Friday, November 23, 2018

50 years ago: “Hey Jude” spent 9th week at #1, giving Beatles their biggest hit

Hey Jude

The Beatles

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


Released: August 26, 1968


First Charted: September 4, 1968


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


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


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 3.0 radio, 329.03 video, 344.54 streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

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. He changed “Jules” to “Jude” because it was “more mellifluous.” JA Julian said Paul hung out with him more than his own dad. CR

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 confirms that he thought of the song on the way to visit Cynthia and Julian, CR but that the song was really about himself. KL 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 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. BR It became the best-selling single of the sixties JA and the Beatles’ biggest U.S. hit.

At over seven minutes, “Hey Jude” was the longest single ever released at the time. SF More than half the song’s length is borne out of the “na na na“ fade-out coda that repeats 19 times. RS500 Those four-plus minutes alone were more than most radio stations allowed for a single, but “there’s such spirit in the tune and the performance that it’s hard to cut.” CR Interestingly, the featured orchestra was paid double their usual fee just to clap and sing along. RS500 Producer George Martin was wary that radio wouldn’t play “Hey Jude,” 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.”


Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for The Beatles
  • BR Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 247.
  • CR Toby Creswell (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, NY. Pages 239-40.
  • JA David A. Jasen (2002). A Century of American Popular Music: 2000 Best-Loved and Remembered Songs (1899-1999). Routledge: Taylor & Francis, Inc. Pages 74-5.
  • KL Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh (2005). 1000 UK Number One Hits: The Stories Behind Every Number One Single Since 1952. London, Great Britain: Omnibus Press. Page 143.
  • RS500 Rolling Stone (12/2004). The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
  • SF Songfacts
  • WI Paul Williams (1993). Rock and Roll: The Best 100 Singles. New York, NY: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc. Page 137.

Last updated 4/11/2021.

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