This week on #askNat I’m responding to a message from Josef Praks in the Czech Republic city of Prague. Here is what he has to say:
I decided to ask you since you seem to know just about everything concerning The Beatles! You are doing a truly great job for us! Thanks for that. But let´s go to my question now. I am wondering for years & years if there is a version of “Hey Bulldog,” including sitar. I have read somewhere a long time ago that there existed a sitar version of this song. What´s more – John was supposed to play it – not George! Do you know any details concerning this mystery? I will be glad to have any update on it and if being able to track it or hear it – That would be something! Thank you in advance and keep rocking & rolling!
Thank you Josef for the nice words concerning The Beatles Rarity and also for waiting for me to finally get this one posted. As more and more people send in their questions the backlog continues to lengthen. But enough of that…
“Hey Bulldog” was written mainly by John Lennon and The Beatles recorded the song on February 11th, 1968 before taking off for their sojourn in Rishikesh, India. It was actually a spur-of-the-moment idea to record because they were in the studio for another purpose altogether – to film a promo for “Lady Madonna” which they had just finished up by adding brass overdubs 5 days earlier. Since they were in the studio anyway, they decided to knock out another song. The following quote from John Lennon was given in Beatles biographer Hunter Davies’ book The Beatles:
Paul said we should do a real song in the studio, to save wasting time. Could I whip one off? I had a few words at home so I brought them in.
The words John had written at this point had to at least have included what we hear in the “She can talk to me” passage of “Hey Bulldog” because there exists a home recording of John singing and playing that part dated from December 1967 or January 1968. Davies also recalls how John did try to play sitar on the song, strumming it similarly to a ukelele and singing in a Lancashire accent, but this did not work out and the idea was quickly dropped. Unfortunately I know of no recordings of this that have surfaced and it is unclear if any are in existence as that rehearsal part of the session may not have even been recorded.
John’s song was originally called “Hey Bullfrog.” A few days earlier, Paul had played drums for Paul Jones on his song “The Dog Presides” which contained a few barking sound effects. Recalling this, Paul started barking without warning during the recording of “Hey Bullfrog” just to make John laugh. After that point John began to sing it as “Hey Bulldog” and henceforth this was the title.
Along with singing lead, John plays piano on the track with Paul handling additional vocals, bass and tambourine. George Harrison plays rhythm guitar and John plays the lead guitar solo (as per numerous sources, although sound engineer Geoff Emerick recalls the guitar solo as being by George saying he has a “sparkling” guitar solo in his book Here There and Everywhere). George does play the fuzzy main guitar riff heard throughout the song. Ringo Starr has his usual place manning the drum kit.
“Hey Bulldog” was John’s only contribution to the Yellow Submarine soundtrack. Paul contributed “All Together Now” and George contributed “Only A Northern Song” and “It’s All Too Much.” The title song was previously recorded for the 1966 Revolver LP and “All You Need Is Love” for a single the previous year. George Martin’s score music filled up side 2 of the soundtrack album.
“Hey Bulldog” has a sequence in the Yellow Submarine film, but it was originally cut from the American version because producer Al Brodax did not like the song. The current DVD/BluRay release has the scene restored.
I’m hoping that answers your question well enough, Josef and please accept my regrets for not having any audio to supply. If anyone else has anything to add, feel free to do so in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!
Special thanks go out to Hugh Peche in Key West, FL for help with this article.
Thank you to everyone who has sent in their questions! Keep #askNat going by sending your questions to me in any of the following ways:
1) There is a designated form that you fill out right on the website where you can give your name, location, email address and submit your question. The form is right here and is the same form used to submit requests for BROWs (Beatles Rarity Of The Weeks), but modfied to do both BROW requests and #askNat questions.
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4) For you Twitter users, www.twitter.com/beatlesrarity gets you to the right place. Post your question and be sure to add “#askNat” somewhere in the tweet.
Here are some Amazon links to read more on, or purchase music related to this post:
1) Yellow Submarine [Blu-ray] – 2012 restoration (w/5.1 stereo mix) of original 1968 animated film featuring “Hey Bulldog” sequence. Available in DVD or BluRay.
2) Yellow Submarine (Remastered)
– 2009 remaster CD of original 1968 soundtrack with score by George Martin Orchestra and also including original stereo mix of “Hey Bulldog.”
3) Yellow Submarine SongtrackClassic Supergroups Music CDs) – 1999 remix versions of all Beatles songs used in the film Yellow Submarine (except A Day In The Life). Contains many of the songs from the film omitted from the official soundtrack released in 1968. Includes remixed version of “Hey Bulldog.”