Hey Jude

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For the album, see Hey Jude (album).
"Hey Jude"
"Hey Jude" 45
Single by The Beatles
B-side "Revolution"
Released 26 August 1968
Format 7"
Genre Rock, pop
Length 7:11
Label Apple
Writer(s) Lennon–McCartney
Producer(s) George Martin
Certification 4× Platinum (RIAA)
The Beatles singles chronology
  • "Hey Jude"
  • (1968)
Alternative cover
1982 reissue

"Hey Jude" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles, written by Paul McCartney and credited to Lennon–McCartney. The ballad evolved from "Hey Jules", a song McCartney wrote to comfort John Lennon's son, Julian, during his parents' divorce. "Hey Jude" begins with a verse-bridge structure incorporating McCartney's vocal performance and piano accompaniment; further instrumentation is added as the song progresses. After the fourth verse, the song shifts to a fade-out coda that lasts for more than four minutes.

"Hey Jude" was released in August 1968 as the first single from the Beatles' record label Apple Records. More than seven minutes in length, it was at the time the longest single ever to top the British charts.[1] It also spent nine weeks at number one in the United States, the longest for any Beatles single. "Hey Jude" tied the "all-time" record, at the time, for the longest run at the top of the US charts. The single has sold approximately eight million copies and is frequently included on professional critics' lists of the greatest songs of all time.[2][3][4] In 2013, Billboard named it the 10th biggest song of all time.[5]

Inspiration and writing[edit]

In 1968, John Lennon and his wife Cynthia Lennon separated because of John's affair with Yoko Ono. Soon afterwards, Paul McCartney drove out to visit Cynthia and Lennon's son, Julian. "We'd been very good friends for millions of years and I thought it was a bit much for them suddenly to be personae non gratae and out of my life," McCartney said.[6] Cynthia Lennon recalled, "I was truly surprised when, one afternoon, Paul arrived on his own. I was touched by his obvious concern for our welfare ... On the journey down he composed 'Hey Jude' in the car. I will never forget Paul's gesture of care and concern in coming to see us."[7]

The song's original title was "Hey Jules", and it was intended to comfort Julian Lennon from the stress of his parents' divorce. McCartney said, "I started with the idea 'Hey Jules,' which was Julian, don't make it bad, take a sad song and make it better. Hey, try and deal with this terrible thing. I knew it was not going to be easy for him. I always feel sorry for kids in divorces ... I had the idea [for the song] by the time I got there. I changed it to 'Jude' because I thought that sounded a bit better."[6] Julian discovered that the song had been written for him almost twenty years later. He recalled of his relationship with McCartney: "Paul and I used to hang about quite a bit – more than Dad and I did. We had a great friendship going and there seems to be far more pictures of me and Paul playing together at that age than there are pictures of me and my dad."[8]

Although McCartney originally wrote the song for Julian, John Lennon thought it had actually been written for him:[9]

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 ... Subconsciously, he was saying, Go ahead, leave me. On a conscious level, he didn't want me to go ahead.

Other people believed McCartney wrote the song about them, including Judith Simons, a journalist with the Daily Express.[10] Still others, including John Lennon, have speculated that McCartney's failing long-term relationship with Jane Asher when he wrote "Hey Jude" was an unconscious "message to himself".[11] In fact, when Lennon mentioned that he thought the song was about him, McCartney denied it and told Lennon he had written the song about himself.[12]

Writer Mark Hertsgaard commented that "many of the song's lyrics do seem directed more at a grown man on the verge of a powerful new love, especially the lines 'you have found her now go and get her' and 'you're waiting for someone to perform with.'"[12] Tim Riley wrote, "If the song is about self-worth and self-consolation in the face of hardship, the vocal performance itself conveys much of the journey. He begins by singing to comfort someone else, finds himself weighing his own feelings in the process, and finally, in the repeated refrains that nurture his own approbation, he comes to believe in himself."[13]

McCartney changed the title to "Hey Jude" because the name Jude was easier to sing.[8] Much as he did with "Yesterday", McCartney played the song for other musicians and friends. Ron Griffith of Badfinger (known at this time as the Iveys, and the first band to join the Beatles-owned record label Apple Records), recalled that on their first day in the studio: "Paul walked over to the grand piano and said, 'Hey lads, have a listen', and he sat down and gave us a full concert rendition of 'Hey Jude'. We were gobsmacked."[8]

When McCartney introduced Lennon to his new composition, he came to "the movement you need is on your shoulder" and told Lennon "I'll fix that bit." Lennon asked why, and McCartney answered "it's a stupid expression; it sounds like a parrot." Lennon parried with "You won't, you know. That's the best line in the song." McCartney thus left the line in and later said: "when I play that song, that's the line when I think of John, and sometimes I get a little emotional during that moment."[14]

1968 sheet music cover, Maclen Music, Inc., New York. "Recorded by the Beatles on Apple Records".


The Beatles recorded 25 takes of "Hey Jude" at Abbey Road Studios in two nights, 29 and 30 July 1968. These were mostly rehearsals, however, because they planned to record the master track at Trident Studios to utilise their eight-track recording machine (Abbey Road was still limited to four-tracks).[15] One take from 29 July is available on the Anthology 3 CD.[16] The master track was recorded on 31 July at Trident Studios. According to Trident's founder Norman Sheffield, before recording took place, Mal Evans, the Beatles' assistant and pal, arrived at Trident with a truck full of marijuana plants and a large tea chest. He was met by Sheffield who looked in the chest and found that it was full of corn flakes and steaks. Sheffield told Mal that they had a full kitchen upstairs and that the food would not be necessary. Evans insisted on the pot plants, however, and said that "the boys" wanted the plants in the studio to make the place "soft".[17] Four takes were recorded; take one was selected. The song was completed on 1 August with additional overdubs, including a 36-piece orchestra for the song's long coda, scored by George Martin. The orchestra consisted of ten violins, three violas, three cellos, two flutes, one contra bassoon, one bassoon, two clarinets, one contra bass clarinet, four trumpets, four trombones, two horns, percussion and two string basses.

According to Norman Sheffield, there was a lot of dissension to start with. "Some of the musicians were looking down their noses at the Beatles, I think. Paul picked up on this and confronted them straight away: 'Do you guys want to get fucking paid or not?' he said. That concentrated their minds pretty well … they soon fell into line." During the first few takes, McCartney was unhappy with the energy and passion the orchestra was putting into it. So he stood up on the grand piano and started conducting the orchestra from there.[18] While adding backing vocals, the Beatles asked the orchestra members if they would clap their hands and sing along to the refrain in the song's coda. Most complied (for a double fee), but one declined, reportedly saying, "I'm not going to clap my hands and sing Paul McCartney's bloody song!"[19]

Ringo Starr almost missed his drum cue. He left for a toilet break – unnoticed by the other Beatles – and the band started recording. In 1994, McCartney said, "Ringo walked out to go to the toilet and I hadn't noticed. The toilet was only a few yards from his drum booth, but he'd gone past my back and I still thought he was in his drum booth. I started what was the actual take, and 'Hey Jude' goes on for hours before the drums come in and while I was doing it I suddenly felt Ringo tiptoeing past my back rather quickly, trying to get to his drums. And just as he got to his drums, boom boom boom, his timing was absolutely impeccable."[20]

At 2:59 of the song, someone can allegedly be heard to say, "Fucking hell!" There is some dispute as to who said this, and whether it was really exclaimed at all. Sound engineers Ken Scott and Geoff Emerick claim the exclamation came from McCartney and that it was Lennon's idea to leave the mistake in the final mix. "'Paul hit a clunker on the piano and said a naughty word,' Lennon gleefully crowed, 'but I insisted we leave it in, buried just low enough so that it can barely be heard. Most people won't ever spot it ... but we'll know it's there.'"[21] However, in the Kevin Ryan and Brian Kehew book Recording the Beatles, discussing the recording processes behind the Beatles' sessions, engineer Malcolm Toft recalls, "Barry Sheffield engineered 'Hey Jude', but I mixed it ... John Lennon says a very rude word about halfway through the song. At 2:57 you will hear a 'Whoa!' from him in the background. About two seconds later you will hear, 'Fucking hell!' This was because when he was doing a vocal backing, Barry sent him the foldback level [headphone volume] too loud and he threw the cans on the ground and uttered the expletive. But, because it had been bounced down [mixed] with the main vocal, it could not be removed.[22] I just managed to bring the fader down for a split second on the mix to try to lessen the effect." Others argue that the voice is Ringo Starr's.[23]

George Harrison and McCartney had a disagreement over this song. According to McCartney, during a rehearsal Harrison played an answer to every line of the vocal. This did not fit with McCartney's idea of the song's arrangement, and he vetoed it.[19][20] In a 1994 interview, McCartney said, "We were joking when we made the Anthology: I was saying: 'I realise I was a bossy git.' And George said, 'Oh no, Paul, you never did anything like that!' … But it was essential for me and looking back on it, I think, Okay. Well, it was bossy, but it was ballsy of me, because I could have bowed to the pressure."[20] Ron Richards, who worked for George Martin at both Parlophone at AIR Studios, and who discovered the Hollies,[24] was present for many Beatles' recording sessions. He said McCartney was "oblivious to anyone else's feelings in the studio" and that he was driven to make the best possible record, at almost any cost.[25] Trident was paid £25 per hour by EMI for the "Hey Jude" sessions. Sheffield said Trident earned about £1,000 in total at the time, but by having the Beatles record there, and in turn raving about the facility, the value was incalculable.[26] In 2013 McCartney agreed to write the foreword to Sheffield's book "Life on Two Legs" in part recognition to his experience in recording "Hey Jude" at Trident.

Composition and structure[edit]

"Hey Jude" begins with McCartney singing lead vocals and playing the piano. The patterns McCartney plays are based on three chords: F, C, and B-flat (I, V and IV);[1] the second verse adds accompaniment by guitar and a single tambourine. The main chord progression is "flipped on its head" for the coda since the C chord is replaced by E-flat.[27] Author Tim Riley notes, "As Ringo offers a restrained tom-tom and cymbal fill, the piano shifts downward to add a flat seventh to the tonic chord, making the downbeat of the bridge the point of arrival ('And any time you feel the pain')."[28] At the end of each bridge, McCartney sings a brief phrase ("Na-na-na na ...") and plays a piano fill which leads to the next verse; the phrase McCartney sings serves to "reorient the harmony for the verse as the piano figure turns upside down into a vocal aside". Additional details, such as tambourine on the third verse and subtle harmonies that accompany the lead vocal, are added to sustain the interest of the listener throughout the four-verse, two-bridge song.[29]

The verse-bridge structure of the song persists for approximately three minutes, after which the band leads into a four-minute-long coda. During the coda, the rest of the band, backed by an orchestra that also provides backing vocals, repeats the phrase "Na-na-na na" followed by the words "hey Jude" until the song gradually fades out. Time magazine described the coda as "a fadeout that engagingly spoofs the fadeout as a gimmick for ending pop records".[30] Riley notes the repeated chord progression of the coda (I-VII-IV-I) "answers all the musical questions raised at the beginnings and ends of bridges", for "The flat seventh that posed dominant turns into bridges now has an entire chord built on it." This three-chord refrain allows McCartney "a bedding ... to leap about on vocally",[31] so he ad-libs his vocal performance for the rest of the song. Riley concludes that the song "becomes a tour of Paul's vocal range: from the graceful inviting tones of the opening verse, through the mounting excitement of the song itself, to the surging raves of the coda".[13]

Single release[edit]

"Hey Jude" was released on 26 August 1968 in the United States and 30 August in the United Kingdom, backed with "Revolution" on the B-side of a 7" single.[32] The single was the debut release of the Beatles' record label Apple Records; in the US, it was also the first Beatles single to be issued in a company sleeve rather than a picture sleeve.[33] Even though "Hey Jude" was recorded during the sessions for the album The Beatles, also known as the White Album, it was always intended as a single and not an album track,[15][34][35] although it would eventually make its LP debut two years later as the title cut on the compilation album originally titled The Beatles Again. Lennon wanted "Revolution" to be the A-side of the single, but the other Beatles did not agree. In his 1970 interview with Rolling Stone, he said "Hey Jude" was worthy of an A-side, "but we could have had both."[36] Ten years later in 1980, he told Playboy he still disagreed with the decision.[37]

"Hey Jude" began its sixteen-week run on the British charts on 7 September 1968, claiming the top spot a week later. It lasted two weeks on top before being knocked off by another single from Apple, Mary Hopkin's "Those Were the Days", which was produced by McCartney[38] The single was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on 13 September; that same week NME reported that two million copies of the single had been sold.[39] The song entered the US charts on 14 September 1968, where it stayed for nineteen weeks. Two weeks later, "Hey Jude" was number one in the charts and held that position for nine weeks,[40] the longest time spent by a Beatles single at number one,[41] as well as being the longest-playing single to reach number one.[40] The song was the 16th number one hit for the band in the US, tying Elvis Presley's record at the time for most number one songs there. Billboard ranked it as the number-one song for 1968.[40]

"Hey Jude" clocked in at 7:11. The only other chart-topping song worldwide in the 1960s that ran over seven minutes was "MacArthur Park", written by Jimmy Webb and performed by Richard Harris. George Martin told Webb that "Hey Jude" was only allowed to run over seven minutes because of the precedent "MacArthur Park" set.[42] In the UK, where "MacArthur Park" did not top the chart, "Hey Jude" remained the longest number-one hit for nearly a quarter of a century, until it was surpassed in 1993 by Meat Loaf's "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)", which ran to 7:58 as a single.[43]

On 30 November 1968, NME reported that sales had reached nearly six million copies worldwide.[44] "Hey Jude" became the biggest-selling debut release for a record label ever, selling an estimated eight million copies worldwide and topping the charts in eleven countries.[38] In 1999, it was certified 4x platinum by the RIAA, representing four million units shipped in America.[43][45]


A failed early promotional attempt for the single was later recalled by the Beatles' personal assistant Alistair Taylor. On 7 August 1968, McCartney took his new girlfriend, Francie Schwartz, and Taylor to the Apple Boutique, closed only a week before, in order to paint the upcoming single's title Hey Jude/Revolution on its large street-side shop window. Within a day, the hand-made piece of promotion was mistaken for an anti-Semitic graffito (since Jude, besides being an English first name, happens to mean "Jew" in German), and the window was smashed by passers-by.[46] Discussing the episode in The Beatles Anthology, McCartney explained that he had been motivated by the location – "Great opportunity. Baker Street, millions of buses going around …" – and added: "I had no idea it meant 'Jew', but if you look at footage of Nazi Germany, ‍ '​Juden Raus‍ '​ was written in whitewashed windows with a Star of David. I swear it never occurred to me."[14]

The Beatles hired Michael Lindsay-Hogg to shoot a promotional film for "Hey Jude", after he had previously directed a clip for "Paperback Writer" in 1966. They settled on the idea of filming with a live, albeit controlled audience. In the film, the Beatles are first seen by themselves, performing the initial chorus and verses, and then are joined by the audience who appear as the last chorus concludes and coda begins; the audience sings and claps along with the Beatles through the song's conclusion. Hogg shot the film at Twickenham Film Studios on 4 September 1968, with McCartney himself designing the set. Tony Bramwell, a friend of the Beatles, later described the set as "the piano, there; drums, there; and orchestra in two tiers at the back." The event is also memorable because it marked Starr's return to the group after a two-week hiatus, during which he had announced that he had left the band.[47] The eventual final film was a combination of several different takes[48] and included filmed "introductions" to the song by David Frost (who introduced the Beatles as "the greatest tea-room orchestra in the world"),[49] and Cliff Richard, for their respective, eponymous TV programmes.[48] As filming wore on, Lennon repeatedly asked Lindsay-Hogg if he had the footage he needed. After twelve takes, McCartney said, "I think that's enough", and filming concluded.[48] It was first aired in the UK on 8 September 1968, and the film was later broadcast for the United States on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour on 6 October.[50]

Critical reception[edit]

Upon the single's release, Derek Johnson of the NME wrote: "The intriguing features of 'Hey Jude' are its extreme length and the 40-piece orchestral accompaniment – and personally I would have preferred it without either!" While he viewed the track overall as "a beautiful, compelling song", and the first three minutes as "absolutely sensational", Johnson rued the long fadeout's "vocal improvisations on the basically repetitive four-bar chorus".[51] Time contrasted "Hey Jude" with its B-side, "Revolution", saying that "The other side of the new disk urges activism of a different sort", due to McCartney "liltingly exhort[ing] a friend to overcome his fears and commit himself in love".[30] Rolling Stone also attributed the song's meaning as a message from McCartney to Lennon to end his negative relationships with women: "to break the old pattern; to really go through with love."[52]

Writing in 1971, Robert Christgau of The Village Voice called it "one of [McCartney's] truest and most forthright love songs" and was critical of its omission from The Beatles.[53] Music analyst Alan Pollack has praised "Hey Jude", saying, "it's such a good illustration of two compositional lessons – how to fill a large canvas with simple means, and how to use diverse elements such as harmony, bassline, and orchestration to articulate form and contrast." He also said it is unusual for a long song because it uses a "binary form that combines a fully developed, hymn-like song together with an extended, mantra-like jam on a simple chord progression".[54] Pollack described the song's long coda and fadeout as "an astonishingly transcendental effect",[54] while AllMusic's Richie Unterberger opined, "What could have very easily been boring is instead hypnotic because McCartney varies the vocal with some of the greatest nonsense scatting ever heard in rock …"[11] In his book Revolution in the Head, Ian MacDonald considered that the "pseudo-soul shrieking in the fade-out may be a blemish" but praised the song as "a pop/rock hybrid drawing on the best of both idioms".[55] MacDonald concluded: "'Hey Jude' strikes a universal note, touching on an archetypal moment in male sexual psychology with a gentle wisdom one might properly call inspired."[56] Lennon said the song was "one of [McCartney's] masterpieces".[9]

"Hey Jude" was nominated for the Grammy Awards of 1969 in the Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal categories but failed to win any of them.[57] It did win the 1968 Ivor Novello Award for "A-Side With the Highest Sales".[58] In the 1968 NME Readers' Poll, "Hey Jude" was named the best single of the year.[59] In 2001, "Hey Jude" was inducted into the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Grammy Hall of Fame.[60]

In 2004 and later in 2010, Rolling Stone ranked the song at number eight on "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time", making it the highest ranked Beatles song on the list. Also in 2010, Rolling Stone ranked the song at number seven on the Beatles' 100 Greatest Songs.[61][62] It came in third on Channel 4's list of 100 Greatest Singles.[3] The Amusement & Music Operators Association ranked "Hey Jude" the 11th-best jukebox single of all time.[4] It was also voted the greatest song of all time by Mojo readers.

Auctioned lyrics[edit]

In 1996, Julian Lennon paid £25,000 for the recording notes to "Hey Jude" at an auction. Julian Lennon spent another £35,000 at the auction buying John Lennon memorabilia. John Cousins, Julian Lennon's manager, stated, "He has a few photographs of his father, but not very much else. He is collecting for personal reasons; these are family heirlooms if you like."[63]

In 2002, the original handwritten lyrics for the song were nearly auctioned off at Christie's in London. The sheet of notepaper with the scrawled lyrics had been expected to fetch up to £80,000 at the auction, which was scheduled for 30 April 2002. McCartney went to court to stop the auction, claiming the paper had disappeared from his West London home. Richard Morgan, representing Christie's, said McCartney had provided no evidence that he had ever owned the piece of paper on which the lyrics were written. The courts decided in McCartney's favour and prohibited the sale of the lyrics. They had been sent to Christie's for auction by Frenchman Florrent Tessier, who said he purchased the piece of paper at a street market stall in London for £10 in the early 1970s. In the original catalogue for the auction, Julian Lennon had written, "It's very strange to think that someone has written a song about you. It still touches me."[64]


Weekly charts[edit]

All-time charts[edit]

Chart Position
US Billboard Hot 100[5] 10


Personnel per Ian MacDonald[35] and Mark Lewisohn.[19]


Paul McCartney sang the song in the closing moments of the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics hosted in London. On 4 August 2012, McCartney led the crowd in a rendition of the song while watching cycling at the velodrome.[106]

Cover versions[edit]

"Weird Al" Yankovic included the song in his first polka medley "Polkas on 45" from his 1984 album "Weird Al" Yankovic in 3-D.[107] Katy Perry performed a cover of the song as part of the 2012 MusiCares Person of the Year concert honouring McCartney.[108]

See also[edit]


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