Study Guide

Hey Jude Introduction

Hey Jude Introduction

In a Nutshell

According to Paul McCartney, "Hey Jude" had the most innocent of beginnings. He wrote it, he said, to cheer up John Lennon's five-year-old son, who was—understandably—feeling pretty down when his dad left his mom for Yoko Ono. 

Of course, legions of listeners aren't content with this explanation, and they say the song's about drugs.

Given how open McCartney has been about admitting that other songs of his were, in fact, about drugs, and his insistence that this isn't one of them, we're not sure how much credit we should give this interpretation. But the fact remains that this outwardly simple song—there sure is a lot of "na na na na"—has never been a simple one to interpret. After all, John Lennon always thought it was about him and how he was destined to run off with Yoko.

So, let yourself get lost in the sweeping, four-minute ending of the song, which involves a 36-piece orchestra, and then decide what you think.

About the Song

ArtistBeatles, The
Year1968
LabelApple
Writer(s)Paul McCartney, John Lennon
Producer(s)George Martin
Musician(s)Paul McCartney (lead vocals, piano, bass guitar), John Lennon (rhythm guitar, back-up vocals), George Harrison (lead guitar, back-up vocals), Ringo Starr (drums, tambourine); the thirty-six piece orchestra was not given individual credits.
Learn to playTablature
AlbumHey Jude (Single)

Music Video

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Influences on Beatles, The

Elvis Presley
Little Richard
Buddy Holly
The Everly Brothers
Gene Vincent
Chuck Berry
Eddie Cochran
Bob Dylan 
Roy Orbison

Influenced by Beatles, The

It's virtually impossible to list all of the artists influenced by this game-changing band. David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, KISS, the Mamas and the Papas, Oasis, and Wilco are among the many, many artists who have expressly cited the Beatles as an influence.

Hey Jude Resources

Books

Jonathan Gould, Can't Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain, and American (2008)
Gould, a musician and a fan, provides the sort of group biography that many readers look for. But he also offers an insightful analysis of the music, the songwriters, and the social and cultural context that shaped both.

Bob Spitz, The Beatles: The Biography (2006)
The title is a bit pretentious but this is the most comprehensive biography of the band. It's not for the faint of heart—at close to 1,000 pages, you have to really want it. But Spitz, a regular contributor to the The New York Times, writes well enough to make the tome manageable.

Albums

Rubber Soul (1965)
More mature and musically complex than the fairly conventional albums that came before, Rubber Soul was the band's most serious project to date. 

Revolver (1966)
Number 3 on Rolling Stone's list of greatest albums, Revolver was by far the band's most ambitious studio project to date. One song, "Tomorrow Never Knows," employed every techno-trick in the book from mechanically-filtered voices to a backwards guitar track.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
Rolling Stone called Sgt. Pepper's the greatest album of all time (and the Beatles' best)—not just for its music but also it conceptual basis, cover art, and studio technology.

The White Album (1968)
Another Rolling Stone top ten album, this 1968 release contains some great music. But the tensions within the band were starting to surface and, as a result, the conceptual coherence of Sgt. Pepper is a thing of the past.

Images

The British Invasion
The Beatles arrive in New York on their first American tour in 1964.

The Lennons, ca. 1965
John, Julian, and Cynthia Lennon.

Movies & TV

A Hard Day's Night (1964)
The Beatles' first film follows the band through a hectic day on tour fending off fans and trying to keep McCartney's scheming grandfather out of trouble. Like everything the Beatles did during these years, the soundtrack-album reached number one.

The Beatles: The First U.S. Visit (1964)
Sort of a real Hard Day's Night, this documentary follows the band on its first visit to America. There's great performance footage, including the historic Ed Sullivan appearance, and a taste of the hysteria that surrounded their tour.

Help! (1965)
The Beatles' second film featured a more elaborate plot, but inspired by the Marx brothers' Duck Soup, it was far from thematically complex. Like A Hard Day's Night, this film served primarily to showcase the band and provide a backdrop for their music.

Websites

The Beatles by Apple
Posted by the record label, this is a pretty glitzy, commercial site. But it offers loads of great photographs.

The Beatles Fansite
This little site is a bit idiosyncratic. The history tab, for example, leads to an eclectic collection of postings. But there's a lot of interesting information and your visit won't be interrupted by the relentless merchandising that clutters other sites.

Video & Audio

"Hey Jude"
Recorded at Trident Studios on July 31st and August 1st, 1968.

The Decemberists, "Valerie Plame"
We know, this seems random. But for the more indie-minded among you, the second half of this song is a tweaked version of the second half of "Hey Jude."

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