August 26, 1968 marks the 46th anniversary of the release of the first Beatles record on their own Apple Records label, “Hey Jude” b/w “Revolution”. When I discovered this record, I was getting into the music of the group for the first time, which meant I was still in the single digits, which meant it was the late 1970’s. Paul McCartney’s and George Harrison’s music were all over the radio back then, same for The Beatles, and what I found interesting was that Beatles songs were played along with what was considered new. Pop music was just pop music, the wide divisions of music genres didn’t exist back then. If you wanted country music, hard rock/heavy metal, or jazz, you did have distinct stations but for the most part, you could hear a bit of everything on the right radio stations. I got into hearing The Beatles that way, enjoyed what I was hearing but once I got into who they were, what they were about, I wanted to know why this music moved me.
When I got my 45 for “Hey Jude”, it would be a catalog number that I remember to this day: 2276. I loved the fact that the A-side was a full album while the B-side was a slice. I loved how the A-side had a song that was 7 minutes and 11 seconds, perhaps the longest song I had ever seen on a “little record” up until that point. However, my copy of “Hey Jude” was the purple variation on Capitol, so it would be a few years before I had my own copy on Capitol, but no matter.
What I loved about the song was how it started off calm and mellow, and when it made its way about three minutes through, it had a four minute fade out. Yes, it would take four minutes for them to fade the song out, with McCartney sounding the closest to gospel he has ever been, bluesy yet happy at the same time with wild screams as if he was letting loose and didn’t want to stop. With each listen, I found myself wanting to remember every scream, every ad lib, it was incredible to hear and feel a song that felt as if it would never end. I loved the string section, the background vocals of the other Beatles, and how Ringo Starr would change up his drumming every few bars. What I also loved was how the band change into a slightly funky groove in its last 15 seconds, but by the time it reaches that point into the song, you have to turn it up very loudly because it’s close to the end.
If “Hey Jude” was McCartney’s song, “Revolution” is of course a true flip side in that it is John Lennon’s song. I had heard my share of hard rock and heavy metal before, it was and is one of my favorite types of music, but to hear this guitar crunch right off the top felt explosive, as if the stereo was going to go on fire, then followed up by a mean scream from Lennon himself. The song was mid-tempo and while I didn’t know about the song’s meaning at first, it seemed that they were all about wanting to feel good and to “be…alright”. Once I started learning about the song, I realized Lennon was touching on everything from war to personal struggles. It was vocally, musically, and aurally loud, and it remained that way all the way until the end. The bluesy piano, played by Nicky Hopkins, sounded like it was meant to be there, not something foreign or weird, and not only did Hopkins have a solo during the moans and grunts Lennon provided, but he was able to play until the end as Lennon screamed “alright”. Once the song reached its conclusion, it felt as if you were exhausted and just worked up a sweat.
As a kid, who didn’t want to experience more? “Hey Jude” is my favorite Beatles song of all time, and this record stands out as a solid masterpiece from start to finish. It is glorious, no one can tell me otherwise.