‘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.

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 sit 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.

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 Lennon and George Harrison’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 guitar 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
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