Granted, it’s a compilation album. And it comes after both Sgt. Pepper’s and Abbey Road. That said, Hey Jude, a/k/a The Beatles Again, was long my favorite Beatles album — and remains among my favorites 40 years after it was released.
Some don’t consider this an “official” Beatles album because it is a compilation. Released on February 26, 1970, the album was the first released after Allen Klein became the manager of the band. He put together a variety of singles and B-sides that had not been released on an album in the U.S. That approach also gave it a semi-greatest hits feel that spanned the band’s career to date. And I think that’s why I liked it so much when it was released.
The album opens with 1964’s “Can’t Buy Me Love” and closes with “Don’t Let Me Down” and “The Ballad of John and Yoko,” both recorded and released as singles in 1969 while the band was working on Let It Be. That album would not be released until May 1970. The LP was originally intended to be titled The Beatles Again. It was renamed when it was decided to include “Hey Jude,” the first single released on Apple Records and which topped the charts in 1968. The album was the only way to get that song on LP or even in stereo for several years. In fact, it was also the first time “Lady Madonna,” “Rain” and “Revolution” were released in stereo. Because they were singles, until then there had been only mono releases.
The album plainly reflects the singles nature of the tunes. For example, “Rain” was the B side for “Paperback Writer” and appears immediately after that song on Hey Jude. “Revolution” was the B side to the “Hey Jude” single but it closes the first side of the album while “Hey Jude” opens the second side due to its length (7 minutes). The only non-Lennon/McCartney song is George Harrison’s excellent “Old Brown Shoe.” It was the B side to “The Ballad of John and Yoko,” which, as noted, closes the album.
Also notable about the album is that, although we didn’t know it at the time, the cover photos come from what The Beatles Anthology says was the last-ever Beatles group photo session. The front cover photo, in fact, would become somewhat of an iconic one. I, in fact, wore a t-shirt with that photo on it to our office Christmas party in 2001 in honor of George Harrison, who’d died at the end of November. Under my sport coat, George was about the only one who could be fully seen and it seemed an appropriate tribute to my favorite Beatle.
With the release of the band’s 1962-1966 and 1967-1970 compilations in 1973 and the various anthologies and other collections released in the last two decades, Hey Jude doesn’t quite retain the unique character it had at first. Perhaps that is part of the reason why, to my knowledge, the album has never been released on CD by the Beatles or Apple, not even as part of the entire remastered catalog released last year. Of course, that simply makes the piece of vinyl on my record shelves that much more important to me.
For well you know that it’s a fool
Who plays it cool
By making his world a little colder
Beatles, “Hey Jude”