366 Songs 098: Hey Bulldog

Well, seeing as I just mentioned this song…

“Hey Bulldog” may be my very favorite Beatles song. It’s the gallop of the thing, the momentum (Ringo working his heart out on the drums, the way he played them that sounded as if they had such forward momentum that he couldn’t stop without falling over; Paul’s amazing bassline dragging him forward, pulling you into the song), the way the guitar solo feels like it comes out of nowhere like an attack, and the humanity of the chorus. There is no way I could fail to love a song that tells the listener “You can talk to me/If you’re lonely you can talk to me” (As proof, I have a sneaking liking for this song, which is more than a little terrible on almost all objective levels).

This song, for me, is the definition of “forgotten classic”: It’s on the Yellow Submarine soundtrack and nowhere else, and I’d argue that there’s a fair percentage of people who’d call themselves Beatles fans who’ve never even heard it despite it being one of Lennon’s last great songs with the band. I remember, back when EMI was preparing to issue the Yellow Submarine Songtrack album, that there were rumors that they’d discovered a previously unknown Lennon song to accompany it, only for it to turn out to be a remixed version of this, and people were still “Wait, is that new?”

There’s something about the Beatles’ version that’s perfectly balanced between raucous and melodic that gets lost when others cover it, for me. Listen to Miles Kane’s version –

– or, of all unlikelinesses, That Petrol Emotion:

The song is just… less exciting, somehow. The original version of “Hey Bulldog” is something that, like many Beatles songs, is somehow so right that every single other take on it can only be less interesting, less worthy of attention, less… right, really. You can disagree, but it won’t change my mind.

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