I went into the Apple shop just before Hey Jude was being released. The windows were whited out, and I thought: ‘Great opportunity. Baker Street, millions of buses going around…’ So, before anyone knew what it meant, I scraped ‘Hey Jude’ out of the whitewash.
A guy who had a delicatessen in Marylebone rang me up, and he was furious: ‘I’m going to send one of my sons round to beat you up.’ I said, ‘Hang on, hang on – what’s this about?’ and he said: ‘You’ve written “Jude” in the shop window.’ I had no idea it meant ‘Jew’, but if you look at footage of Nazi Germany, ‘Juden Raus‘ was written in whitewashed windows with a Star of David. I swear it never occurred to me.
On 4 September 1968 The Beatles made promotional films for Hey Jude and Revolution, at Twickenham Film Studios in London.
At least three performances of Hey Jude were filmed; the most commonly-seen is an edit of two of these. Only the vocals were live: during the first part of the song Paul McCartney sang along with the studio vocals, and ad-libbed during the end.
We made a film in front of an audience. They had brought people in for Hey Jude. It wasn’t done just for David Frost, but it was shown on his show and he was actually there when we filmed it.
The clip was first shown on Frost On Sunday on 8 September. Frost was at Twickenham for the recording; The Beatles taped a version of the programme’s George Martin-penned theme tune, By George! It’s The David Frost Theme, before the host introduced Hey Jude.
Magnificent! A perfect rendition! Ladies and gentlemen, there you see the greatest tea-room orchestra in the world. It’s my pleasure to introduce now, in their first live appearance for goodness knows how long in front of a live audience, The Beatles!
Frost On Sunday, 1968
Following this introduction, The Beatles improvised a parody of Elvis Presley’s It’s Now Or Never, which was never seen by television viewers.
Hey Jude was released just a few weeks after The Beatles finished its recording. It was backed with John Lennon‘s Revolution, and was the first single released on the group’s Apple Records.
I wanted to put [Revolution] out as a single, I had it all prepared, but they came by, and said it wasn’t good enough. And we put out what? Hello, Goodbye or some shit like that? No, we put out Hey Jude, which was worth it – I’m sorry – but we could have had both.
Rolling Stone, 1970
At over seven minutes, Hey Jude was the longest single ever to have topped the British charts. Its lengthy fade-out purposefully lasted one second longer than Richard Harris’ MacArthur Park, a hit earlier in 1968.
We recorded Hey Jude in Trident Studios. It was a long song. In fact, after I timed it I actually said, ‘You can’t make a single that long.’ I was shouted down by the boys – not for the first time in my life – and John asked: ‘Why not?’ I couldn’t think of a good answer, really – except the pathetic one that disc jockeys wouldn’t play it. He said, ‘They will if it’s us.’ And, of course, he was absolutely right.
Hey Jude was released on 26 August 1968 in the United States. It swiftly rose to the number one spot, where it remained for the next nine weeks – the longest run achieved by any Beatles single. The single sold five million copies in six months, and a further million by the end of 1968. Altogether it spent 19 weeks in the charts.
In the UK it was released on 30 August. The single began its 16-week chart run on 7 September 1968, rising to the top spot a week later. It spent two weeks at number one before being deposed by another Apple single, Mary Hopkin’s Those Were The Days, which was produced by Paul McCartney.
Hey Jude is the biggest-selling debut release ever for a label, and remains The Beatles’ most commercially-successful single. It has sold an estimated eight million copies worldwide and has topped the charts in 11 countries.