Hey Bulldog

Yellow Submarine album artworkWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 11 February 1968
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Geoff Emerick

Released: 17 January 1969 (UK), 13 January 1969 (US)

John Lennon: vocals, piano, guitar
Paul McCartney: vocals, bass, tambourine
George Harrison: guitar
Ringo Starr: drums

Available on:
Yellow Submarine
Yellow Submarine Songtrack

Released on the soundtrack to the Yellow Submarine animation, Hey Bulldog was written and recorded while The Beatles were being filmed for a promotional film for Lady Madonna.

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The song started life as Hey Bullfrog, based on a few ideas sketched out by John Lennon. The line 'Some kind of solitude is measured out in you' was originally 'measured out in news', but McCartney claimed to have misread Lennon's handwriting.

Paul said we should do a real song in the studio, to save wasting time. Could I whip one off? I had a few words at home so I brought them in.
John Lennon
The Beatles, Hunter Davies

The title came about after McCartney made a barking sound during the session, as he and Lennon ad-libbed during the finale. The Beatles decided to keep the barking in, changing the title to Hey Bulldog to fit.

Hunter Davies also recounted how Lennon originally tried playing a sitar on the track, strumming it like George Formby's ukulele and singing in a Lancashire accent. Although an intriguing proposition, The Beatles were unable to work this into the song.

Musically, the song harks back to the early R&B riffs of songs such as Money (That's What I Want), and retains a similar blues feel as Lady Madonna - the two songs were combined on the Love album.

An animated sequence for Hey Bulldog was made for the Yellow Submarine film, although it was originally included only in European prints.

That's me, 'cause of the Yellow Submarine people, who were gross animals apart from the guy who drew the paintings for the movie. They lifted all the ideas for the movie out of our heads and didn't give us any credit. We had nothing to do with that movie, and we sort of resented them. It was the third movie that we owed United Artists. Brian had set it up and we had nothing to do with it. But I liked the movie, the artwork. They wanted another song, so I knocked off Hey Bulldog. It's a good-sounding record that means nothing.
John Lennon
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

The recording of Hey Bulldog, unusually, was captured by a film crew. As The Beatles were preparing to travel to India, a promotional film for Lady Madonna was commissioned, to be issued in their absence.

The Hey Bulldog animated sequence was restored for the 1999 worldwide re-release of Yellow Submarine. At the same time Apple revisited the original studio footage of The Beatles and synchronised it with the song, to create a new promo clip.

When we were in the studio recording Bulldog, apparently it was at a time when they needed some footage for something else, some other record, and a film crew came along and filmed us. Then they cut up the footage and used some of the shots for something else. But it was Neil Aspinall who found out that when you watched and listened to what the original thing was, we were recording Bulldog. This was apparently the only time we were actually filmed recording something, so what Neil did was, he put it all back together again and put the Bulldog soundtrack onto it, and there it was.
George Harrison

Hey Bulldog was later cited by The Beatles' engineer Geoff Emerick as one of their final true group efforts, with equal contributions from all members. Following their Indian jaunt The Beatles' sense of togetherness began to sour; they tended to work separately, with increasingly frequent disagreements which eventually led to their split.

In the studio

On 11 February The Beatles recorded, completed and mixed Hey Bulldog during a 10-hour session. The basic rhythm tracks consisted of piano, drums, tambourine, lead guitar and bass.

By take 10 they had a good version, and so onto this were overdubbed more drums, fuzz bass, a guitar solo, double tracked lead vocals by Lennon and backing vocals from McCartney.

I remember Hey Bulldog as being one of John's songs and I helped him finish it off in the studio, but it's mainly his vibe. There's a little rap at the end between John and I; we went into a crazy little thing at the end.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

61 responses on “Hey Bulldog

  1. Ron

    I just don’t think John plays that lead. It is very “George,” too fast for John w/ too many articulated notes. He may play the “break” (which is a lot like “Daytripper”) up to the actual lead but I think it’s George after that.

    1. Wurly

      Hang on, I think the lead guitar solo is VERY John: repetitive, brash, simple, yet highly effective. It’s certainly not a very George like solo. As a template compare the Lennon/Harrison (and Macca for that matter) solos in ‘The End’ a year or so later. I’m reclaiming this for John, the ‘invisible’ lead guitarist as he called himself! I believe scholars MacDonald/Lewissohn concur. Change it back!

      1. Joe Post author

        I disagree. I’m pretty sure it was George. If you listen to Lennon’s contribution to The End he wasn’t that good at the intricate stuff – it’s mostly chords (he was the third soloist in the cycle), whereas Harrison and McCartney were far more accomplished.

        Hey Bulldog has a great solo, and I don’t think Lennon was capable of recording it. On Get Back he basically played blues runs, and Honey Pie’s solo was pretty simple (though effective), lasting just four bars.

        I’m trying to think of other Lennon solos. There was You Can’t Do That, which again is mostly chords with some bluesy licks at the end. Slow Down is one of his better efforts though. I know they were done back in 1964, but I don’t think he’d become that good by the time Hey Bulldog was recorded.

        1. Lindsay John Graham

          Listen to the ‘Let It Be…Naked’ Album and you might be surprised at John’s dexterity. He wasn’t as bad as some people give him credit for! Yasdnil.

          1. Rich

            It’s not really “as bad”, it’s just a pretty sweet solo. No one’s taking anything away from John, we’re just looking at this realistically. Style wise, it’s has more of a flashy Paul edge, but it’s most likely George. Or John, who knows, if we were to honestly judge his guitar ability, Plastic Ono Band is the place to go and he doesn’t have any incredible solos, even though his playing on I Found Out and Well Well Well is effective, but repetetive. Hey Bulldog has two well defined parts, although they do feature repetetive variations, which wasn’t really a mark of a Lennon solo, or a McCartney one for that matter, at least not in 1968.

      2. Razor

        John called himself the invisible guitarist, not the invisible lead guitarist. Harrison and Mac were true lead men, John stated that he was just a noise maker when playing the guitar.

        1. grego mac

          Didn’t John play lead on I Want You (She’s so Heavy)?? It seems to me that he could be pretty fluid on the jazzy & bluesy solos,as on Honey Pie. Even George said of John’s solo on Honey Pie that it was Django Reinhartish. Oh, I got ahead of myself. It WAS George who played the lead on Hey Bulldog. Pardon me if I am miss spelling things. I have been listening to The Beatles and drinking Claret.

          1. Vonbontee

            Hm, I remember a friend once claiming that he’d heard it was Django Reinhardt playing the flamenco intro to “Bungalow Bill” – a pretty ludicrous claim, considering that it doesn’t sound a thing like him, and that he’d been dead for years anyways.

              1. Vonbontee

                Well, obviously not – neither my friend nor I actually believed that it was Django. He was just relaying some third-party misinformation that he’d read or heard somewhere. That it was a Mellotron, though, is something that I myself only learned relatively recently (possibly from this very site, if memory serves.) I didn’t realize they were ever used for anything other than strings, brass or woodwinds.

            1. Lindsay John Graham

              Was Django still kicking about then?… I was always under the impression it was yet another marathon rehearsal by George! (Remember a Sitar Solo in 1965?…John never did get to redo the guitar track on ‘Norweigan Wood’ because of it!).

  2. now here man

    John played a pretty fast solo on Long Tall Sally (the first one is John). But I think Bulldog sounds most like Paul. Especially the beginning reminds me of Taxman and Good Morning Good Morning.

    1. BeatleMark

      Wow! I’d forgotten about John’s lead in “Long Tall Sally”! I had to re-listen and yup, that’s him!

      “Hey Bulldog” solo is a hard one to pin-point. I do know that their is footage of them recording this song and George is seen with his Gibson SG. In this video it also shows John playing the SG. Can anyone pin-point the notes John is playing and maybe they match up with the solo? Just a wild idea…

      1. MJW

        If you look at the footage he’s also playing what looks like a Gretsch, which I think is what was used for the solo on the final cut. Although an SG can capture a similar sound, this is definitely an ‘older’ (50′s) kind of sound.

  3. BeatleMark

    OK, this is from Geoff Emerick’s book “Here, There and Everywhere” page 222 describing the recording of “Hey Bulldog”….

    “Paul’s bass line was probably the most inventive of any he’d done since Pepper, and it was really well played. Harrison’s solo was sparkling, too–one of the few times that he nailed it right away. His amp was turned up really loud, and he used one of his new fuzz boxes, which made his guitar absolutely scream.”

    1. Byron

      Thank you for putting this one to rest, BeatleMark. George’s leads always seemed to me the most methodically worked out and carefully played and this one is no exception. That’s not to say it doesn’t have spirit to it, it’s a very exciting solo!

    2. pinkydisco

      I absolutely love that book. One of the greatest books one could read, it’s from their engineer! The amount of information that he recalls is amazing, sometimes I felt like I was there.

  4. McLerristarr

    In the video to Lady Madonna, there is other footage mixed in with Hey Bulldog. A very small snippet of some of that other footage was in the Hey Bulldog clip; it seems really out of place, it was a strange choice.

    Which take of Hey Bulldog was filmed?

    Which take was the first to use barking?

    1. BeatleMark

      Yes, I agree. The first time I heard this song was on the Beatles “Rock and Roll Music Vol. 2″ compilation. I was a wee child dancing in front the mirror with my imaginary guitar to this song. Would have been a great single b side. Maybe replacing “The Inner Light”?

      1. thomas

        I could never possibly remember where I first heard it (either on Yellow Submarine or radio.) You know what they say about the 60s: if you remember it you weren’t there ;-)

        1. Lindsay John Graham

          I was too young to remember it! I was born in 1960! But I do first remember hearing that astounding Riff when I was about 9 or 10 years old. I guess I didn’t fully comprehend the enormity of it, back then… But ‘Hey Bulldog’ is still one of my favourite Beatles Riffs!And I never fail to attack it when I have my Epiphone Accoustic in my hands!

  5. StarrTime

    Yeah this has to be one of the most underrated, or unknown Beatle tracks ever…although that’s probably due to the fact that it’s on Yellow Submarine….and that solo may have been a bit complicated for John, but who knows? I mean he had been playing guitar for over ten years by this time, so it’s definately not impossible to believe he could have played this wonderful solo!

  6. Carps

    We’ve just started covering Hey Bulldog and our guitarist (who is *blinding*) definitely agrees that the solo is way too proficient in the context of anything that Lennon is known to have played elsewhere.

    I had it pegged as McCartney at first because of the similarities with his work on Taxman and Pepper in general, but he’s never one to fail to take credit for anything he’s done so I give it to George.

  7. Alex

    The solo in Bulldog does sound reminiscent of Paul’s Taxman solo. On the other hand it has the precision of a George solo. But on some sites, like the About.com “Oldies” site: http://oldies.about.com/od/thebeatlessongs/a/heybulldog.htm John is credited with the solo.

    I’d guess it’s George, based on how tight the solo is and the range of it, but still it does sound to me like a Paul solo. I think Carps’ comment is right too that if it was Paul he would have probably taken credit for it. someday should ask him about it :)

  8. James

    I believe Paul coached George on what to play on Bulldog and George recorded it.(Never saw that happen before)lol That’s why it sounds so confusing. Gosh I feel like House.
    I read Emericks book on a Mexican cruise.
    It was like being a fly on the wall of abbeyroad studios. Missed most of the cruise. The wife didn’t care though, she dresses up and plays Ringo in my Tribute band

  9. Scott

    this is another topic that I’d like a response to please. Does anyone notice the very faint electronic ring sound at the intro riff? it sounds just like a 90s phone (I noticed this in 1999) and it starts and stops just like a ring!!!
    so i went back to my vinyl copies and it is there too. It seems like one of the things Lennon claims to have buried in the mixes for us to find. or???

  10. George Demake

    I think Hey Bulldog would have been a great double sided single with Lady Madonna. I wondered if they considered this but didn’t want to be their own competition as with SFF/PennyLane.
    Would have been another great double A-sided single for the sake of posterity.

  11. KJA

    It’s definitely John playing the solo. It is in the same style as ‘You Cant o That’ with the heavy vamping in parts and double string parts. George’s solo’s were much less wild and carefully planned.

    1. Vonbontee

      Not sure if it can be “definitely” John, since Emerick says it was George – and he was there, after all! But yeah, his memory can be faulty; and yeah, all those double-stops are very characteristic of John’s soloing style, so who knows?

      Either way, that video is of no help at all, since so much of it is out of context.

    2. julio

      The solo is by George. It is well documented and even Geoff Emmerick (who essentially hates George) says that it was him. Not to mention dare I say it but the Rockband studio scenes also corroborate this (for whatever that is worth). I actually think style is similar to the solo George played on John’s “gimme some truth”. Also the solo is very well constructed and is not wild. It is one of the best solos on a Beatles record. Beautiful, just beautiful!

      1. paulsbass

        Neither Emerick nor Rockband are reliable sources. They tend to get many things right, but some are just wrong.

        As for the solo:
        Especially the part with the high jump is typical for George, since it’s very precise. John probably would have made a slide or whatever.
        So I think it does sound more like George than John.

      2. KJA

        I mean ‘wild’ in the way he tremolo Picks the Octaves at the beginning of the solo. find me another solo where George plays in that Style. John does the same in parts of ‘You Cant Do That’ 3/4 the way through the solo. It’s also mentioned in every revised edition of ‘Revolution In The Head’ John played lead. ‘Gimme Some Truth’ is a slide Guitar solo btw. there is no way of proving it is John but from a players point of view it feels like a Lennon solo to play based on learning most Beatles solos myself..

  12. Gotham Gator

    Lots of comments about the guitar solo (and it is terrific), but very little about Paul’s base line, which is the best part of the song. He does a stunning job with a complex, rapid fire riff that holds the whole thing together.

  13. Tweeze

    Some much yukking over the guitar solo. I tell you, watching John and Paul singing into the same mike kind of brings back a great feeling. Those two relating to each other seemed to always make something right in the world. It is also worthwhile to note that John gets disparaged a lot about his latter laziness in the studio, Paul always treated John as essential and would drop back from his lording-over the proceedings to give John his head. After the breakup, of note, Paul was always the king of the studio and got along fine as long as his will reigned.

  14. Mean_Mr_Mustard

    James – RE: McCartney coaching Harrison on what to play on this. That is absolutely ludicrous. One of the best Beatles solos, hands down. I believe Harrison played it. And Lennon was perfectly capable of nailing this as well. All this `it doesn’t sound like George…’ and
    `John couldn’t play this…’ talk is just silly.

  15. Dr. Robert

    Harrison for sure. Although stylistically somewhat Lennonesque it is too technically proficient. As for Paul – a fine guitarist in his own right but not quite on the same level as George who had the virtuoso chops to play any style – check out The End, Old Brown Shoe, I Me Mine etc. GH wasn’t particularly fast but was exceptionally innovative. In any event – great sound from all 4 lads!

  16. Chayan

    Personnel :
    John Lennon – double-tracked
    vocal , piano, rhythm guitar, talking.

    Paul McCartney – harmony vocal ,
    bass , fuzz bass, tambourine, barks.

    George Harrison – lead guitar.

    Ringo Starr – drums, spoken vocal.

    Personnel per Geoff Emerick..!!
    Beautiful song indeed.. :)

  17. lanceloz

    Paul’s bass line is truly amazing here. It looks like he is so comfortable with it that he never really plays twice the same riff or line exactly. He is a true musician in this sense as it sounds so effortless. Then the bass line drives the song like nothing else.

    Generally, I think also that a lot of the success of the Beatles is due to the bass lines of the songs. They are so innovative and melodic that they add a new dimension/layer to them. It renders them amazing as you can choose once to listen to the voice, and a another time to the bass line. For instance Penny Lane or Your Mother Should Know are good examples of songs where you can listen to the bass as an independant melody.

    After all these years, I remain dumbfounded at the pure talent and energy of these boys.

    1. Soweto

      Meaning no disrespect, but just because you say it was Lennon with such certainty does not mean that everyone is going to share your viewpoint. A clear majority of the comments here are enough to prove that. No one can help it if you believe it was Lennon, but at this point it is pretty clear to me that simply claiming one member as the lead guitarist on this song is never going to add anything to this word exchange that has not already been claimed by someone else.

      P.S. I like your verson of the song.

  18. Alex Wing

    The engineer on the session (Geoff Emerick) remembers it was George’s solo for two very specific reasons. According to Emerick, it was one of the rare times Harrison got the solo down quickly. He writes: “Harrison’s solo was sparkling, too–one of the few times that he nailed it right away.” That’s one thing that makes it “memorable”. The second memorable thing is that Harrison’s amp was turned way up and he was using a new fuzz box. “His amp was turned up really loud, and he used one of his new fuzz boxes, which made his guitar absolutely scream.” That means it was, for the engineer, something HE had to deal with, something he had to take into account, something he’d have to be careful about (ie. the levels). The solo would be ABSOLUTELY memorable for the engineer. So, it’s no surprise the engineer remembered it.

    Paul, George and John had been playing together since they were teens. There’s absolutely no doubt they influenced each other. Paul speaks of he and George being able to play the lead in “And Your Bird Can Sing” in unison. There was no need to double track. Not only is a complex, unison lead difficult to do, it speaks of the musical knowledge each had of the other, of hours of practice together. In a very real sense, they were like musical “family”. It’s no surprise, then, that they sometimes sound alike, though all three also have their own characteristics. It’s understandable that there might be questions about whose solo it was, BUT in order for it to have been by anyone other than George, Emerick would have to have misremembered something clearly memorable for an engineer. AND we’d have to believe the opinions of writers on this forum not one of whom was anywhere near that studio at the time “Hey Bulldog” was recorded. To put it mildly, there’s no good reason to believe someone who THINKS it was John or Paul rather than a man who engineered the recording session.

    You can argue all you want, because it’s amusing, but George Harrison played that solo. It sounds like him, It’s organized like one of his solos. It’s melodic and precise as his solos are. Geoff Emerick saw him do it. And neither Paul nor John has ever suggested it was theirs. Better to talk about Paul’s bass playing, which is fantastic.

    1. Happy Nat

      The guitar solo debate: Tony Bramwell (who was there shooting the film coverage for the video which ended up used for Lady Madonna – ref: John C. Winn’s That Magic Feeling) recalls it as John Lennon. Geoff Emerick (who was also there as sound engineer) recalls it as George (Geoff’s Here, There and Everywhere book). The solo is very much in the style of John. In the video we actually see John playing lead and this video was from the actual session. That clinches it for me.

      Four track breakdown: George plays rhythm and the fuzzy main guitar riffs on the backing track along with John’s piano and RIngo on drums. The second track has Paul’s bass and George doubling the main riff on a fuzzed guitar. The third track was John and Paul’s vocals with Paul shaking a tambourine. The fourth track were the final overdubs including the guitar solo which again I am convinced is John.

        1. Douglas

          Yeah was gonna say that, George played the solo, but it was written by Lennon, you can see John showing it to George, George played a John-written solo

  19. paskuniag

    The video for this song is my favorite, one-off video, not connected to a movie. The piano pulls you in, then the guitar duets with the keyboard on the intro, and off the song goes. BTW, you can see a rare shot of George playing the lead on his Gibson SG, which he soon gave away to one of the members of Badfinger. It wound up being auctioned off a decade or so ago.
    What’s odd is, as George mentioned, they needed to make a video for “Lady Madonna”, which they did. But if you look closely, you’ll notice that a lot of the video clips came from “Hey Bulldog”. For one, it has the same shots of George playing his SG. As this article mentions, Beatle assistant Neil Aspinall re-assembled the HB video then dubbed the song onto the soundtrack. Thanks, Neil, and RIP.

  20. metzgermeister77

    Are my ears deceiving me, or are the solos on the stereo and mono mixes different takes? The mono one sounds a lot more sloppy to me. Is it possible John wrote the solo and played it for mono, but wasn’t satisfied with the outcome and had George play it on the stereo mix?

  21. Doug Pitts

    If only the 2009 remasters were as good as the remixing and remastering of the Songtrack version of YS and the “1″ album! These 2 sound much better than the 2009s. Hey Bulldog in particular sounds far better than the original, jarring hard-panned version, which sounds cobbled together. On Songtrack, it actually sounds like a group playing.

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