Given all the instruments, microphones, and other moving parts used in studios, it’s obvious why recordings don’t come out flawlessly. And The Beatles had plenty of blemishes and other unintended accidents turn up on their albums.
Sometimes, the band was happy to leave in the mistake. A famous example came in the recording of “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” during the White Album sessions. In the final verse, Paul McCartney sings that Desmond (rather than Molly) stays at home and “does his pretty face.”
Instead of re-recording the vocal part, Paul decided to leave it in for fans to wonder about. A few weeks after the Fab Four finally wrapped up “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” the band was recording another classic track with a few hitches: “Hey Jude.”
This time around, the problem didn’t come in the lead vocal. However, you can hear background noise (spoken words, in fact) about halfway through the hit single. And you can hear a Beatle drop the f-bomb in that moment.
Paul drops the f-word at the 2:58 mark of ‘Hey Jude’
While “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” grated on the nerves of John Lennon, “Hey Jude” struck John and the other band members as a winner from the start. And they agreed it should be the Fab Four’s next single. (John thought Paul wrote it as a coded message to him.)
The recording sessions for the track went about as smoothly as could be for the White Album era. Only one member of the orchestra (and zero Beatles) playing on the track walked out during the taping, so that had to be considered a victory.
But the recording did have a few flaws. Around 2:55, you hear someone exclaim something right after “…let her under your skin.” (It sounds like “Oh!” or “Aw!”) Right afterward, much more buried in the mix, you can hear someone say “f—king hell.”
According to Geoff Emerick, the EMI engineer who worked with The Beatles on Sgt. Pepper’s and most of the other great albums, Paul and John heard it but left it in anyway. In fact, John was adamant about keeping it.
John made sure that ‘Hey Jude’ keep the expletive
Though Emerick’s tales of these studio didn’t always match the recollections of others, the longtime Beatles engineer was indeed a primary source. And his book, Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles, is a must-read for Fab Four superfans.
Emerick didn’t engineer “Hey Jude.” (He’d quit on the band after the debacle that was “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La, Da.”) However, he did agree to come over to the studio (Trident, in this case) to check on the sound of the new single. And he recalled John telling him about the flaw in the take.
“Paul hit a clunker on the piano and said a naughty word,” Emerick remembered John saying. Rather than ask him to take it out in the finished mix, John did the opposite: He insisted the f-bomb stay on the record. In the end, John got his wish, and The Beatles got their next No. 1 anyway.