The Beatles rewrote so many of the unwritten rules of rock music that it’s really not surprising to find that they also changed the very nature of a single.
For the first decade of the rock era, it was rare that a single lasted more than 2 and a half minutes. Radio programmers had no faith in the audience’s patience, and wanted to make sure they had something new on as often as possible. So artists were pushed to cut down album tracks or just release short singles (in an era where singles didn’t always come off an album).
Then came this song that Paul McCartney has said was written for Julian Lennon – and everyone else associated with the group seems to disagree with. Theories as to who the song was “really” about include Jane Asher, John Lennon, journalist Judith Simons, and McCartney himself. I guess that’s typical for the Beatles – search hard enough and you can find your own interpretation.
The Beatles basically said “play it as it is, or don’t play it at all”… and it was obviously too good of a song to pass up. “Hey Jude” set the stage for songs like Richard Harris’ “McArthur Park” and Don McLean’s “American Pie” to hit the charts. At the time, the song’s 9-week run at the top of the charts tied the existing record.
McCartney, apparently, didn’t tell Julian Lennon that he was the inspiration for the song until the late ‘80s. That seems odd, as I think we’ve heard that story for longer than the last couple of decades, but I could be wrong.
Do you know what the “B”-side of “Hey Jude” was? Well, there was really only one song you could put on the back of such an inspirational track – “Revolution”. To his dying day, John Lennon said that “Revolution” should’ve been the “A”-side – or, at best, they should’ve released it as a double-“A”-side.
McCartney wound down the Opening Ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympics with “Hey Jude”… then got the crowd at the Olympic Velodrome to do the song a few days later.
Tomorrow, a duo with a serious musical pedigree…
Other songs that reached #1 on September 28:
1974 – “Rock Me Gently” by Andy Kim (his first, 1 week)