Which song is the superior effort when tasked to choose between ‘Hello, Goodbye’ and ‘I Am the Walrus’? If you picked ‘Hello, Goodbye’, then John Lennon would disagree with all his might. The single, which was first released in 1967, marked a significant moment for the Fab Four as it was their first release following the death of Brian Epstein. ‘I Am the Walrus’, meanwhile, was relegated to the B-side, which was displeasing to Lennon. He would, of course, rather have seen it go the other way around.
Although he might have been slightly more reserved about his attitudes at the time of its release, Lennon later admitted that his distaste for ‘Hello, Goodbye’ ran deep, calling it “three minutes of contradictions and meaningless juxtapositions”.
The creative differences between Lennon and McCartney would become clear as day following the split of The Beatles and, as ‘Hello, Goodbye’ was the brainchild of Paul McCartney, it should come as little surprise that not all the band members agreed on its excellence. Of the writing experience, Macca said: “‘Hello, Goodbye’ was one of my songs. There are Geminian influences here I think: the twins. It’s such a deep theme in the universe, duality – man woman, black white, ebony ivory, high low, right wrong, up down, hello goodbye – that it was a very easy song to write. It’s just a song of duality, with me advocating the more positive. You say goodbye, I say hello. You say stop, I say go. I was advocating the more positive side of the duality, and I still do to this day.”
Lennon might not have liked the song as a whole, but he could recognise at least a few strengths of McCartney’s songwriting. He later said of the song and recording process: “That’s another McCartney. Smells a mile away, doesn’t it? An attempt to write a single. It wasn’t a great piece; the best bit was the end, which we all ad-libbed in the studio, where I played the piano. Like one of my favourite bits on ‘Ticket To Ride’, where we just threw something in at the end.”
There is something great about those ad-libbed bits towards the end, exhibiting a positive moment between the two band leaders as they show off their natural talents in playing off one another. Even though John Lennon thought the song was meaningless, it seems that their efforts weren’t entirely in vain when it comes to making it a better experience, at least for him personally.
However, one must admit, it is a little ironic that this is the song he found meaningless, especially as compared to the superior B-side that he so championed above it. Nevertheless, everyone has their preferences, rock legends included.
If you want to take a listen to the classic track and listen for those ad-libbed bits that served as Lennon’s saving grace, you can find it right down below.