If you’ve got 30 minutes to spare today, there are worse ways to spend it than by watching Paul McCartney give GQ the story behind a dozen or so classic Beatles songs. The Lads from Liverpool may be the most over-analyzed band in history, but hearing songwriting-specific details from the guy who was there holding the pen is not something you want to miss. Some of the McCartney classics covered in the interview include “Eleanor Rigby,” “Let It Be,” and “Hey Jude,” the last of which McCartney says got him into a bit of hot water with the Jewish community in London.
“On the shop window we put ‘HEY JUDE’ so that people going by on the buses would see, ‘What’s that?’ You know, intriguing,” McCartney tells GQ, describing a decoration he put on the front windows of the Apple Boutique in London as part of the promotion for The White Album. “I got this furious phone call from this guy…who was Jewish and he said, ‘What are you doing? How dare you do this?’” At the time, McCartney was unaware that the word “Jude” meant “Jew” in German and, what’s more, graffiti that read “Juden Raus (Jews Out)” was regularly written on whitewashed windows in Nazi Germany. Understandably, the man on the other end of the line was furious, and apparently threatened to send his son down to Apple Studios to beat McCartney up.
“I said, ‘Hey baby, let’s cool it down,’” McCartney says, having previously explained that the he had originally written the lyrics as “Hey Jules,” addressing John Lennon’s son Julian, but had changed it to “Jude” because he liked the sound of the name. “It’s just a name in a song and it’s all cool.” Luckily, it was, in fact, all cool, and when “Hey Jude” was eventually released as a single, the ballad became a massive hit for the band and not some thinly-veiled, anti-semitic anthem. “And his son didn’t come round to beat me up,” McCartney concludes with a chuckle.
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