A new book about Beatles producer George Martin explores the tensions surrounding the recording of the band’s classic track “Hey Jude,” which took place 50 years ago this month. Sound Pictures: The Life of Beatles Producer George Martin — The Later Years, 1966-2016 is Kenneth Womack’s second title about Martin; it will be published on Sept. 4.
In an excerpt provided to Variety, Womack detailed the events of late July and early August 1968. Martin recalled, “I thought that we had made [“Hey Jude”] too long. It was very much a Paul [McCartney] song, and I couldn’t understand what he was on about by just going round and round the same thing.”
He remained concerned about the track running to seven minutes and 11 seconds. “In fact,” Martin remembered, “after I timed it, I actually said ‘You can’t make a single that long,’ I was shouted down by the boys – not for the first time in my life – and John [Lennon] asked, ‘Why not?’ I couldn’t think of a good answer, really, except the pathetic one that disc jockeys wouldn’t play it.”
Lennon countered, “They will if it’s us.”
George Harrison remembered McCartney’s rejection of the suggestion that a guitar part should mimic the vocal melody, and noted it wasn’t a new situation. “Personally, I’d found that for the last couple of albums, the freedom to be able to play as a musician was being curtailed – mainly by Paul,” Harrison said later. “Paul had fixed an idea in his brain as to how to record one of his songs. He wasn’t open to anybody else’s suggestions.”
“Hey Jude” went on to sell over two million copies in its first month of release, holding the Billboard No. 1 position for nine weeks, making it not only the Beatles’ longest-topping single, but the longest-playing single to reach the top.
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