Friday, November 23, 2018

50 Years Ago Today: “Hey Jude” spent 9th week at #1, giving Beatles their biggest hit (11/23/68)

Updated 3/29/2019.

Hey Jude

The Beatles

Writer(s): John Lennon, Paul McCartney (see lyrics here)


Released: 8/26/1968


First Charted: 9/4/1968


Peak: 19 US, 17 CB, 14 HR, 41 AR *, 12 UK, 13 CN, 113 AU
* 1990 live solo version by Paul McCartney (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales *: 4.0 US, 1.06 UK, 10.0 world (includes US + UK)


Radio Airplay *: 3.0


Video Airplay *: 46.9


Streaming *: 84.74


* in millions

Review:

The birth of “Hey Jude” is a story familiar to anyone versed in Rock and Roll History 101: Cynthia Lennon was soon to be the ex-wife of the famous Beatle. To soothe the couple’s young son, Julian, John’s band mate Paul McCartney offered words of encouragement in the best way he knew how – through song.

However, there are alternative versions of the inspiration for the rock-and-roll era’s greatest single. In his autobiography, Many Years from Now, McCartney asserted the song was really about himself. KL-143 Meanwhile, Lennon concluded the song was Paul’s commentary on the strain that John and Yoko’s relationship put on the bond between John and Paul. RS500

Regardless of its origin, “‘Hey Jude’ kicks ass on a par with Van Gogh or Beethoven in their prime.” WI-137 As the first single from the Beatles’ new Apple Records label, it was history’s highest debut (at #10) on the U.S. charts at that time. BR1-247 It became the best-selling single of the sixties and the Beatles’ biggest U.S. hit.

At over seven minutes, “Hey Jude” was the longest single ever released. SF This made producer George Martin wary that radio wouldn’t play it, to which John cheekily retorted, “They will if it’s us.” RS500 When Lennon’s assumption proved correct, the real winners were DJ’s who could take longer bathroom breaks as the listening public absorbed similarly lengthy hits like “American Pie” and “Layla.”

More than half the song’s length is borne out of the “na na na“ fade-out coda that repeats 19 times. The featured orchestra was paid double their usual fee just to clap and sing along. RS500


Resources and Related Links:

  • The Beatles’ DMDB Encyclopedia entry
  • BR1 Bronson, Fred (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). New York, NY: Billboard Books.
  • KL Kutner, Jon, and Spencer Leigh (2005). 1000 UK Number One Hits: The Stories Behind Every Number One Single Since 1952. London, Great Britain: Omnibus Press.
  • RS500 Rolling Stone (12/2004). The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
  • SF Songfacts
  • WI Williams, Paul (1993). Rock and Roll: The Best 100 Singles. New York, NY: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc.

Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.

Awards:


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