimes and they shouldn’t be. Those early songs built the foundation.
My island is getting very Beatle-ly…and I don’t mind. I went with the album that influenced me the most at an early age…it just so happened to be a Beatles greatest hits package. This album brings back memories of playing it on a green portable turn table I had at the time with removable speakers.
Like this but green…
Can’t Buy Me Love
I Should Have Known Better
Old Brown Shoe
Don’t Let Me Down
Ballad Of John And Yoko
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.”
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, 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
You say you’ll change the constitution Well, you know We all want to change your head
This song was the B side to Hey Jude…a heck of a B side. John Lennon wanted it to be the first A-side released on Apple Records, the label The Beatles started, but Paul McCartney’s “Hey Jude” got the honor.
This was the first overtly political Beatles song. It was John Lennon’s response to the Vietnam War.
The “Hey Jude” and “Revolution” videos were shot in a studio setting and meant to look like the band was performing it live. They both aired September 8 on Frost On Sunday, a popular UK show hosted by David Frost, who was at the Twickenham shoot to introduce the clip for the segment on his show, making it appear that the band was really there.
*** A little fun here… I always wondered about the Revolution video. Between 10-13 seconds on the video below you see George say something to Paul. It’s either “John’s mic is sh*t” or something else …what do you think? Any lip readers?
The dirty guitar sound was created by plugging the guitars directly into the audio board and overloading it. The guitar sounded so scratchy that many who bought the 45 RPM single tried to return it, thinking it was defective.
There are two very different versions of this song… a slow version that appears on The White Album, and a fast, loud version was released as a single. In the slow version, Lennon says “count me in” as well as “count me out” when referring to violence. This gives the song a dual meaning.
The song peaked at #12 in the Billboard 100 and #1 in Canada
John Lennon: “I wanted to put out what I felt about revolution,” “I thought it was about time we spoke about it, the same as I thought it was about time we stopped not answering about the Vietnamese war when we were on tour with Brian Epstein and had to tell him, ‘We’re going to talk about the war this time and we’re not going to just waffle’…That’s why I did it: I wanted to talk. I wanted to say my piece about revolutions. I wanted to tell you, or whoever listens, to communicate, to say, ‘What do you say? This is what I say.'”
Paul McCartney: “It was a great song, basically John’s…it was an overtly political song about revolution and a great one. I think John later ascribed more political intent to it than he actually felt when he wrote it.”
Continuing, Paul writes: “They were very political times, obviously, with the Vietnam war going on, Chairman Mao and the Little Red Book, and all the demonstrations with people going through the streets shouting ‘Ho, Ho Ho Chi Minh!’ I think he wanted to say you can count me in for a revolution, but if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao ‘you ain’t gonna make it with anyone anyhow.’ By saying that I think he meant we all want to change the world Maharishi-style, because ‘Across The Universe’ also had the change-the-world theme.”
John Lennon wrote this in India while The Beatles were at a transcendental meditation camp with The Maharishi. Lennon told Rolling Stone: “I had been thinking about it up in the hills in India. I still had this ‘God will save us’ feeling about it, that it’s going to be all right (even now I’m saying ‘Hold on, John, it’s going to be all right,’ otherwise, I won’t hold on) but that’s why I did it, I wanted to talk, I wanted to say my piece about revolution. I wanted to tell you, or whoever listens, to communicate, to say ‘What do you say? This is what I say.'”
Revolutionaries take different approaches to reach their goals. In a 1998 interview with Uncut, Yoko One gave her thoughts on Lennon’s approach and how he expressed it in this song: “John’s idea of revolution was that he did not want to create the situation where when you destroy statues, you become a statue. And also what he means is that there’s too much repercussion in the usual form of revolution. He preferred evolution. So you have to take a peaceful method to get peace rather than you don’t care what method you take to get peace, and he was very, very adamant about that.”
The fast version was released as the B-side of “Hey Jude” in August 1968, three months before the slow version appeared on The White Album.
There are so many versions of this song because Paul McCartney didn’t like it. Lennon really wanted this song to be the “A” side of the single instead of “Hey Jude,” and kept changing it around to come up with something that would make Paul see it his way. He basically wrote the song because he felt like he was being pulled in so many directions by different people, all of whom wanted his backing, politically. It was also him questioning his own belief in the revolution that was going on… whether he was “out” or “in.” In truth, he was writing about a revolution of the mind rather than a physical “in the streets” revolution. He truly believed that revolution comes from inner change rather than social violence. (This is discussed in the DVD Composing the Beatles Songbook)
Nike used this for commercials in 1987. Capitol Records, who owned the performance rights, meaning The Beatles version of the song, was paid $250,000. Michael Jackson, who owned the publishing rights, meaning use of the words and music, also had to agree and was paid for the song (Jackson acquired the rights to 251 Beatles songs in 1985 when he outbid Paul McCartney for them, fracturing their friendship in the process).
The commercials caused a huge backlash from Beatles fans who felt that Nike was disrespecting the legacy of John Lennon, who likely would have objected to its use, but the ad campaign, called “Revolution in Motion,” was successful, helping Nike expand their market by featuring ordinary joggers, gym rats and cyclists. “We’re trying to promote the concept of revolutionary changes in the fitness movement and show how Nike parallels those changes with product development,” the company stated. “Because of this ‘revolution,’ we were able to draw a strong correlation with the music and the lyrics in the Beatles song.”
It wasn’t just fans who had beef with the ads: the surviving Beatles, along with Yoko Ono (representing Lennon’s estate), sued Nike, bringing even more publicity to the campaign. The ads ran for about a year, and eventually a settlement was reached in the lawsuit. As years went by, it became more acceptable to use songs in commercials, but Beatles songs remained off-limits, as any use would result in a lawsuit and hostile reaction by fans. What was “revolutionary” about the Nike commercials were that they were the first to do it.
In 2002, “When I’m 64” was used in a commercial for Allstate insurance. Many Beatles fans were not pleased, but it didn’t get nearly the reaction of the Nike commercials, partly because it was not a political song, but also because it was sung by Julian Lennon, which implied endorsement by his father.
On September 4, 1968, The Beatles made a promotional film for this song and “Hey Jude” at Twickenham Studios in London. These were directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who did the previous Beatles videos: “Paperback Writer” and “Rain.”
Unlike those clips, which were shot outdoors, the “Hey Jude” and “Revolution” videos were shot in a studio setting and meant to look like the band was performing it live. They both aired September 8 on Frost On Sunday, a popular UK show hosted by David Frost, who was at the Twickenham shoot to introduce the clip for the segment on his show, making it appear that the band was really there.
Another edit of the footage was later broadcast on Top Of The Pops, and yet another was shown in America on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. When the Beatles compilation 1+ was released in 2015, a restored version of the video was included in the set.
Before this song was used to shill for Nike, Yoko Ono was fine with using John Lennon’s music in commercials; she authorized “Imagine” for a Japanese ad and said it was “making John’s music accessible to a new generation.” Nike bypassed the living Beatles, but went to her for approval, since the lead vocalist (the “principal performer”) of a song needs to grant permission under certain statutes. Also, as the keeper of Lennon’s legacy, it helped to have her consent for publicity purposes. Nike claimed the song was used “with the active support of Yoko Ono Lennon.”
This is one of the Beatles songs (“Help!” and “In My Life” are other examples) where John Lennon’s falsetto makes an appearance. He takes it up high for the word “be” in the line, “You know it’s gonna be all right.”
Nicky Hopkins played the piano. When The Beatles needed keyboards, they usually used Hopkins, Billy Preston, or their producer, George Martin.
The word “Revolution” is mentioned just once, in the first line.
John Lennon wanted his vocals to have an unusual sound, so he recorded most of them lying on his back in the studio. The famous scream at the beginning is a double-tracked recording of Lennon. >>
The version on the Hey Jude compilation, released in February 1970 in the US, was the B-side of the “Hey Jude” single. The Hey Jude compilation album peaked at #2 in the US and consists of a collection of singles and B-sides that had not previously appeared on US non-soundtrack album releases. The album cover was taken at the final Beatles photo session, at Lennon’s (later Starr’s) country estate in Ascot, England. >>
Thompson Twins performed this song at the Philadelphia stage of Live Aid on July 13, 1985. The concert, which raised money for famine relief in Africa, had a global audience of at least 1.5 billion. Thompson Twins were joined on stage for the performance by Madonna (who contributed backing vocals and tambourine), Steve Stevens (best known as Billy Idol’s guitarist) and Nile Rodgers, who was also on guitar.
Thompson Twins included the song on their album Here’s to Future Days, which was released a few months later and produced by Rodgers.
The Stone Temple Pilots performed this at Madison Square Garden as part of the 2001 special, Come Together: A Night For John Lennon’s Words And Music. Their version was released as a single, with proceeds going to charity.
You say you want a revolution Well, you know We all want to change the world You tell me that it’s evolution Well, you know We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction Don’t you know that you can count me out Don’t you know it’s gonna be All right, all right, all right
You say you got a real solution Well, you know We’d all love to see the plan You ask me for a contribution Well, you know We’re doing what we can
But if you want money for people with minds that hate All I can tell is brother you have to wait Don’t you know it’s gonna be All right, all right, all right
You say you’ll change the constitution Well, you know We all want to change your head You tell me it’s the institution Well, you know You better free you mind instead
But if you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow Don’t you know it’s gonna be All right, all right, all right All right, all right, all right All right, all right, all right All right, all right