The Fool on the Hill

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"The Fool on the Hill"
The Fool on the Hill - The Beatles.jpg
The 1996 U.S. jukebox single release of the song, as the B-side to "Magical Mystery Tour"
Song by the Beatles from the album Magical Mystery Tour
Released 27 November 1967 (US LP)
8 December 1967 (UK EP)
19 November 1976 (UK LP)
Recorded 25–27 September, and 20 October 1967
Genre Psychedelic pop,[1] folk[2]
Length 3:00
Label Parlophone, Capitol, EMI
Writer Lennon–McCartney
Producer George Martin
Magical Mystery Tour track listing

"The Fool on the Hill" is a song by the Beatles. It was written and sung by Paul McCartney[3][4] (credited to Lennon–McCartney) and recorded in 1967. It was included on the Magical Mystery Tour EP and album, and presented in the Magical Mystery Tour film, with a promotional sequence shot near Nice, in France from 30–31 October 1967.

Composition[edit]

The song's lyrics describe the titular "fool", a solitary figure who is not understood by others, but is actually wise. McCartney said the song relates to someone like Maharishi Mahesh Yogi:

'Fool on the Hill' was mine and I think I was writing about someone like Maharishi. His detractors called him a fool. Because of his giggle he wasn't taken too seriously ... I was sitting at the piano at my father's house in Liverpool hitting a D 6th chord, and I made up 'Fool on the Hill.'[3]

Alistair Taylor, in the book Yesterday, reports a mysterious incident involving a man who inexplicably appeared near him and McCartney during a walk on Primrose Hill and then disappeared again, soon after McCartney and Taylor had conversed about the existence of God; this allegedly prompted the writing of the song.[5]

McCartney played the song for John Lennon during a writing session for "With a Little Help from My Friends", and Lennon told him to write it down. McCartney did not; he was sure he would not forget it.[3] In his 1980 interview with Playboy, Lennon said, "Now that's Paul. Another good lyric. Shows he's capable of writing complete songs."[4]

Musical structure[edit]

The song involves alternations of D major and D minor in a similar manner to Cole Porter's alternations of C minor and C major in Night and Day.[6] Thus the D major tonality that begins with an Em7 chord on "Nobody wants to know him" moves through a ii7- V7- I6- vi7- ii7- V7 progression till the shift to the Dm tone and key on "but the fool". Other highlights are the inspired use in the Dm section of a ♭6th (B♭) melody note on the word "sun" (with a Dm#5 chord) and a 9th (E melody note) on the word "world" (with a Dm chord).[7]

Recording[edit]

McCartney recorded a solo demo version of the song on 6 September 1967.[8] This version was later released on the Anthology 2 compilation.[9] Recording began in earnest on 25 September, with significant overdubs by the Beatles on 26 September. Mark Lewisohn said that the 26 September version was "almost a re-make."[10] A take from 25 September—noticeably slower, somewhat heavier and with slightly different vocals—is also included on Anthology 2.[9] After another session on 27 September where McCartney added another vocal,[11] the song sat for a month before flutes were added on 20 October.[12]

Personnel[edit]

Personnel per Ian MacDonald.[14] Flautists also documented by Mark Lewisohn.[15]

Critical reaction[edit]

Richie Unterberger of Allmusic said that "The Fool on the Hill" was the best of the new songs on Magical Mystery Tour aside from "I Am the Walrus".[16] Tim Riley, a music critic who has contributed to NPR, was not impressed, and unfavourably compared the subject of this song to fools in Shakespeare. Riley wrote, "Possibilities in this song outweigh its substance—it's the most unworthy Beatles standard since 'Michelle.'"[17] The song was ranked the 420th best song of all time by Q104.3.[18]

Performance history[edit]

No longer performing regular concerts when they released "The Fool on the Hill", the Beatles never performed the song live. Paul McCartney first performed it live with Wings on their 1979 tour of the UK.[19] He included it on his 1989–1990 world tour as well.[20] The performances on this tour incorporated sound bites from Martin Luther King, Jr.'s I Have a Dream speech.[21] A live version from this tour is found on the album Tripping the Live Fantastic.[22] The song surfaced again for McCartney's 2001–2002 tours, and another live version appeared on the Back in the US album.

Cover versions[edit]

"The Fool on the Hill"
Single by Sérgio Mendes & Brasil '66
from the album Fool on the Hill
Released 1968 (1968)
Genre Bossa nova
Label A&M Records
Writer(s)
Producer(s) Sérgio Mendes

Music service Allmusic lists more than 100 cover versions of the song.[23]

Year Artist Release Notes
1968 Sérgio Mendes (single) Reached No. 6 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart;[24] and spent six weeks at No. 1 on the easy listening chart.[25] Released on his album Fool on the Hill.
1968 Eddie Fisher (single) Charted on the Record World magazine Non-Rock survey, the first version of the song to make the US singles charts and the last US chart single by Fisher
1968 Bobbie Gentry Local Gentry
1968 Corry Brokken Das war ein harter Tag: Beatles-Lieder auf deutsch In German: "Der Mann, den ich will". Recorded in 1968, but not released until 1995, on a German compilation album Das war ein harter Tag: Beatles-Lieder auf deutsch.[26] Interestingly, it uses an arrangement similar to Sergio Mendes' version.
1969 The Four Tops The Four Tops Now!
1969 Petula Clark Just Pet
1969 Stone the Crows Stone the Crows
1969 Vera Lynn B-side of single Goodnight[27] Also on double album The Singles Collection (2007)
1970 Shirley Bassey (single) Reached number 48 on the UK Singles chart.[28]
1971 Ron Goodwin Ron Goodwin in Concert Orchestral version. Goodwin's orchestration gives the opening penny whistle solo to the violas of the orchestra.
1971 The Chopsticks All of a Sudden
1976 Helen Reddy All This and World War II
1977 Björk Björk[29]
1981 Sarah Vaughan Songs of the Beatles
1982 John Williams The Portrait of John Williams Classical guitar version
2007 Beatallica Masterful Mystery Tour Merged with Metallica's "Fuel" to create "Fuel on the Hill"
2007 Aretha Franklin Rare & Unreleased Recordings from the Golden Reign of the Queen of Soul Recorded in 1970 during the sessions for This Girl's in Love with You.
2009 Mark Mallman Minnesota Beatle Project, Vol. 1

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Bogdanov, p. 54.
  2. ^ Pollack 1992.
  3. ^ a b c Miles 1997, pp. 365–366.
  4. ^ a b Sheff 2000, p. 186.
  5. ^ Turner 2005, pp. 143–144.
  6. ^ Dominic Pedler. The Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles. Music Sales Limited. Omnibus Press. NY. 2003. pp183-184
  7. ^ Dominic Pedler. The Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles. Music Sales Limited. Omnibus Press. NY. 2003. p184
  8. ^ Lewisohn 1988, p. 123.
  9. ^ a b Apple Records 1994, pp. 41,42.
  10. ^ Lewisohn 1988, p. 126.
  11. ^ Lewisohn 1988, p. 127.
  12. ^ Kevin Ryan; Brian Kehew (2006). Recording the Beatles: the studio equipment and techniques used to create their classic albums. Curvebender. p. 470. ISBN 978-0-9785200-0-7. Retrieved 12 June 2011. 
  13. ^ George Martin interviewed on the Pop Chronicles (1969)
  14. ^ MacDonald 2005, p. 270.
  15. ^ Lewisohn 1988, p. 129.
  16. ^ Unterberger 2007.
  17. ^ Riley 1988, p. 240.
  18. ^ "The Top 1,043 Classic Rock Songs of All Time: Dirty Dozenth Edition". Q1043.com. Retrieved 2014-02-03. 
  19. ^ Madinger & Easter 2000, p. 254.
  20. ^ Madinger & Easter 2000, p. 317.
  21. ^ Pereles 1989.
  22. ^ Madinger & Easter 2000, p. 334.
  23. ^ Allmusic 2007.
  24. ^ Songfacts.com 2009.
  25. ^ Whitburn 1996.
  26. ^ Radio interview with the writer of the booklet accompanying Das war ein harter Tag (in German). Corry Brokken is called Conny Brokken and Corry Broken respectively
  27. ^ "Vera Lynn 45 catalogue". 45cat.com. Retrieved 2014-02-03. 
  28. ^ Roberts 2006, pp. 44–45.
  29. ^ Fritsch 2001.

References[edit]

External links[edit]