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"Hey Jude" (song)

Categories: Beatles songs

"Hey Jude" started out as 'Hey Jools, don't take it bad', intended as 'words of wisdom' for Julian Lennon, in the midst of John and Cynthia's divorce proceedings.

Yet, when John first heard the song, he was convinced it had been written for him: 'Hey dude...' This time he had no arguments with the choice for the debut release on the newly-formed Apple label, being the first to acknowledge the track as "a masterpiece" (though his flipside, "Revolution", certainly had a strong case for double-A status).

JL Jr., too young to realise the song's significance at the time, paid 25 grand for the handwritten lyric in a memorabilia auction years later.

Temporarily installing themselves in Trident Studios, possessors of a shiny new eight-track mixing desk, the recording of the epic apparently went reasonably smoothly, the composer's instructions to the guitarist having been previously clarified. Ringo did nearly miss his cue, mind you, 'cos he was 'in the toilet'. Hmm... You can also pick up Lennon cussing himself for fluffing a line just before the singalong. How the BBC missed that one, I'll never know!

What can you say? The warmth and integrity of each Beatle's contribution(s), with the incessantly shifting 36-piece orchestral textures behind are a jacuzzi for your ears: the necessary movement shouldered by one and all. The extended playout mantra — ad-libs, handclaps 'n' all — remains a masterclass in the art of control. Hats off once again to George Martin for his arrangements: and for knowing how to use them extra channels! In his 'remix' for LOVE, you get more of an idea of just how many individual parts actually summed up to its gloriously stately whole.

The big problem was, however, that according to rest of the technology of the day, seven minutes were simply three too many to be pressed onto 7" format. What the hell: the EMI engineers, not for the first time, managed to make the machinery do things it wasn't designed to do in order to accommodate the needs of the Beatles.

The promo-film was a live rendition over the recorded orchestral backing, with presenter David Frost being the fool trying to play it cool: introducing the band as 'the greatest tearoom orchestra in the world'. There are some pretty dodgy fashion-victims in the audience as well, but the Fabs look — and sound (a couple of bum notes aside) — like they were having a thoroughly fab time of it, "All You Need" style.

Paul got a little hass from the Semitic community round the time of release, who interpreted 'Hey Jew' to be some kind of neo-nazi propaganda when he scratched it into the whitewash on the abandoned Apple Boutique window. He managed to smooth out the misunderstanding easily enough, anyway — and it made a change from born-again Christians getting the wrong end of the stick, at least.

Covers of "Hey Jude" abound but, to my mind, amongst the most worthy is the one by Wilson Pickett with Duane Allman on guitar, combining to "let it out and let it in" in their own unmistakable styles, without losing any of the original's majesty — which is what cover versions should be all about. Neither, however, contrived 'to make it better'. The prize for weirdest rendition, though, goes hands down to the avant-garde jazzster, Don Ellis...

It remains a staple part of Sir McCartney's live repertoire: how not with that built-in all together now singalong?

C'mon let me hear you ev'rybody, yeah:

naaaa-naa-naa
na-na-na-naaaa...
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