When was it recorded? Feb. 11, 1968
When was it first released, and on which album? Jan. 17, 1969 on “Yellow Submarine”
Who wrote it? Lennon (with noteworthy contribution from McCartney)
Have I heard this song before? No
What my research dug up:
(Fun fact: One of The Burgers of the Day on “Bob’s Burgers” tonight was the Sgt. Poblano Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. +1 for the Beatles reference)
In Mar. 1968, The Beatles released “Lady Madonna” as a single. “Hey Bulldog” came to life while they were recording a promotional video for that song in a recording studio.
Quoth John, “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” (Hunter Davies, The Beatles). Originally “Hey Bullfrog,” the title phrase changed when Paul and John were ad-libbing during the video shoot.
According to Wikipedia, “A few days before the recording session, Paul McCartney had played drums on a Paul Jones rocker called ‘The Dog Presides,’ which had featured barking sound effects.” Here’s “The Dog Presides,” for the record; there are some similarities to “Hey Bulldog” but not enough to be consequential. I’m mostly including it because I thought it was groovy.
Wikipedia continues, “During the Beatles recording, McCartney started to bark without warning.” The band decided to keep it in and changed the title accordingly.
“I remember (it) 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. We always tried to make every song different because we figured, ‘Why write something like the last one? We’ve done that.’ We were on a ladder so there was never any sense of stepping down a rung, or even staying on the same rung, it was better to move one rung ahead.” – Paul McCartney (Anthology)
I can’t find a date for it, but this recording has been verified as a home recording demo version of “Hey Bulldog.” It’s bare bones as bare bones can be compared to the finished product.
Alan Pollack’s notes on this number are fascinating (as usual), so I suggest reading those further if you have the time. My choice quote to summarize his “Hey Bulldog” analysis would be, “Compositionally it’s got something for everyone. Musically, it creates a paradoxical mood, equal parts kick-ass and jumping-jittery; quite uncannily in sympathy with the helluva mixed message delivered by the lyrics. Do you really believe the protagonist is interested in talking to you if you’re lonely?” Pollack also points out the foreshadowing of the “background chatter in the guitar solo and the very first ‘woof’ appearing in the final refrain… make the events of the outro seem more inevitable and less arbitrary.”
According to the Beatles’ sound engineer Geoff Emerick, “Hey Bulldog” was “the last song the band recorded that featured a team dynamic with enthusiasm from every member” (Wikipedia) and one of their final truly group efforts. The song was recorded, mixed, and completed Feb. 11 in a 10-hour work session.
“Hey Bulldog” appears in the film, “Yellow Submarine.” Originally, the sequence was cut from the movie’s American release because producer Al Brodax thought the film ran too long. The segment only appeared in the European release until “Yellow Submarine” was re-released in 1999. Sorry for the quality of this clip, but it was the best I could find.
Remember how “Hey Bulldog” was recorded while the Beatles were being filmed? To further promote the “Yellow Submarine” re-release, Apple recut the footage from the “Lady Madonna” shoot and synced it to “Hey Bulldog,” releasing it as a new promotional film. According to most sources (including George Harrison), this was the only time the Beatles were actually filmed recording something. Again, not the highest quality (lovin’ that ABC logo), but I scavenge what I can.
It might have been somewhat off-the-cuff, but man, were The Beatles firing on all cylinders here. I was going to wax lyrical about how much I love the bass line and how it ties into the piano riff… and how that ties into the guitar parts… and how the drum part offsets that part. There really is something for everyone here — what a great number!