I have a theory about “Hello Goodbye.” It’s probably a stretch, and maybe I’m playing armchair psychologist a bit, but here goes: “Hello Goodbye” marks the beginning of the end of the Beatles.
“Aw, come on, Anthony! The band members were drifting apart and stopped getting along. Yoko joined the picture and created tension. You’re really pushing it to suggest that a stupid pop song is the catalyst for their eventual breakup.”
Look, I’m not going to take this to fisticuffs. I have too much dignity for that, not to mention a face that’s already just begging to be punched. I’ve had so many emergency room visits to sew up my knuckles after shattering mirrors that the nurses started calling me Nick.
That was meant to be a terrible pun about the verb form of “nick” but it also legitimately seems like something Nicolas Cage would do.
In the early days of the Lennon/McCartney partnership, the pair knew that any individual songwriting success was a win for both of them. Certainly, the decision to co-credit compositions was financially beneficial, but ultimately they were looking out for the best interests for the group. The healthy competition between the two to come up with the superior single was a good thing. But by 1965, ego was seeping in, and a compromise was reached to promote John’s “Day Tripper” as a double-A-side single with Paul’s clearly more commercial “We Can Work it Out.”
The strategy was reemployed for the magnificent “Strawberry Fields Forever”/”Penny Lane” pairing in 1967, but by the end of that year, the necessity to indulge John’s whims came to a screeching halt. When he pitched the unorthodox “I Am the Walrus” as the band’s next single, Paul countered with “Hello Goodbye,” a far catchier and, yes, safer selection than John’s bizarre paean to the work of Lewis Carroll. Paul’s track took precedence, relegating “I Am the Walrus” to the b-side. John was not pleased.
Now, I’m certainly not going to argue that “Hello Goodbye” is a better song than “I Am the Walrus.” I absolutely prefer John’s song in this instance, but I can’t imagine anyone objectively thinking it would be easier to promote “Walrus.” It was the right decision, but, along with the Magical Mystery Tour movie, it was the first piece of evidence that Paul had essentially become the Beatles’ creative director, and he eagerly and increasingly embraced his self-appointed role, much to the irritation of John, George, and to a lesser extent Ringo. That all came to a head during 1969’s tense Get Back/Let it Be sessions, and a year later, the group was over.
There you have it, my theory of why “Hello Goodbye” led to the slippery slope that broke up the Beatles. As for the song itself, it’s catchy and I enjoy it enough, but I’ve never been a big fan. It’s an inoffensive Paul McCartney song about inoffensive opposites. A solid choice for a single but in the overall span of their career, not one of their better ones. I like that it continued the band’s 1967 tradition of tossing in completely random codas (see: “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Lovely Rita,” “Magical Mystery Tour”). But personally, when it comes to “Hello Goodbye” and “I Am the Walrus,” you say Paul, I say John.