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March 20, 2024 19 mins

In 1968 the longest song to ever reach number one on the Billboard charts was Paul McCartney’s epic “Hey Jude”—clocking in at seven minutes and twelve seconds. The song was written to soothe John Lennon’s son Julian amid his parent’s divorce. But as with all great works, it has come to mean something a little different to everyone who hears it.

“McCartney: A Life in Lyrics” is a co-production between iHeart Media, MPL and Pushkin Industries.

The series was produced by Pejk Malinovski and Sara McCrea; written by Sara McCrea; edited by Dan O’Donnell and Sophie Crane; mastered by Jason Gambrell with assistance from Jake Gorski and sound design by Pejk Malinovski. The series is executive produced by Leital Molad, Justin Richmond, Lee Eastman and Scott Rodger.

Thanks to Lee Eastman, Richard Ewbank, Scott Rodger, Aoife Corbett and Steve Ithell.

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:14):
Pushkin Hi everyone, it's Paul Moldoin. Before we get to
this episode, I wanted to let you know that you
can binge all twelve episodes of McCartney A Life and
Lyrics right now, add free by becoming a Pushkin Plus subscriber.

(00:35):
Find Pushkin Plus on the McCartney A Life and Lyrics
show page in Apple Podcasts, or at pushkin dot Fm
slash Plus.

Speaker 2 (00:49):
I remember one time when I was a kid and
me and my friend Ian James, we were at a
fairground in our flecked jackets and I had a little
flap on my breast pocket.

Speaker 3 (01:02):
I've really fancied myself.

Speaker 2 (01:05):
And we came back from this fairground tradition and I
had a major headache. So I sat down and we
put on Elvis record All Shook Up.

Speaker 3 (01:17):
Love Amar Shook Up.

Speaker 2 (01:23):
Yay, And by the end of that record, my headache
at gons So you know, the healing power of music
is undeniable. Love Ama Shook Up.

Speaker 1 (01:42):
And Paul will do for a number of years. I've
been fortunate to spend time with one of the greatest
songwriters of the era.

Speaker 3 (01:50):
And will you look at me, I'm going on to
I'm actually a.

Speaker 1 (01:54):
Performer, that is Sir Paul McCartney. We worked together on
a book looking at the lyrics of more than one
hundred and fifty of his songs, and we recorded many
hours of our conversations.

Speaker 2 (02:08):
It was like going back to an old snapshot album
looking back on work I hadn't ever analyzed.

Speaker 1 (02:16):
This is McCartney, a life in lyrics, a masterclass, a memoir,
and an improvised journey with one of the most iconic
figures in popular music in this episode, hey hey hey, Jude, Hey,
Hey hey Hey. In the spring of nineteen sixty eight,

(02:40):
John and Cynthia Lennon's marriage fell apart. He had been
having a secret affair with the artist Yuko Ono and
decided to leave his wife and five year old son, Julian.
Paul McCartney had known Cynthia Lennon since the early days

(03:00):
in Liverpool and he was like an uncle to Julian.

Speaker 2 (03:05):
I was traveling Monday to see Julian Lenon, yes mother Cynthia,
and I used to.

Speaker 3 (03:10):
Call him Jewels.

Speaker 2 (03:12):
So the song started off when I was in the
car driving out, which was a forty five minute drive
out of central London, and people had sort of suggested oh,
you know, I fancied Cynthia was going to well, people
can suggest anything like but I didn't. I was just
going out just as a friend, just sort of see them.

(03:33):
And so in my mind, hey, Jules, what's as So
don't make it bad?

Speaker 3 (03:40):
You know, I know this is tough for you, but
take us that song and make it better.

Speaker 4 (03:44):
Remember do letter deal. Then you can start do make
it better.

Speaker 2 (03:55):
Your dad's just left you, so it was like trying
to be encouraging, so it was an encouraging song.

Speaker 3 (04:05):
Remember to let it into your heart, Remember to let
love into your heart. I make it better.

Speaker 1 (04:10):
This is often the case with McCartney's songwriting. He started
with a specific inspiration, then followed the story of the
song where it led him.

Speaker 2 (04:22):
What often happened for my songs is it starts off
with someone being worried about something in life, a specific
thing like a divorce. But then I start to just
morph it because I still get it fed up with
the theme and I like to just move away from
because nobody knows what this is about. So I'm just

(04:44):
saying make it better. And to somebody called Jude, I
don't know a clutch and called.

Speaker 1 (04:48):
Ju Yes, because people would not have known at the
time to that after years discussed.

Speaker 2 (04:55):
Yes, so then I start moving. You were made to
go out and get her. Now there's a woman arrival
on the scene. So now he's said about a breakup
or something. So remember now to let her under your skin,
and then you begin to make it better. And anytime

(05:18):
you feel the pain, now it's mixed. It could be
about Julian or it could be about this new woman relationship.

Speaker 4 (05:29):
Hey, dude, don't be afraid. You were made to.

Speaker 2 (05:38):
Go and get her.

Speaker 4 (05:42):
The minute you let her under your skin, than you
begin to make it better.

Speaker 3 (05:54):
And it's anyone.

Speaker 2 (05:56):
I like my songs to be every man or every
woman because I know people are going to listen to them,
and I like the fact that they put their own
interpretations on them. And I'm glad when the lyrics get
a bit screwed up they misheal them because it's yours.

Speaker 3 (06:17):
Now you know, I've let it go and so now you.

Speaker 2 (06:22):
Should make of it what you will.

Speaker 1 (06:28):
McCartney himself had been struggling. It was a stressful time.
The Beatles were beginning to drift apart. Even as they
were finding their own record label, Apple Core. McCartney had
just separated from his fiance, the actress Jane Asher, and
was falling in love with the photographer Linda Eastman. As

(06:50):
much as he was writing words of consolation for little Julian,
he himself may have been in need of encouragement.

Speaker 2 (06:58):
So anytime you feel the pain, did you refrain? Don't
carry the world on your shoulder.

Speaker 4 (07:03):
And any time you feel the pain fame, don't carry
the world on.

Speaker 3 (07:15):
Your shoulder.

Speaker 4 (07:20):
Well, you know that is.

Speaker 2 (07:21):
A food.

Speaker 4 (07:27):
Ing is world on its golder.

Speaker 2 (07:34):
That's something that I'm quite keen on, that idea that
to be cool.

Speaker 3 (07:42):
You've got to betray yourself. Oh yeah, what the fucky man?

Speaker 2 (07:47):
I'm sorry, told Jesus if nothing gets to me baby, hey, wow,
how cool is And to me it's always well, no,
it's not because we can see through it. Cool is
actually great if you can be it for real. But
that's sort of faking. If you just try and play
it cool, then it's not happening. You'll be making you

(08:10):
well a little colder, and that's not a good idea.

Speaker 3 (08:13):
So it's a bit of advice.

Speaker 2 (08:15):
When I was a robber in Boston place, you gathered
around me with your fun embrace.

Speaker 1 (08:30):
Hey, Dude. In the studio, the Beatles always preferred being
playful to playing. At Cole they did a few takes
of Hey Jude, but Paul McCartney remembers knowing in the
moment which one they would use.

Speaker 4 (08:47):
Hey Dude, don't make it bad, Take a sad song
and make it batter.

Speaker 1 (08:59):
He had accidentally begun the song while Ringo was out
of the room, but Ringo managed to return from the
toilet at just the right moment, hitting his drum entrance perfectly.

Speaker 4 (09:14):
At any time you feel the pain of hajo.

Speaker 1 (09:21):
It was the most spirited take, though not without mistakes.
If you listen really carefully, you may hear one of
the band members swearing when Paul flubs the piano part.

Speaker 3 (09:34):
Reamen to le and ask him then you.

Speaker 4 (09:42):
To making.

Speaker 1 (09:51):
Just as the subject of the song shifted for the writer,
the meaning transformed for those who heard it. When Paul
McCartney played a draft of Hey Jude for John Lennon
and Yoko Ono, John thought the song was addressed to
him instead off to his son. From Lennon's point of view,

(10:12):
Paul McCartney was encouraging his friend to stop waiting for
someone to perform with and to go out and get her.

Speaker 4 (10:22):
So let it out and let it in. Hej you waiting.

Speaker 3 (10:32):
To I like singing that.

Speaker 4 (10:38):
Don't you know? That is just you?

Speaker 3 (10:41):
Don't you know? S's you? Hey, Jude, you do.

Speaker 1 (10:46):
Junie is on shoulder.

Speaker 3 (10:52):
The movement you need is on your shoulder. Now, I
thought that was me just blocking in.

Speaker 2 (10:59):
And when I played it to John and Yoko in
my music room on my psychedelic piano, I'm sitting facing
this way, a little standing behind me, almost on my shoulder,
and they're listening and answer pleasing myself.

Speaker 3 (11:15):
I'm playing this new song and I turn.

Speaker 2 (11:18):
Around Toton you need is on your shoulder and turned
on to John and said, don't worry, I'll change that,
and he looked at me, said you want you know
it's the best line in it.

Speaker 1 (11:28):
John Lennon wasn't the only one who heard something deeply
personal in the song who would feel as if Paul
was singing directly to him. The song became a call
to anyone who had gone through difficult times and needed
cheering up.

Speaker 2 (11:44):
Well, you know, I just think that everyone goes through
periods in their life when things are going wrong. You know,
they're losing people their children are ill or whatever, and
it's just so much pain. In regard to all of that,
I'm empathizing and trying to encourage someone who is going

(12:09):
through a really bad time, because I know when I've
been going through bad times. I don't know, like Linda's
illness and consequent death and the breakup of the Beatles,
all these sort of things, these moments in your life.
I know you really feel lows. You've got a pit
in your stomach all the time. So to me, the

(12:33):
idea sometimes behind songs is to try and reach that
person and say, look, you know how about this thought.

Speaker 3 (12:44):
So I'm always trying to do that.

Speaker 2 (12:47):
I notice, I notice I'm always trying to say, look,
it's going to be okay, you know it will be
all right. I'm trying to be the voice of encouragement.

Speaker 4 (12:59):
Hey, you do make it bad, take make it MANA.

Speaker 1 (13:11):
Hat Jude is a song that's able to shift and
take on new meaning with each rendition. What started as
a song for Julian Lennon took on new resonance for
each listener who could apply it to whatever struggle they
were facing in their own lives. It also struck a

(13:31):
chord with other musicians who covered the song and gave
it their own spin. This included the man whose song
cured Paul's headache all those years ago, Elvis Presley.

Speaker 4 (13:47):
Hate You, No let Me down?

Speaker 1 (13:53):
Take a sad song and make manner.

Speaker 4 (13:59):
No many you let her into your here.

Speaker 3 (14:04):
You can stop each time you sing it? Are you
singing it for the first time? It's a bit that.

Speaker 2 (14:16):
Yeah, I'm singing a twenty something composers lyrics and I'm
evaluating them, listening to see.

Speaker 3 (14:24):
How he does.

Speaker 2 (14:27):
And I'm marking myself and I must say generally good
marks and generally approve because I'm going, oh, just little
things like for well, you know, instead of.

Speaker 3 (14:43):
For you know, well, it's just for well, you know,
it's just going I've had that.

Speaker 2 (14:49):
I often have to stop myself doing that because there's
ninety thousand people here and you're supposed to be relating
to them when you're actually awful.

Speaker 3 (14:56):
Oh is that good?

Speaker 1 (14:59):
The spirit of Hey Jude is present in its lyrics,
but it's equally present in Paul McCartney's vocal profer ormance
of the song. What begins as a song for a
child in pen becomes an act of self compassion In
the words of the music critic Tim Riley, McCartney begins

(15:22):
by singing to comfort someone else, finds himself weighing his
own feelings in the process, and finally, in the repeated
refrains that nurture his own approbation, he comes to believe
in himself.

Speaker 4 (15:49):
Age you.

Speaker 1 (16:07):
As McCartney's original sense has carried across generations, Hey Jude
itself has also maintained its intergenerational appeal. The idea of
taking a sad song and making it better is something
pretty much everybody can get behind, just as we can

(16:28):
all sing along with the songs rising out fro.

Speaker 2 (16:55):
I mean, you know, when I do concerts, I have
people in the audience from every generation older than my generation,
people of my generation, people of my children's generation, and
people of their children's generation. And it always surprises me

(17:20):
because I think in rock and roll, we all expected
that it wouldn't last very long. So I do find
it incredible that I can see a five year old
who knows the words as well, sometimes even better than

(17:42):
I do, and then I can see their parents enjoying it,
and possibly they've come to it through their parents. As
you go on to the eldest generation. You know, people
who are a few years ahead of me. They all

(18:04):
lived through this time, through the sixties, and through the
excitement and the freedom. So we all are experiencing this
thing together. No matter what age we are, the feeling
is still the same and it never ceases to amaze me.

Speaker 1 (18:50):
Hey Jude was the first single from the Beatles' own
record company, Apple Core, and at over seven minutes, it
was the longest single to ever hit number one. The
Beatles released Hey Dude in nineteen sixty eight in the
Next Leader Meta Life, My Need McCartney's favorite McCartney song.

Speaker 4 (19:21):
And.

Speaker 1 (19:26):
Here, There and Everywhere That's next time on McCartney A
Life in Lyrics. McCartney A Life in Lyrics is a
co production between iHeartMedia, NPL and Pushkin Industries
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