Hello, Goodbye

Hello, Goodbye single - United KingdomWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 2, 19, 25 October, 2 November 1967
Producer: George Martin
Engineers: Ken Scott, Geoff Emerick

Released: 24 November 1967 (UK), 27 November 1967 (US)

Paul McCartney: vocals, bass, piano, bongos, conga
John Lennon: backing vocals, lead guitar, organ
George Harrison: backing vocals, lead guitar
Ringo Starr: drums, maracas, tambourine
Kenneth Essex, Leo Birnbaum: violas

Available on:
Magical Mystery Tour
Anthology 2

Hello, Goodbye - The Beatles' final single of 1967, their annus mirabilis - was their first release after the death of Brian Epstein. It was backed with I Am The Walrus, to the displeasure of John Lennon, who considered his song to be the superior of the two.

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Lennon later dismissed Hello, Goodbye as "three minutes of contradictions and meaningless juxtapositions". The song had its genesis at Paul McCartney's house in Cavendish Avenue, London.

According to Alistair Taylor - Epstein's former personal assistant and later the general manager of Apple Corps - McCartney first got the idea for Hello, Goodbye at his home in Cavendish Avenue, London, after Taylor asked him how he wrote songs.

Paul marched me into the dining room, where he had a marvellous old hand-carved harmonium. 'Come and site at the other end of the harmonium. You hit any note you like on the keyboard. Just hit it and I'll do the same. Now whenever I shout out a word, you shout the opposite and I'll make up a tune. You watch, it'll make music'...

'Black,' he started. 'White,' I replied. 'Yes.' 'No.' 'Good.' 'Bad.' Hello.' 'Goodbye.'

I wonder whether Paul really made up that song as he went along or whether it was running through his head already.

Alistair Taylor

The song's simplicity, much like previous single All You Need Is Love, was tailored to be understood by an international audience. Its childlike lyrics chimed with the times, perhaps a side-effect of the regressive spirit of LSD.

Hello, Goodbye was one of my songs. There are Geminian influences here I think: the twins. It's such a deep theme in the universe, duality - man woman, black white, ebony ivory, high low, right wrong, up down, hello goodbye - that it was a very easy song to write. It's just a song of duality, with me advocating the more positive. You say goodbye, I say hello. You say stop, I say go. I was advocating the more positive side of the duality, and I still do to this day.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

In the studio

The Beatles began recording Hello, Goodbye on 2 October 1967, under the working title Hello Hello. They recorded 14 takes of the backing track - piano, organ, drums and other percussion instruments including bongos, congas, maracas and tambourine.

That's another McCartney. Smells a mile away, doesn't it? An attempt to write a single. It wasn't a great piece; the best bit was the end, which we all ad-libbed in the studio, where I played the piano. Like one of my favourite bits on Ticket To Ride, where we just threw something in at the end.
John Lennon
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

They returned to it a little over a fortnight later. On 19 October two guitar parts were added, as were McCartney's occasionally double tracked lead vocals, and Harrison and Lennon's backing vocals.

The following day two violas were added. George Martin scored the instruments, based on notes suggested by McCartney at the piano.

All of The Beatles were there. One of them was sitting on the floor in what looked like a pyjama suit, drawing with crayons on a piece of paper.
Ken Essex, violist
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

McCartney added his first bass part on 25 October, and added another on 2 November - at which point the song was complete.

From the recording aspect I remember the end bit where there's the pause and it goes 'Heba, heba hello'. We had those words and we had this whole thing recorded but it didn't sound quite right, and I remember asking Geoff Emerick if we could really whack up the echo on the tom-toms. And we put this echo full up on the tom-toms and it just came alive. We Phil Spector'd it. And I noticed that this morning and I said to Linda, 'Wait! Full echo on the toms, here we go!' And they came in quite deep, like a precursor to Adam and the Ants.
Paul McCartney, 1988
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

30 responses on “Hello, Goodbye

  1. Von Bontee

    Paul didn’t think this song through – he ran out of antonyms ending with the long “O”-sound and had to resort to the inconsistent “why/I don’t know” couplet. If he’d given it ten minutes of thought, he might’ve come up with any of these perfectly satisfactory pairings:

    “You say buck/I say doe”
    “You say friend/I say foe”
    “You say reap/I say sow”
    “You say to/I say fro”
    “You say shrink/I say grow”

    and my favourite:

    “You say suck/I say blow!”

    (Still an enjoyable song, but the lyrics are surely the worst thing about it.)

    1. George Demake

      Certainly not Paul’s best, but I really like the charging guitars on top of the violas in the right channel during the during the first “Hello hello” section. Has a bit of a Sgt. Pepper groove to it.

  2. JR

    Like most everything McCartney, lines like “You say why/I say I don’t know” work anyway. I was never a big fan of this song for a long time, now so many years later I like it a lot more, it’s well arranged for one thing.

  3. Bozo the Caucasian Artichoke

    I can’t stand the double violas — they are SO GOOD!!! They are all on one side of the mix, so put the balance all to one side and prepare to adore! I listen to them over and over again.

  4. thomas

    Think I have to go with Paul’s lyrics :) Rewriting Beatles songs seems academic; besides, the flip side more than compensates for lyrics fans with Lennon’s Walrus. Anyway the lyrics don’t really matter here (about which Paul said: “It’s a song about everything and nothing. If you have black you have to have white…”)

    As a song Hello Goodbye is about the melody. It’s a masterpiece of the upbeat pop and wonderful melodic compositions Paul was a genius at. I especially like Ringo’s fills and syncopations. Excellent creative drumming that’s both complex and melodic. Very enjoyable and this type of melodic song is a major reason the Beatles had so many No. one hits. The distinct coda ending is unique and powerful.

  5. Jon S

    Hello Goodbye is brilliant! Paul at his very best. The cord progression, the vocals the unmistakable melody. The way he used major and minor cords switching back and forth and then back again. He did the same with Penny Lane and Michele. Some people say Beatle songs were so simple, if they were so simple then why isn’t everyone writing so many hits? It’s McCartney’s utter genius that’s why.

    1. ForgetScowl

      Simple in a direct, solid way. Their melodies are the infrastructure which encouraged the inspired instrumentation, arrangement & production/sound engineering to push the bar into a historical benchmark. You’ve got to have a strong & simple melody but without it, you don’t have much of a song, right?

    2. Mickie

      Paul seems to be a perfect writer of simple, childlike songs. I mean, look at All Together Now. That was my favorite Beatles song growing up. It’s the very first song I ever heard of the Beatles. I do like Hello, Goodbye, but I think I am the Walrus was better, in my opinion. Maybe not in the public’s eye, but in mine.

  6. MacFan

    Great art is simple. Besides he wrote for the international consumption. Everyone knows Hello / Goodbye, Stop / Go, Yes / No etc. I say buck / you say doe????? For Pete’s sake. That’s why you’re not arguably the greatest songwriter of 20th century. While we’re at it, didn’t Lennon always whined about wanting to get back to the basics of R&R? Yeah, ‘I’m the eggman, I’m the walrus’ is really music for the masses. I take the do-do-do, da-da-da of Paul anyday.

    1. Joseph Brush

      While we’re at it, Lennon didn’t always “whine” about wanting to return to the basics of R&R. Actually Walrus was the last acid song Lennon wrote,.

  7. Beatlenut

    I have to say, ‘Hello, Goodbye’ was never one of my favorite Beatles songs. It has a good melody and arrangements, but it just never struck me as being novel or interesting, compared to their other singles. Can’t say I liked the violas either.

  8. John L

    In spite of the quote from Lewisohn in which Paul speaks of them singing, “heba, heba hello,” in the coda, my ears tell me I’m hearing them sing, “Hey la, heba hello.” And at 3:10-3:11 Paul sings over the background what seems to me to be “Hey-la,” which would fit with that. Here is a link to a video on YouTube with the vocals alone. What does it sound like to you who read this?

  9. FrankDialogue

    I have to agree with Johnny on this one: It ‘smells a mile away’.

    Certainly no comparison with ‘I Am the Walrus’.

    Funny though I remember that when this single came out, ‘Walrus’ got an awful lot of commercial radio airplay too.

    1. Mickie

      John L, I always heard that, too. I think “Hey la, hey la, hello” would sound better. That part of the song would always bother me. Frank, I think you’re absolutely right. No comparison.

  10. paskuniag

    I remember playing my friend’s copy of this 45 right after he bought it. And- as usual- I turned it over to listen to the flip side. Forty-plus years later, it’s become another single with the better song on the B-side. I remember reading a story about how Mark Lindsay and Terry Melcher, the Raiders’ producer, listened to “Walrus”, then Terry saying “What the (BLEEP) do we do now?” All of a sudden, the pop music world got a whole new dimension.

  11. John Wilkinson

    When this came out I was delivering the daily papers along Wimpole Street. The Asher’s were one of my customers. I would always learn the latest Beatles single and whistle it loudly as I pushed the paper through the letter-box. My hope was that Paul was there and would feel good that the paper boy had picked up the melody a day after the first radio plays. ‘Hello Goodbye’ was an easy song to ‘catch’

    A good while later, in sadder times I sat on my trade-bike outside the same house, holding the Sunday papers that contained the headlines stating that ‘Jane Asher’s father had committed suicide in the basement of the family home’. I was wondering whether it would be better to tactfully lose this week’s edition rather than them have to face reading it.

    In the end I decided once I’d pushed them through to drop on the hall mat they could make that decision for themselves.

    1. Bungalow Bob

      John, this is a very powerful snippet of what must be a longer, riveting story. Thank you for sharing it. I had never heard of Jane Asher’s father tragically commiting suicide in their home, which is an eerie subtext to the song “Hello, Goodbye.” You probably have other pertinent observations, and I hope you post them on this site.

  12. Billy Shears

    I never quite got this one. Musically it is interesting, but the lyrics seem contrived. Some folks state that is the reason why it is a great song . I think that Lennon can get away with semantic gymnastics, but Paul doesn’t pull this one off for me. It seems that it is a partial song with the rest just looped until it changes at the ending. almost a filler tune. – it’s no Penny Lane.

  13. Up the Field

    It was a song with upbeat momentum, about making something out of nothing. So long Elvis, Buddy Holly, John Kennedy, Cold War, the Fifties, Vietnam. Hello the Sixties. young people, electric guitar, different lifestyles, different politics, new reinterpretations. It echoed the times. Something new was happening. The beginning of something new..

    I was reading Fred Hoyle’s history about theories of the solar system. Galileo fit right in.

    The guitar riffs hooked me. ‘I say hello’ and the guitar riff begins. Strong electric guitar momentum that just takes off. The lead guitar leads the rest. The lyrics fill in and the organ layers onto the guitar. The drum fills in between riffs and keeps the momentum going.

  14. Stan Ploar

    Looking back fifty years later it’s one of my favorite Beatles’ tunes. Don’t know why. I can’t stand some of Paul’s songs after all these years, like “Hey Jude”, “Yesterday”, and “Let it Be” but I really like this one.

  15. SouthofReality

    I like it well enough but it’s no “Walrus”. It’s also an example of something that really became annoying with Paul in his solo career: Nonsense songs immaculately produced. See “Let ‘em In”.

  16. Gregory J. Orme

    “I don’t know why you say goodbye, I say hello” sounds vocally as much like Lennon as it does McCartney, in sharp contrast to McCartney solo work, where his vocal idiosyncrasies threaten to overtake the song. The song has a good arrangement, including the vocal arrangement, plus nice work by Starr and Harrison. In all, enough sonic complexity to make one forgive a simple lyric. The “flip” was an amazing piece, and along with “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “A Day in the Life,” cemented Lennon’s reputation as a captivating lyricist. Having both songs available is what set The Beatles apart from the wannabes. There was the instantly accessible A side paired with a powerful B side that I have never tired of.

  17. Dana

    To people who take this song seriously, Hello Goodbye will never be a great one. It may be an extended whismical afterthought, but it captured the spirit of the times in a winning way. It may make a difference when you first heard it — I was seven and it was easy to sing and understand. Mostly it was fun. Walrus was an embarrassment.

  18. manteau

    Paul had always been the showbiz beatle, Hello goodbye is one of my least favorite beatles songs, trouble is, along with “till there was you”, “Hold me tight”, “yesterday”, “when I’m 64″ and “Maxwell’s silver hammer”, all of them by Paul. The older I get, the more I feel Paul’s beatle work shallow. Obviously, “Walrus” has stood the test of time and “Hello goodbye” hasn’t. a pretty face may last a year or two!

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