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The Number Ones: The Beatles' “Hello Goodbye”

Friday, October 26, 2018

It must’ve been disorienting, knowing that you could do pretty much anything and still hit #1. That’s basically what “Hello, Goodbye” is. The Beatles had been having a hell of a year. During the early summer, they’d released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the album that more or less forced the entire culturally literate world to view them as high artists. But a few months after that, Brian Epstein, the manager who had discovered them and taught them how to be stars, died of an apparently accidental overdose of sleeping pills and alcohol. Epstein was just 32 when he died. “Hello, Goodbye” was the Beatles’ first release after Epstein’s death, and maybe its simplistic babbling was the only rational response imaginable to the members of this band, seeing that their public lives had spun out of control.

“Hello, Goodbye” came out of a word game. One night, Paul McCartney sat at a piano and sang a few words, asking Epstein’s assistant Alistair Taylor to call out the opposite of what he was saying. McCartney then turned it into a song. It wasn’t about anything, though that hasn’t stopped people from theorizing about it. It’s prettily orchestrated nothingness — a numb word-salad nothing with a maddeningly repetitive chorus and no real reason for existing beyond the idea that someone decided the Beatles needed to come out with another single.

Source: Tom Breihan @tombreihan /stereogum.com

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