In 1967, John Lennon had left his wife and son and was living with Yoko Ono.
Paul McCartney didn’t want Cynthia Lennon to think he’d also abandoned her and Julian, just because John had left, so he drove to see them in Weybridge.
Being a songwriter, he naturally began making up a tune as he drove.
He hoped Julian wouldn’t start crying, that would just make a sad situation worse.
So he sang: “Hey Jules, don’t make it bad. Take a sad song and make it better.”
In the event, although he liked the song, he thought ‘Jules’ was a bit awkward to sing.
So he changed the name to Jude, and the song became ‘Hey Jude’.
The Beatles recorded it and it was released in 1968.
At the same time, they’d just opened a fashion boutique, named Apple, in Baker Street.
McCartney was proud of his new song and put the title across the window: HEY JUDE.
He thought it was a great opportunity, with all the people and buses going by.
Which is when he found out that his reality wasn’t everyone’s reality.
He got a phone call, an elderly man was on the line, his voice breaking in anger.
The man shouted: “What do you mean? How dare you? Take it down. Take it down.”
McCartney tried to ask him what was the matter.
The man shouted: “Jude! Jude! Jude! Haven’t we had enough of this? I’m going to send my son round to beat you up.”
The man’s name was Mr Leon and he had a heavy accent, eventually McCartney was able to work out the problem: the word ‘Jude’ meant Jew in German.
This was a Jewish man who had escaped Nazi Germany where Jewish shops had JUDE painted in large letters in whitewash on their windows.
All over the country, JUDEN RAUS (Jews Out) was painted on walls and windows.
Josef Goebbels made a propaganda film that was shown to everyone: ‘DER EWIGE JUDE’ (The Eternal Jew).
Over footage of rats scuttling about, the Nazi voice over said:
“Where rats appear, they bring ruin by destroying mankind’s goods and foodstuffs. In this way, they spread disease, plague, leprosy, typhoid fever, cholera, dysentery, and so on. They are cunning, cowardly, and cruel and are found mostly in large packs. Among the animals, they represent the rudiment of an insidious, underground destruction – just like the Jews among human beings.”
This was the world that Mr Leon had escaped, and this is what HEY JUDE in a shop window looked like to him.
To us, the war seems like ancient history, but 1968 was only 23 years after the war.
To give it perspective, it’s 2020 now, 23 years ago was 1997, it would be recent history.
Of course, McCartney apologised, immediately took the words out of the window and persuaded the man that he meant no harm.
It’s interesting that his reality wasn’t Mr Leon’s reality.
Paul McCartney was the musician of the Beatles, John Lennon was the lyricist, and John Lennon read something completely different into the words of Hey Jude.
Lennon said the line: “Now that you’ve found her, go out and get her” was actually Paul saying it was okay for him to leave his wife and child and go off with Yoko.
Which shows that words are received, and interpreted, strictly through the filter of the listener’s situation and experience.
And that’s why we have to be responsible not just for speaking correctly, but for being heard correctly.
As the man who invented semiotics, Ferdinand de Saussure, said: “Everyone, left to his own devices, forms an idea about what goes on in language, which is very far from the truth.”
If we don’t take strict control of our own communications, someone else will.