That Night In ’68 When Paul McCartney Debuted ‘Hey Jude’ In A Remote English Village



After so much has been written and read about The Beatles over the past 55 years it’s always fun to hear a Beatles anecdote for the first time, and this one is a real beauty. It comes from As Time Goes By, a book written by Derek Taylor in 1973 which is being re-released this year by Faber & Faber.

Taylor was the Beatles’ press officer in 1964 before moving to Capitol Records in Los Angeles, where he represented several acts including The Beach Boys and The Byrds. The Beatles brought him back to the fold when they formed Apple Records in 1968 because they needed his experienced hand in their new venture. He was about ten years older than the four Lads, he had an unflappably polite demeanor, and he knew the business inside and out.

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Derek Taylor was also swept up by the prevailing currents of the day as much as the next guy, and as this excerpt of the book published by Rolling Stone suggests, he not only took a lot of acid during the course of his job, it looks like he also did so when he wrote this book. The florid observations and disjointed syntax are hard to follow sometimes, but they endearingly reflect the earnest sense of wonder and discovery of the times, a sense that must have been even more acutely felt by those in this incredible band’s inner circle.

The story he tells begins in May 1968, when Paul McCartney decides he needs to have a brass band version of an instrumental he wrote for a new British TV show called “Thingumybob”. As Taylor dryly noted “in those days there was never a long wait between the musical will and the recorded deed”, and the next day McCartney and Taylor set off in a Rolls Royce limo for the town of Bradford in the North of England.

The recording went off without a hitch, but on the journey home, as “the acid really started to bounce”, McCartney suggested they look on the map, pick the most beautifully named place, and go there instead. So they found themselves in the remote hamlet of Harrold, drove down the dark and seemingly deserted main street and ended up at the only pub in town, where McCartney struck up a conversation with one of the three or four villagers who were there:

“Welcome to Harrold, Paul,” said the sandy man, the local dentist, downing the rich gold beer he had earned with his shears. “I can hardly believe it, in fact I think I”m dreaming.” We next found ourselves in his house, below dipping oak beams, a banquet provided for us, hams and pies and multi-jewelled salads, new bread and cakes, chicken and fruit and wine; and the dentist’s wife, a jolly lady, still young beyond her maddest fantasies, bringing out her finest fare. Paul McCartney was at her table in the village of Harrold.

Hiding at a turn on the crooked staircase stood a little girl, shy and disbelieving. But she had brought a right-handed guitar and landed it in Paul’s (left-handed) hands but the wizards were producing this play by now and floating with the splendour of this, the strangest Happening since Harrold was born, the dentist and his wife, and the neighbours as they crowded the windows and the parlour, and the children, all caught their breath as Paul McCartney began to play the song he had written that week: “Hey, Jude” it began.

I sat peacefully, full of the goodness you can find within yourself when goodness is all around and the dentist’s wife picked up on it and asked why life couldn’t always be like this and I told her there was nothing to fear, nothing at all and the dentist brought out the wine he had been saving for the raffle at the fete next Saturday and we drank that to celebrate the death of fear and the coming of music to Harrold and then, and gradually, the dentist was freaking and he asked me what I thought I was talking about and for a moment it was very tough, very. Ah, but Dr Leary’s medicine was good that day and we came back to a good position again, but I didn’t feel quite right about the dentist after that, and I don’t think he felt quite right about me, but how was he to know and what was I to do? You don’t just tell strangers you’ve been taking that naughty old heaven’n’hell drug.

It was now eleven o’clock and we were still in the house and the inn was closed but a winged messenger came to say that as this was the night of nights, never to return, the inn was to be re-opened. “In your honour, Paul.”

It was 11 p.m. Paul had The Look on his face, the “do we don’t we?” I nodded: tonight we should. The pub was absolutely full. The whole village was here. Paul played the piano until at three o’clock a woman stood and sang “The Fool on the Hill” and he left the piano to dance with her and kiss her on the cheek and then I went and sat in the little garden and cried for joy that we had come to Harrold. It was a most beautiful garden, with hundreds of old-fashioned flowers, lupins, foxgloves – that sort of thing, and Alan Smith came out, pissed as a newt and said, “Why so sad, old friend, why so sad on such a night?” “Not sad,” I said, “not sad, old pal, just happy to be alive.”

It’s amazing to think these villagers in this tiny hamlet were the first people on the planet to hear “Hey Jude”. Just try to imagine what it must have been like in that pub that night. It would have been pure and absolute magic even without the acid.

 

 

 

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