Hey Jude by The Beatles

While driving home from Stittsville today along the Appleton Side Road I told Siri to play “Hey Jude”.  Instantly the audio of my car produced the famous song by The Beatles. I’m listening to it again now on my headphones as I write this account.  I searched for the song on Apple Music which immediately produced a selection of 21 albums from which to choose, including a piano instrumental that reminded me of my own expression of the piece not long after first hearing it. In addition to playlists there were a number of videos of Paul McCartney, one recorded live at Hyde Park in London and another at the Estadio Unico de la Plata in Buenos Aires. There is also a Spanish rendition by the Brazilian country duo brothers Zezé Di Camargo & Luciano.  In the end however I prefer the original recording (with the orchestral involvement notably beginning at the 4th repetition of the refrain).

To say I like the song is a vast understatement. I played it on a grand piano one evening in 1969 in the community dining room of Glendon Hall following the final bow of a theatrical and comedy performance for the entire college audience. The refrain produced its usual magical effect and constituted for me a memorable conclusion to the show as well as my first and only public performance. I have always felt the song symbolized my graduation from childhood to young adulthood. Of course everybody loved The Beatles; their rocketing success and permeation of modern life and trans-Atlantic communion were benchmarks for youth at the time. “Hey Jude” for me went beyond the endearing  ballad of “I Want to Hold Your Hand“. It signalled the clockwork mystery and pathos of life that was to follow. John Lennon’s murder at age 40 outside his apartment building on Central Park in New York City exemplified the uncompromising estrangement of entitlement and the exposure to the absurdities of life. It was a moment of reckoning for many, an abrasive cue that prosperity and success are not avenues of cheerful indifference.

There were many other awakenings for me in my undergraduate studies at Glendon Hall not the least of which were the predictable evolution of both spiritual and corporeal elements; introductions to fine dining and drinking alcohol (the legal age then was 21); experimentation with nefarious additives; acknowledgement of the parvenu; and, thankfully in the end, a readjustment to the critical definitions fostered by my loving parents.  Professor Michael Gregory stands out as both intellectually uplifting (he spirited what I have since considered to be a breezy but insightful attitude to English grammar) and evocative (he was a ladies man with a gentleman’s gratitude). It also marked the beginning of the end for one whom I early befriended but may have later died at his own hand. His only lingering bequest to me was the terse adage upon my subsequent removal to law school in Nova Scotia that, “There ain’t no ship to take you away from yourself; you travel the suburbs of your own mind.”

And anytime you feel the pain, hey Jude, refrain,Don’t carry the world upon your shoulders.For well you know that it’s a fool who plays it coolBy making his world a little colder

In May 1968, John Lennon and his wife Cynthia separated due to his affair with Japanese artist Yoko Ono. The following month, Paul McCartney drove out to visit the Lennons’ five-year-old son Julian, at Kenwood, the family’s home in Weybridge. Cynthia had been part of the Beatles’ social circle since before the band’s rise to fame in 1963; McCartney later said he found it “a bit much for them suddenly to be personae non gratae and out of my life”. Cynthia Lennon recalled of McCartney’s surprise visit: “I was touched by his obvious concern for our welfare … On the journey down he composed ‘Hey Jude’ in the car. I will never forget Paul’s gesture of care and concern in coming to see us.” The song’s original title was “Hey Jules”, and it was intended to comfort Julian from the stress of his parents’ separation. McCartney said, “I knew it was not going to be easy for him”, and that he changed the name to “Jude” “because I thought that sounded a bit better”


Post Scriptum:

June 10, 2024
Toronto, Ontario

Oh my,  you’ve really dredged up a full load of Beatle memories.  The first being, appropriately, the very first time I met you.  You were lying on the floor in Fred Jones’s room at Glendon, wearing a pair of headphones and belting out “Here Comes The Sun” that was playing on Fred’s extremely superior stereo.  What made this so memorable, in fact every time I hear this song, I think of you, was that you were singing completely off key as happens when one wears headphones.  You were also suitably ‘blissed out’, but then weren’t we all in those halcyon days!  I also remember your unforgettable performance of Hey Jude in the dining hall and if memory serves, you got a standing ovation which was well deserved.  As that other, non-Beatle song goes:  Those were the days, my friend.  We thought they’d never end.  We’d sing and dance forever and a day.  We’d live the life we choose.  We’d fight and never lose.  For we were young and sure to have our way.

Hey Jude also resonates with me because my darling husband tells a wonderful story about the first time he heard it on the radio when he came to Canada in 1968, the year the song was released.  He’d just escaped from what was then Czechoslovakia when the Russians invaded and fortunately was taken in by some of his mother’s relatives in Montreal.  The song at the time was all the rage but he said he was totally shocked at its popularity because due to his limited English at the time, he thought the song was called Hey Jew!!

Now here’s a piece of Beatle trivia.  In December 1963, my mother who was head of the BBC transcription service in Canada, got a telegram from head office in London saying she had to go to the airport and pick up a special air express package that was being sent to her for immediate broadcast.  When she got the tape back to her office  and put it on her tape player, she was blown away as she listened to Love Love Me Do as well as I Want To Hold Your Hand.  She immediate rang up the head of Toronto’s CBC radio department and said she had something that he just had to hear and was on her way over.  Within 48 hours, the two songs were playing across Canada.  When I returned to boarding school after that particular Christmas holiday, I became the girl of the moment as I was the proud possessor of the Beatles’ first album – Please, Please Me, which my mother had got a colleague in London to rush over to her in time for Christmas.  It wasn’t until later in 1964 that the album was released here, so I was really ahead of the curve.

Fiona St. Clair