Between the last session and the Mad Day Out, Paul and John had been working together — an unusual occurrence at this point in time — to finish the new song Paul had started while driving to visit John’s estranged wife Cynthia and son Julian. Over the course of an hour Paul began humming a tune he called “Hey Julian,” then shortened to “Hey Jules”; by the time The Beatles started laying down takes today, it was called … well, you know.

John later minimized his involvement, saying “‘Hey Jude’ is a damn good set of lyrics and I made no contribution to that.” But Paul credits him thusly:

I was in the music room upstairs when John and Yoko came to visit and they were right behind me over my right shoulder, standing up, listening to it as I played it to them, and when I got to the line, “The movement you need is on your shoulder,” I looked over my shoulder and I said, “I’ll change that, it’s a bit crummy. I was just blocking it out,” and John said, “You won’t, you know. That’s the best line in it!”

Steve Turner’s version of the story has John saying, “Leave it in. I know what it means.”

Although “Hey Jude” is generally thought of as a song of encouragement to Julian, John thought that it was about him. And it’s true that some of the lyrics wander pretty far afield of things you might say to cheer up a child. In 1980, Lennon told writer David Shiff:

If you think about it… Yoko’s just come into the picture. He’s saying, “Hey, Jude – hey, John.” I know I’m sounding like one of those fans who reads things into it, but you can hear it as a song to me. The words “go out and get her” – subconsciously he was saying, Go ahead, leave me. On a conscious level, he didn’t want me to go ahead. The angel in him was saying, “Bless you.” The devil in him didn’t like it at all because he didn’t want to lose his partner.

Perhaps because of this, today’s session seems to have marked a rare moment of harmony in the often fractious White Album period, with all four Beatles playing together as a band, just like old times. It would not last.

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