Hey Jude at 50 – The Beatles’ Most Famous Tune Celebrates a Big Anniversary

In 1968 Paul McCartney wrote a song, also credited to John Lennon that would become one, if not the most beloved of all The Beatles huge catalogue of great works, that song was Hey Jude.

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the song’s release. Dave Milner, Marketing and PR Executive at The Beatles Story, said:

“Hey Jude is one of The Beatles’ most successful songs and it’s amazing that we are already celebrating its 50th birthday. We never stop celebrating the fantastic music and achievements of the Fab Four here at The Beatles Story and we hope that people will join us at the attraction this month to learn more about this famous song.”

Here are some of our favourite facts about this most enduring of tracks:

The ballad evolved from “Hey Jules”, which was a song that McCartney wrote in order to provide some comfort to John Lennon’s son, Julian, during the divorce his parents’ were going through. On the drive over to John’s and then wife Cynthia’s house in Weybridge Paul wrote the line, “Don’t make it bad, take a sad song and make it better” thinking about how he could encourage Julian during this difficult time. Legend has it the title was changed to “Jude” after the character “Jud” in the musical Oklahoma! Julian Lennon didn’t find out that this song was written for him until he was a teenager.

Paul with a four-year-old Julian in 1967

John actually thought the song was about him…

“That’s Paul’s best song. It started off as a song about my son Julian because Paul was going to see him. Then he turned it into “Hey Jude.” I always thought it was about me and Yoko.”

Hey Jude 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. 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.

It was recorded at Trident Studios, London, on July 29th & 30th, 1968 during sessions for the White Album. Over these two days, the band recorded 25 takes of the song with George Martin on production duties. They used a 36 piece orchestra, members of the orchestra clapped and sang on the fadeout (apart from one), and earned double their normal fee.

Hey Jude was the Beatles longest single at 7 minutes, 11 seconds. And at the time was the longest song ever released as a single and paved the way for longer songs on the radio. George Martin didn’t believe DJs would play a song this long – he was wrong. The “na na na” fadeout on the track takes 4 minutes. The chorus is repeated 19 times.

The song going to be the B-side to Revolution, but it ended up the other way around, pushing Lennon’s Revolution to the other side of the record. This was the first song released on Apple Records, the record label owned by The Beatles.

The A & B sides of Hey Jude

McCartney has played the song at numerous huge occasions, recently at the 2005 Live8 concert in London, the 2005 Super Bowl halftime show and the Olympic opening ceremony in 2012.

The song has been covered by the likes of Richie Havens who played it at Woodstock when he opened the festival in 1969, Elvis, Roberta Flack, Ella Fitzgerald, soul legend Wilson Pickett and even Sesame Street who tweaked the song a little for Hey Food.

The Music

The original 1968 version was recorded in mono, and many listeners much prefer to the stereo reworking from 1970, which is far more overproduced.

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.

Paul played the song to John for the first time on July 26th, 1968…

“I finished it all up in Cavendish 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 said, ‘No, keep it in.’ So of course you love that line twice as much because it’s a little stray, it’s a little mutt that you were about to put down and it was reprieved and so it’s more beautiful than ever. I love those words now”

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