Hey Jude

In the studio

The Beatles started recording Hey Jude on 29 July 1968. That first session was more of a rehearsal than a proper session: The Beatles knew it would be their next single, and dedicated the time to perfecting the arrangement.

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Paul McCartney sang and played piano, John Lennon was on acoustic guitar, George Harrison played electric guitar and Ringo Starr was on drums. They recorded six takes, only three of which were complete, and each notably shorter than the final version. One of these was later released on Anthology 3.

On Hey Jude, when we first sat down and I sang ‘Hey Jude…’, George went ‘nanu nanu’ on his guitar. I continued, ‘Don’t make it bad…’ and he replied ‘nanu nanu’. He was answering every line – and I said, ‘Whoa! Wait a minute, now. I don’t think we want that. Maybe you’d come in with answering lines later. For now I think I should start it simply first.’ He was going, ‘Oh yeah, OK, fine, fine.’ But it was getting a bit like that. He wasn’t into what I was saying…

I did want to insist that there shouldn’t be an answering guitar phrase in Hey Jude – and that was important to me – but of course if you tell a guitarist that, and he’s not as keen on the idea as you are, it looks as if you’re knocking him out of the picture. I think George felt that: it was like, ‘Since when are you going to tell me what to play? I’m in The Beatles too.’ So I can see his point of view.

Paul McCartney
Anthology

The next evening The Beatles continued working on the track, recording takes 7-23. George Harrison didn’t perform, so waited in the studio control room. The session was filmed for a documentary by the National Music Council of Great Britain, who captured the group playing and chatting for a short colour film called Music!

At the end of the session George Martin made a rough mix of the song, in order to score it for the orchestra that was booked for 1 August.

Hey Jude has become a classic. It felt good recording it. We put it down a couple of times – trying to get it right – and, like everything else, it just clicked. That’s how it should be.
Ringo Starr
Anthology

On 31 July The Beatles decamped to Trident, a studio in London’s Wardour Street, which had eight-track recording facilities. They began re-recording Hey Jude, laying down four takes of the song’s rhythm track.

There is an amusing story about recording it. We were at Trident Studios in Soho, and 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. So I think when those things happen, you have a little laugh and a light bulb goes off in your head and you think, This is the take! And you put a little more into it. You think, oh, fuck! This has got to be the take, what just happened was so magic! So we did that and we made a pretty good record.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

The song was completed the next day. McCartney added his bass and lead vocals, and the other Beatles contributed backing vocals. Then the 36-strong orchestra added backing for Hey Jude’s lengthy four-chord coda The classical musicians were also offered a double fee for clapping and singing along to the ‘nah nah nah’ chant.

Most of the musicians were happy to oblige, especially as it meant a doubled fee, but there was one dissenter who reportedly walked out, saying “I’m not going to clap my hands and sing Paul McCartney’s bloody song!”
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions
Mark Lewisohn

Hey Jude contains an unedited expletive, which is often played by radio stations to this day. In the final verse, John Lennon sang “Let her into” instead of “Let her under your skin”. His cry of “Oh!”, followed by “Fucking hell”, remains in the final mix.

I was told about it at the time but could never hear it. But once I had it pointed out I can’t miss it now. I have a sneaking suspicion they knew all along, as it was a track that should have been pulled out in the mix. I would imagine it was one of those things that happened – it was a mistake, they listened to it and thought, ‘doesn’t matter, it’s fine’.
Ken Scott, engineer
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

66 responses on “Hey Jude

  1. Andrew Leonard

    It might be their most commercially successful single but not their best seller. That is I Want To Hold Your Hand. See Wikipedia, Beatles.com or any list of world top selling singles.

    1. Joe Post author

      Hi Mark. On page two of this article I mentioned that:

      “Hey Jude contains an unedited expletive, which is often played by radio stations to this day. In the final verse, John Lennon sang “Let her into” instead of “Let her under your skin”. His cry of “Oh!”, followed by “Fucking hell”, remains in the final mix.”

      Was it a wrong chord or a wrong lyric? I can’t make out the words “wrong chord”, but listening to it again, I’m not convinced he gets the lyrics wrong either.

      1. Niemand

        My understanding is that it is Paul McCartney who utters the expletive because he got the piano part wrong. Because John was regarded as the “rebel” he was rather amused by this and asked the engineers to leave it in. However, they mixed it very low and you can hear it only if you listen closely. Wikipedia says that Paul says “Hit the wrong chord!” before he utters the expletive. The cited source for its information is Geoff Emerick in 2006, one of the audio engineers present during the recording. I think this should be researched because this site is the first time I’ve read that it was John who said it.

        1. Paolo

          The swearword doesn’t seem to belong to the vocal track actually. More probably was captured by the mics during the recordings of the instrumental parts.

    1. Joe Post author

      Not true – he’s there, playing his Telecaster, though it’s only a minor part. You can hear him between 1’23 and 1’28, and playing subsequent fills, though his pride was hurt when McCartney told him not to play the answering lines in the verses. That’s why he took a back seat during rehearsals on 30 July (he was in the control room with George Martin while the other three worked on the song), and only played a small role in the recording.

  2. Von Bontee

    George really should’ve been given an extended solo so he could wail away with Paul for the last two minutes or so of the track. I’m thinking of something like the solo on the Velvet Underground’s “Oh, Sweet Nothin’” – or, closer to home, Clapton’s gently weeping solo. That would’ve fit nicely, and George really could’ve used the ego boost. As it is, it really does get a bit tedious, but I guess Paul didn’t think so, since he had the full structurea all mapped out beforehand.

    1. Deadman

      George did give himself the opportunity to “wail away” on the extended fade-out of the not completely dissimilar Isn’t It a Pity (which, coincidentally, is just a couple of seconds longer than Hey Jude).

      1. Von Bontee

        Yeah, that’s a good comparison, but George was certainly entitled to indulge himself on his own album! My point is that it would’ve been a nice gesture if Paul had been less control-freaky and devised some way of allowing George to make some kind of notable contribution. Even if there was no room for a lead guitar at all in the arrangement, George was certainly capable of handling the bass guitar duty while Paul stuck to piano, if Paul had thought to ask.

        1. Jake

          I think George did play bass guitar. They talk about the right handed 6 six string fender bass in the studio on the Anthology. George also mentions in interviews that he played bass for some Paul songs. Also, on the Hey Jude Video It looks to me George is playing that big Bass. I haven’t listen closely to hear bass on the record. Is there?

    2. Rocky

      This would have been amazing! I would have loved for that to happen, George really deserved a larger part in that song. However, as I listened to the song the other day, I realized something fantastic: George is leading the Na-Na’s. I’m sure of it, it’s definitely his voice. I love that. It made the song even better, it really did just knowing that George has a larger part.

    1. Giovi

      OMFG. I speak portuguese, and I never noticed this, but now, I listened it again, and I noticed it too. It’s SO weird. Maybe it’s just a bunch of indecipherable words in english, we listen to it and it seems something that our mind assimilates to a word we know.

    2. Deadman

      At 5:37 Paul says, “The pain won’t come back Jude.” In English (which is far more likely to be uttered by an English singer) this means “the pain won’t come back, Jude.”

        1. brian

          Paul does seem at times to have been too bossy in the studio but I think the writer of a song does have the right to final say as to how it should be done. Axing the answering back guitar idea was a good one.

          1. Vonbontee

            Yeah, that answering wouldn’t have worked well at all in the verses. I still think it would’ve worked really nicely during the final minutes, though, right to the fade-out. It’s a free-for-all, Paul’s testifying, George joins in – it’d be just like what George and Eric Clapton did during the “…Gently Weeps” fade, except the mood is celebratory rather than mournful. (Think of George’s Leslie-speaker soloing in “Let It Be” – that’s very close to the sound I’m thinking about.)

          2. Tobias Talock

            Well, someone had to fill the leadership void left by Lennon, and Paul was the better equipped to do it. A group without a leader or moderator gets nothing accomplished.

            I also agree with you in that the writer of a song should get the final word. I mean, no one could have talked George out of all the sitars.

  3. Joel A Jacobson

    If you watch the video of the david frost show. I think it’s pretty clear, George is playing 6 string Fender Bass. Now, thats probably not the released recorded version of the song, But we now know that Paul played alot of lead guitar, Drums, both George and John played Bass on some records.

  4. Schminking of gin

    I’ve never heard Paul comment on John’s belief that the song was written about him, though I know Paul has always insisted its about Julian. But looking at the lyrics, the song makes a lot more sense being about John, talking about movements and “go out and get her” and “remember to let her into your heart.” Doesn’t make much sense as a message to a 6 year old boy.

    I always think of John anyway when I hear this

    1. brian

      I see it as Paul speaking to both Julian and John. The “sad song” being the parting of Julian’s parents… “anytime you feel the pain” are more comforting words to him from Paul. Then it sounds like Paul turns to focus his attention toward his long-time friend John with the all too obvious “you were made to go out and get her” and other lines on Lennon’s quickly blossoming relationship with Yoko.

      1. Jake

        Pauls inspiration and creativity is much different than Johns. Take “Martha My Dear” & “Jet” both songs about his dogs! But not really about his dogs. Maybe a line or two and then he just goes off the reservation. So, Hey Jude could start out about Julian, then about John, maybe even his girl friend Franny Schwartz. (Which she says in her book)

  5. Tweeze

    As I understand it, Ringo had essentially just returned from his self-imposed exile from the Beatles in time to film the David Frost show. Ringo has made what I think is a peculiar comment about “Hey Jude” that always made me wonder what his thinking is. I can’t be verbatim right now, but he has stated that he has no interest in playing ‘Hey Jude” again because he has already played it once. I find this odd because in concert Ringo is found playing a number of songs that he has already played dozens of times. Why is he hostile toward “Hey Jude”? My belief is that it stems from some grudge he’d had with Paul, a frequent afterhours studioholic, coming in and redubbing some of Ringo’s drumming. Of course, this song being manifested during the legnedary “White Album” period where Paul was overbearing in the studio and would frequently forsake the group concept to cover all instruments on his own if he could get away with it. Any other ideas?

    1. JP

      You know, I read the same thing (though not specifying which song) that claimed Paul had overdubbed drum on a song in ’68 and Ringo had to pretend that he did not notice during the playback the following day. I think it was a Peter Brown book. Not sure. I commented about it somewhere, and was responded to by someone with an emphatic “never happened.” No details, so who knows. Obviously, it is a rumour at least, perhaps the reason Starr walked out. If true, I don’t blame him at all.

    2. Jake

      Paul was already “overbearing”. The White Album became every man for himself. 3 separate camps. My guess is Ringo was the odd man out. He was probably treated like one of the EMI staff. Think about this, only 2 months later, Paul pulled them altogher to do the Let it Be project…Being filmed in the studio. It turned out badly, but the music was great! John & Paul worked together/sang together on the music and it was George who walked out. John’s advice was to get Eric Clapton to take his place.

  6. Bronx Boy Billy

    I used to think the long fade out was cool
    (as a rebellious idea) but now it’s kinda tiring having to listen all the way through. This song should have been 4:30.

    1. Jake

      In hindsight, george should have got the guitar solo on Hey Jude instead of the long fade out. But, Paul gave George the solo on Let It Be and it wasn’t very good. George knew enough to re-do the solo for the album version. The Lads wanted to stop touring. Paul didn’t. Paul took advantage of all the studio time to create great music. Paul was the Beatles from Revolver to Abbey Road. Maybe even from mid – 1965.

  7. GeorgeTSimpson

    It was paul on bass but it should have been George, then it would have been more of a group performance (george’s instrumental part is so small)

    1. Joao Querido

      In speaking of performance, I really enjoy Ringo’s solid drumming on “Hey Jude”. The fills are precisely placed for Paul’s possibly best vocal of his life. However, why at that point was he putting the towels all over the drum-skins? I prefer the “Sgt. Pepper’s” drum sound. “Abbey Road”, it seems Ringo ended the towel experiment.

      1. Joe Post author

        I love his Hey Jude drumming too, apart from one little bit – the CLANG CLANG CLANG on the bell of a cymbal when he begins drumming. Sure, it’s a classic fill, but those three notes really grate my ears.

        1. Joao Querido

          Yes. Even the cymbals in “Hey Jude” sound like cheap cymbals you’d give a little child with his first kit.
          I love the famous Ringo open high-hat “swooshing” sound, i.e “Happy just to dance w/ you”
          I guess the lesson is: If you’re drumming in “The Beatles”, & Geoff Emerick is your engineer along with George Martin producing- you let them worry about the sound of your drums.

  8. Fan

    Here is what I think: One of the great things about McCartney’s songwriting is that he jumps POVs so to speak. A song can start in one point then transition to another. Paul writes indirectly about things, could be influence of old songwriters like Cole Porter or his personal temperament. I think Hey Jude could be read as a song about Julian, John and Paul himself. John was a big brother / father figure to Paul; their relationship has all the hallmarks. So Paul is losing his father figure too and like a scared child in the dark, he is singing to himself: Hey Paul, don’t be afraid, etc.

  9. BILLY SHEARS

    This should have been on the “White album”. It could have replaced “Wild Honey Pie”, “Why don’t we do it in the road” and perhaps one other. Great tune that captures a time period much like “Atlantis” by Donovan with the chanting, repeating chorus. (Harrison also uses it on “Isn’t it a pity” where if I listen closely I can hear the “…na, na, na hey Jude” at the end.) Not sure if I buy the Julian Lennon story. I see many drug references in the song “Let it out and let it in” – the common term for a “Rush” for needle users and “Any time you feel the pain, hey Jude refrain” another words – do it again. To state the obvious, drugs were part of the daily diet of the Beatles at the time of the recording. My issue is that once I have been exposed to the drug references in their songs, I may have become tainted and find things that aren’t there.

    1. Joe Post author

      I think you’re way off the mark. The Beatles never injected heroin, so I think it’s a wild leap of the imagination to assume they’d drop references to intravenous use into one of their biggest hits. It’s a song about Julian Lennon.

      1. BILLY SHEARS

        Joe, I really want to believe that it is about Julian but the words just don’t work for me. Julian was a little kid at the time and the advice given doesn’t make sense. John did have a heroin issue. “Cold Turkey” is about his painful and gut-wrenching withdrawl. The confusion on my part is this: Paul sings the song but there is no evidence that he did heroin – but the words of advice to a young boy don’t give any concrete direction. The “Let her under your skin” verse is confusing to me. The Beatles were generally clever about their drug references such as “Got to get you into my life” being about Paul’s new found interest in pot. I would never have guessed that. I am skeptical when it comes to veiled references and clever word choices in their songs.
        On another note: I really like this web-site. Joe you do a great job.

        1. David

          I think that many of us don’t take into consideration that, though a song was inspired and build around a specific thought or action, it doesn’t mean the entire song must be wrapped around that one subject. However, this song is very clearly about Julian Lennon.

          I do not wish to argue, but just point out that this is by far the most valid point of this song. Paul McCartney himself said that he thought of the song on his way to visit Julian, and then played it later for John. The lyrics explain themselves.”Let her under your skin” is talking about Yoko. He is just telling Julian to accept her into his life. However, John feels that part of that verse is about him. The line “You were made to go out and get her” is the one that made him feel as thought the song was talking about John, in a reference to his love with Yoko. Billy, you said it was a reference to heroin, but John Lennon was the one who was on heroin. I quote:

          “Hey Jude is a damn good set of lyrics an d I made no contribution to that.”

          If John made no contribution to the lyrics, it wouldn’t make sense for it to be about heroin at all.

          The reason Joe says these songs are about what they are, is because the Beatles said that’s what they’re about. I must say, the best source of information would be the lads themselves. You’re very knowledgable about The Beatles, Billy, but I think you’re looking to hard for the lyrics to mean something, when sometimes they’re exactly as they say.

          Cheers to such a great band, song, and website!

          1. BILLY SHEARS

            Thanks Joe and David. perhaps I am looking too hard. It is a great song that pretty much stands as “THE” iconic song of the tumultuous year – 1968. I can hear it replacing “Revolution 1″ and “Honey Pie” at the start of side 4 of the White album. ( I like the single released version of “Revolution” better than that one). It would have added an additional punch to the disc without sacrificing much. Check out the You tube video of “Hey Jude”. It is truly a time capsule worth stepping into.

          2. robert

            Actually all the points can be true. Hey Jude was inspired and written for Julian but as the song evolved in it’s writing it became more about Julian’s father – John. This is why John felt lyrics were aimed at him – they very likely were. John was doing heroin – and though he denied shooting it – that is pretty much discounted as lie – he and Yoko did shoot heroin – John was trying to manage his image by denying it. Since Paul is singing to Jude – it alternates with Jude sometimes being Julian and sometimes being John. A very common literary technique

            1. Joe Post author

              Are you sure they shot heroin in 1968/9? I know they denied it, and may well have done in the 1970s, but wasn’t aware they were doing so in this time. Can you help me out with some sources?

              1. BILLY SHEARS

                Joe, I searched the internet (which is always questionable ) and found many references relating to John’s drug use. I don’t believe much of what I read, but sometimes the truth stumbles to the surface. The Beatles were clever at cultivating their image. They were not always truthful, and to always believe their own words, while although tempting, may be a little too much. For example, I think that they were fully involved and aware of all the PID clues. It was a fabulous marketing ploy that still resonates today. (If the PID rumors are true, it does explain Wings).
                I found the site listed here depressing and interesting at the same time. I don’t know the validity of the info, but is remains curious.

              2. Joe Post author

                Thanks. I don’t want this to go way off-topic, because it’s a page about Hey Jude. But I will say that I doubt Lennon was on heroin in 1966 – he lied and exaggerated a lot in that Rolling Stone interview, and also later said (1980, Playboy) that he hadn’t seen the drug at that time. It was some months later that Robert Fraser brought it into their circle. I wrote a feature on The Beatles and drugs – please post further comments on that page.

              3. robert

                Well, we all know they were doing heroin in 68/69 – the only question is when did they start shooting. And since it’s widely believed that John and Yoko lied about shooting heroin – the only question is when did they start lying about shooting it. And no, I am not aware of any direct evidence of this claim – it is that – a claim.

                To me given their behavior, the way they looked, the depth of their addiction, the decay in John’s writing, by 69 John and Yoko looked way more like they were shooting heroin rather than just “sniffing it when they were in real pain”. That’s a typical John cop-out kind of line because he didn’t want to come off looking like a heroin junkie – but he was.

                To me, given all the circumstantial evidence, I don’t think it’s an unreasonable (yet unsubstantiated) conclusion that John and Yoko were shooting heroin in 68 and that the line in Hey Jude (let it out and let it in) is referencing that act.

                To me the assumption that they weren’t is less credible.

              4. Stevo

                They were pretty rich junkies, I believe they could afford to snort it instead of inject it. I can’t think of any direct John/Yoko sources offhand but Clapton says that’s what he did in his autobiography.

        2. Sara

          Sorry, I disagree completely. The druggier Beatles songs are hazy-sounding, you know? Hey Jude is so sweet and sincere–the Beatles never had that kind of warm affection for drugs, it was a seduction thing. It always is. “Let her under your skin” is “Accept her, accept her love, let her become part of you” Like it says later, “For well you know that it’s a fool who plays it cool, by making his world a little colder.” It’s a song about letting yourself open up and not think it’s cool to be untouchable, just open up and love this person. Some of these people who are posting things are like those people who take an ordinary phrase and make it sound dirty. For pete’s sake, ANYTHING could sound like a drug reference if you think about it. Just let the song be beautiful and honest. About Julian Lennon, I do believe it started with him and then Paul began to think and transition into something else–maybe John, maybe not. But please don’t make this so much worse than it is.

  10. Dan

    I wish there was a version with just the session players out there – the big orchestras they recorded always sounded superb, their arrangements during these times were top-notch,

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