The Fool On The Hill

Magical Mystery Tour album artworkWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 6, 25-27 September; 20 October 1967
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Ken Scott

Released: 8 December 1967 (UK), 27 November 1967 (US)

Paul McCartney: vocals, piano, acoustic guitar, bass, recorder
John Lennon: harmonica, Jew's harp
George Harrison: acoustic guitar, harmonica
Ringo Starr: drums, maracas, finger cymbals
Christopher Taylor, Richard Taylor, Jack Ellory: flutes

Available on:
Magical Mystery Tour
Anthology 2
Love (iTunes bonus track)

The Fool On The Hill was Paul McCartney's major contribution to the Magical Mystery Tour EP and album. In the companion TV film it appeared over a sequence shot on a hilltop near Nice in France.

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Now that's Paul. Another good lyric. Shows he's capable of writing complete songs.
John Lennon
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

The song was composed on the piano at McCartney's father's house in Liverpool, "hitting a D 6th chord".

The Fool On The Hill was mine and I think I was writing about someone like Maharishi. His detractors called him a fool. Because of his giggle he wasn't taken too seriously. It was this idea of a fool on the hill, a guru in a cave, I was attracted to.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

The Beatles' 1968 authorised biography contains a lengthy passage in which writer Hunter Davies observed Lennon and McCartney as they composed With A Little Help From My Friends, at McCartney's house in London. A fascinating insight into their songwriting processes, it showed how they were content to be distracted while waiting for inspiration to arrive.

Paul then went back to his guitar and started to sing and play a very slow, beautiful song about a foolish man sitting on the hill. John listened to it quietly, staring blankly out of the window, almost as if he wasn't listening. Paul sang it many times, la la-ing words he hadn't thought of yet. When at last he finished, John said he'd better write the words down or he'd forget them. Paul said it was OK. He wouldn't forget them. It was the first time Paul had played it for John. There was no discussion.
The Beatles, Hunter Davies

Paul decided to go to France to film the Magical Mystery Tour sequence, taking with him Mal Evans and cameraman Aubrey Dewar. Despite having no money or passport with him, he managed to talk his way through customs. The sequence was filmed in the mountains near Nice, shortly after sunrise.

I just ad-libbed the whole thing. I went, 'Right, get over there: let me dance. Let me jump from this rock to this rock. Get a lot of the sun rising. Get a perfect shot and let me stand in front of it.' I just had a little Philips cassette to mime to and roughly get the feeling of the song. There was no clapper because there was no sound... It was very spontaneous, as was the whole of Magical Mystery Tour. Later, when we came to try to edit it all, it was very difficult because I hadn't sung it to synch.

We shouldn't have really had just one cameraman, it was anti-union. That was another reason to go to France. The unions wouldn't have allowed it in Britain, nor probably in France, but they didn't know we were doing it.

Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

The Fool On the Hill (LOVE Version) [iTunes Exclusive] - LOVEOn 8 February 2011 the Love album went on sale on Apple Inc's iTunes Store. Two bonus tracks were also made available: The Fool On The Hill and Girl.

The remix of The Fool On The Hill featured cellos from I Am The Walrus, drums from Octopus's Garden, horns and vocals from Mother Nature's Son, and a tambura drone.

In the studio

On 6 September 1967 McCartney recorded a solo demo of the song in a single take. He played the piano and sang, with no other Beatles appearing on the tape. This demo later appeared on the Anthology 2 album.

Recording with the full group began on 25 September. The Beatles recorded three takes of the rhythm track, with Lennon and Harrison playing harmonicas. Over the third take they overdubbed McCartney's recorder and lead vocals and Starr's drums. The song as it was at this point can also be heard on Anthology 2.

The next day was devoted to overdubs, which made the song barely recognisable from the previous day. Its length was extended from 3:50 to 4:25 (later edited back down to three minutes), and many of the earlier overdubs were replaced. They taped more piano, acoustic guitar, drums and bass, plus a new lead vocal. More vocals were also added on the following day.

The finishing touches were recorded on 20 October. Three flautists - Jack Ellory and brothers Christopher and Richard Taylor - added their contribution, scored by George Martin to the suggestions of McCartney.

30 responses on “The Fool On The Hill

  1. richard calvert

    ….there are so many cover versions of this one song; (Sergio Mende’s a favorite). We can see how this wonderfully beautiful song is truely a minor masterpiece in The Beatles catalogue of recorded music! It almost feels a bit semi- documentary of Pauls’ life during the late and early post-Beatles era. To see the song done in ‘Magical Mystery Tour was breathtaking in it’s simplicity, a truely well written, and performed song in the of semi-sad, Beatles hits that have a touch of pathos, and a slight hint of unhappiness about them? The best + brightest songs counter pointing the sweet sadness we all experience in our lifes journey. We are made a bit more aware that ‘everything’ is never what it seems at first, any one of us have played this part before!

  2. Ferdinando Montalblanco

    i always got the impression this song was like mccartney was singing in the third person about himself with the video of himself running around and literally being the “fool on the hill” but whatever. I definetly think a lot of his stuff is more deep than he sometimes lets on or gets credit for anyway

    1. Oudis

      “A lot of his stuff is more deep than he sometimes lets on or gets credit for anyway” -sadly, you’re right. He is a great artist. The man who also wrote “Eleanor Rigby”, or “Penny Lane”; among others.

  3. Cameron McIntosh

    Maybe, someone can help me. First, this is a lovely song. During Paul’s live concerts when he played this song, during a part of it he would play in the background Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Being an African American this disturbed me a little, given the name of the song and his story how and what he we thinking of when he came up with the song. Now I would bet my life that Paul meant nothing derogatory. Can someone tell me his or her point of view?

    1. paulsbass

      Well, the song is about a man who is considered to be a “Fool on the hill” by other people – but “he knows that THEY’RE the fools”…
      So I guess Macca thought of MLK as someone with a vision that was considered to be foolish by certain people, and they didn’t “like him” at all.
      But in truth he was smarter and at least his vision was stronger than them…

      1. mr. Sun king coming together

        You’re right. McCartney certainly wasn’t a racist, (see Get Back page.) and he always was open minded. I can see how it could be uncomfortable, but he was being complementary, not derogatory.

  4. Richard

    On the version of this song that is part of the i tunes love package, does anyone know where the music they play at the beginning of the song as an intro comes from? I am totally stumped.

  5. Richard

    It may be that the music at the beginning of this song on the Love CD is from the incidental music from the film itself, perhaps “Jessie’s Song”, credited to all four Beatles. I will watch the DVD again and listen for it and report back.

  6. steve

    I have a theory. I think this song is about John. “Man of a thousand voices” you know the way he always talked in different funny tones. Also John says on his song “Instant Karma” which is about Paul, “How in the world you gonna see
    Laughin’ at fools like me”.

    1. James Ferrell

      I knew the Sergio Mendes cover before I knew the Beatles original. It was an AM radio hit in the US. I love them both.

      I know the conventional wisdom is that Sgt Pepper’s was the climax and Magical Mystery Tour was the hangover, or the denouement, where the excesses of the Beatles’ druggy days finally came to be too much. I’ve never been able to buy into that though. I love the MMT songs, this one too.

      It has a somber quality like Eleanor Rigby, although isn’t ER’s equal. Nevertheless it is a wonderful contemplative song.

      I take Paul at his word that he was thinking of someone like the Maharishi as his model for the Fool. But the Fool is also you and me and the childlike Paul from the movie footage.

      Great song, among my top 10 Paul songs (with Hey Jude, Big Medley, Eleanor Rigby, Blackbird, Mother Nature’s Son…), from a still under-rated, under-appreciated Beatles effort. Yes the film is boring, but musically from Magical Mystery Tour through I am the Walrus, the songs are fabulous.

  7. Graham Paterson

    One of Paul McCartney’s finest songs. It is simply beautiful. Like John Lennon’s ” I Am The Walrus”, ” The Fool On the Hill” is McCartney show casing his half of the twin genius of these two great songwriters. They are easily the two highlights of the whole ” Magical Mystery Tour” enterprise. I love this sequence in the film showing McCartney in the mountains.

  8. Graham Paterson

    This is a beautiful song and one of Paul McCartney’s greatest. A long with John Lennon’s ” I Am the Walrus ”, ” The Fool On The Hill” are the two highlights of the whole ” Magical Mystery Tour” enterprise. I love this in the film, showing McCartney in the mountains. These two songs are just another example of the twin ,( but contrasting), genius of these two men i.e. “Penny Lane”/ ” Strawberry Fields Forever “.

  9. Graham Paterson

    This is a beautiful Paul McCartney composition and a long with John Lennon’s ” I Am The Walrus ” it is one of the two highlights of the ” Magical Mystery Tour” venture. Like ” Penny Lane”/ ” Strawberry Field’s Forever” it is another example of the twin and contrasting genius’ of Lennon-McCartney. The sequence in the film showing McCartney in the mountains is brilliant.

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