Of the four ‘favourite’ records that I’m featuring this week, three are from the 1960s. The odd-one-out is tomorrow’s choice from 1980, but more on that in twenty-four hours… Whether this says something about the tastes, or the ages, of our guest writers, or whether it says something about the enduring quality of the Swinging Sixties, I’ll leave you to decide… Anyway, there’s nothing uncertain about the quality of today’s featured song, or the band that took it to #1. They had to feature, right? John Swindell AKA popchartfreak has chosen The Beatles’ 1968 epic, ‘Hey Jude’…
‘Hey Jude’, by The Beatles – #1 for 2 weeks in 1968
This record was ground-zero for me in my personal discovery of the UK singles chart rundown on a Sunday, Pick Of The Pops with DJ Alan Freeman, still iconic in his exciting presenting style. “Right? Right!”. Dad came back from work at RAF Swinderby in Lincolnshire, England with the news ‘Hey Jude’ had gone to number one. The longest-single to ever chart, by the biggest pop stars in the world that I’d grown-up with, and seen the films, and played the singles dad bought, were on Top Of The Pops with a great video. And it was exciting discovering the reverse chart-rundown on the radio. I was already a massive pop music fan, but this pushed me further into obsession, so many records I loved!
Until more recently ‘Hey Jude’ was far and away The Beatles most-popular record, in all it’s 7-minute singalong, slow-fade glory, and it was Paul at his ballad best. These days ‘Let It Be’ and ‘Here Comes The Sun’ tend to get the kudos over ‘Hey Jude’, but for me it’s still Jude. Written for young Julian Lennon after his parents split, it’s still got that hopeful sadness to it, being supportive to a child in distress and telling them everything will be alright – but slightly tweaked to make it more universal for everyone. Given the backdrop of assassinations, war, intolerance, racism and much more in 1968, it was a boost we needed. I was 10, but I was aware of all these things on the news.
Does it need to be 7 minutes and 11 seconds long? Yes, it does, it’s part of the build from slow sedate intro to manic screaming as the mood changes from sorrow to a crowd-thrilling climax, it’s still an emotional journey and a gradual build-up. Value for money? One of their biggest-sellers, it had a fabulous free John gem ‘Revolution’ on the B-side, and the only reason it didn’t stay on top for even longer was Paul had signed up folk singer Mary Hopkin to the Fabs new Apple record label and got to her to cover a Russian Folk song, ‘Those Were The Days’, which me and the record-buyers were even more enthusiastic about. In 1976 when all the Beatles singles were reissued with new record sleeves (rubbish ones) ‘Hey Jude’ peaked again at 12, higher than the rest of their back catalogue bar ‘Yesterday’ – which had never been a single before.
I took my mum to see Paul & Linda McCartney and their band in 1989 at Wembley Arena. It was thrilling hearing so many classics, but the peak moment was when Paul started ‘Hey Jude’ and I got goose-bumps. Sadly, as the audience was on its feet, a woman just in front of us took the opportunity to pass-out (overcome by the emotion of the moment) so the furore as staff dashed over to help put a dampener on the moment. Plus side, I can say ‘Hey Jude’ was still having a massive emotional impact on people over 20 years later. It’s still rated by some young music fans who have no memory of the 20th century, so I think that’s a pretty good reason to single it out even if I ignore what it means to me personally!