Hey Bulldog: 9 things you didn’t know about this overlooked Beatles song

Discover more about Hey Bulldog and other overlooked Beatles songs on The Fab Fourum.

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SiriusXM Editor
July 21, 2017

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By now, you know that SiriusXM’s The Beatles Channel (Ch. 18) plays The Fab Four’s biggest hits 24 hours a day, 8 days a week. But the channel also gives equal time to The Fab Four’s lesser known tracks… From Yesterday to Now. This week, we spotlight Hey Bulldog, a hidden gem from the group’s Yellow Submarine album with nine facts you might not know!

1. The song evolved from an early 1968 demo by John Lennon titled She Can Talk to Me and was recorded for the Yellow Submarine animated film and soundtrack album, released in January 1969.

“It’s a good-sounding record that means nothing.” – John Lennon

2. Hey Bulldog was recorded on February 11, 1968 at Abbey Road Studios while The Beatles were being filmed for a promotional video for their new single, Lady Madonna. The two songs share a similar blues feel and were combined for an innovative mash-up on The Beatles’ Love album in 2006.

3. The Beatles recorded, completed and mixed Hey Bulldog during a 10-hour session. The basic rhythm track consisted of piano, drums, tambourine, lead guitar, and bass. By take 10, they had a version they were happy with, and so onto this were overdubbed more drums, fuzz bass, a guitar solo, double tracked lead vocals by John, and backing vocals from Paul. George ran his guitar through a fuzz box and turned up his amp extra loud to create a ferocious solo. The result is a biting, aggressive piece of music with a good deal of playfulness, especially toward the end.

4. The song’s original title was Hey Bullfrog. A few days before the group recorded the track, Paul played drums on a Paul Jones rocker called The Dog Presides, which featured barking sound effects. During The Beatles’ session, Paul and John ended up barking, woofing and howling as they ad-libbed over the song’s finale, and the title was subsequently changed to Hey Bulldog. 

“I remember ‘Hey Bulldog’ as being one of John’s songs and I helped him finish it off in the studio, but it’s mainly his vibe. There’s a little rap at the end between John and I. We went into a crazy little thing at the end.”

– Paul McCartney

5. When Yellow Submarine was originally released to theaters in 1968, the song was deleted from American prints of the film due to time constraints. The restoration of the Hey Bulldog sequence of the film did not occur until 1999, when the film was re-released along with a new soundtrack album, Yellow Submarine Songtrack.

6. When the Yellow Submarine film was re-released in 1999, the original footage that was used for the Lady Madonna promo film was synchronized with Hey Bulldog to create a new promo clip that faithfully showed The Beatles recording that song in the studio.

“When we were in the studio recording ‘Bulldog,’ apparently it was at a time when they needed some footage for something else, some other record, and a film crew came along and filmed us. Then they cut up the footage and used some of the shots for something else. But it was Neil Aspinall who found out that when you watched and listened to what the original thing was, we were recording ‘Bulldog.’ This was apparently the only time we were actually filmed recording something, so what Neil did was, he put it all back together again and put the ‘Bulldog’ soundtrack onto it, and there it was.”

– George Harrison

7. Beatles biographer Hunter Davies noted that John originally tried playing the sitar on the track, strumming it like a ukulele and singing the lyrics in a Lancashire accent.

8. Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick regarded Hey Bulldog as one of The Beatles’ final true group efforts, with equal contributions from all members in the studio.

9. Hey Bulldog has been covered by a wide variety of artists, including Alice CooperElvis Costello, Gomez, Cyndi LauperDave Matthews, The Roots, and Toad the Wet Sprocket. The song was also performed by Dave Grohl and Jeff Lynne on the TV special The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to The Beatles, which aired on February 9, 2014, to mark the 50th anniversary of the band’s historic debut on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Discover more about Hey Bulldog and other overlooked Beatles songs on The Fab Fourum, the live weekly call-in roundtable show hosted by veteran broadcaster Dennis Elsas, TV producer and author Bill Flanagan, and Beatles expert Tom Frangione.  Airs Wednesday, July 26 at 9 pm ET on SiriusXM’s The Beatles Channel (Ch. 18).  Call 1-844-999-BEATLES, email fabfourum@siriusxm.com, or tweet @SiriusXM using the hashtag #FabFourum to join the conversation!

Sources: Rolling Stone and The Beatles Bible.