If the terms ‘overlooked’ or ‘underrated’ had to be applied to only one Beatles song for some unexplainable reason, I would think that we would all happily agree on “Hey Bulldog” being a strong contender. The most passionate of Beatles fans will already know of the song’s impressive strengths, but it is one that really doesn’t get that worldwide recognition that a lot of other Beatles songs claim. I may as well try and attempt to tell you why it should.
The song was recorded during somewhat of a blank period in The Beatles timeline. After what was arguably their most successful year in 1967, recording Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour, the group began work again in early 1968 – not with any intent of making another LP, but to lay down some tracks that could be possibly be the next single. “Lady Madonna” ended up being that track with Harrison’s composition “The Inner Light” as the B-Side; “Hey Bulldog” was left on the shelf until it was chosen to be released on the Yellow Submarine soundtrack album almost a year later.
Led by a funky piano riff, a powerful drum performance by Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney’s bass which seems to have a life of its own, “Hey Bulldog” is a groovy number about someone who feels unappreciated/depressed. Well, that’s how I feel anyway. The random situations and silly phrases that appear in the lyrics may make you think I am looking to deep into it.
The song was noted by the engineer Geoff Emerick as being the last one in which all four members approached recording with a real enthusiasm; you can really tell when listening to it and watching the making of it in the video above. Lennon and McCartney’s spontaneous exchange at the tail-end never fails to raise a smile, and Ringo’s cheeky ‘yeah?’ after the lyric ‘big man’ is sang is priceless.
There are many highlights here; I could go on forever about them, but you should hear the song for yourself.