The Paul McCartney Project

The Fool On The Hill

Written by Lennon - McCartney

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Song facts

From Wikipedia:

The Fool on the Hill” is a song by the Beatles. It was written and sung by Paul McCartney (credited to Lennon–McCartney) and recorded in 1967. It was included on the Magical Mystery Tour EP and album, and presented in the Magical Mystery Tour film, with a promotional sequence shot near Nice, in France from 30–31 October 1967. The song achieved perhaps its most widespread popular audience as a top ten hit single by Sérgio Mendes & Brasil ’66 in 1968.

Composition

The song’s lyrics describe the titular “fool“, a solitary figure who is not understood by others, but is actually wise. McCartney said the song relates to someone like Maharishi Mahesh Yogi:

‘Fool on the Hill’ was mine and I think I was writing about someone like Maharishi. His detractors called him a fool. Because of his giggle he wasn’t taken too seriously … I was sitting at the piano at my father’s house in Liverpool hitting a D 6th chord, and I made up ‘Fool on the Hill.’

Alistair Taylor, in the book Yesterday, reports a mysterious incident involving a man who inexplicably appeared near him and McCartney during a walk on Primrose Hill and then disappeared again, soon after McCartney and Taylor had conversed about the existence of God; this allegedly prompted the writing of the song.

McCartney played the song for John Lennon during a writing session for “With a Little Help from My Friends“, and Lennon told him to write it down. McCartney did not; he was sure he would not forget it. In his 1980 interview with Playboy, Lennon said, “Now that’s Paul. Another good lyric. Shows he’s capable of writing complete songs.

Musical structure

The song involves alternations of D major and D minor in a similar manner to Cole Porter’s alternations of C minor and C major in “Night and Day“. Thus the D major tonality that begins with an Em7 chord on “Nobody wants to know him” moves through a ii7- V7- I6- vi7- ii7- V7 progression till the shift to the Dm tone and key on “but the fool“. Other highlights are the inspired use in the Dm section of a ♭6th (B♭) melody note on the word “sun” (with a Dm#5 chord) and a 9th (E melody note) on the word “world” (with a Dm chord).

Recording

McCartney recorded a solo demo version of the song on 6 September 1967. This version was later released on the Anthology 2 compilation. Recording began in earnest on 25 September, with significant overdubs by the Beatles on 26 September. Mark Lewisohn said that the 26 September version was “almost a re-make“. A take from 25 September – noticeably slower, somewhat heavier and with slightly different vocals – is also included on Anthology 2. After another session on 27 September where McCartney added another vocal, the song sat for a month before flutes were added on 20 October.

Ray Thomas of the Moody Blues has said that he and bandmate Mike Pinder contributed harmonicas to the song alongside Lennon and George Harrison.

Critical reaction

Richie Unterberger of AllMusic said that “The Fool on the Hill” was the best of the new songs on Magical Mystery Tour aside from “I Am the Walrus“. Tim Riley, a music critic who has contributed to NPR, was not impressed, and unfavourably compared the subject of this song to fools in Shakespeare. Riley wrote, “Possibilities in this song outweigh its substance—it’s the most unworthy Beatles standard since ‘Michelle.’” In 2012, the song was ranked the 420th best classic rock song of all time by New York’s Q104.3.

Performance history

No longer performing regular concerts when they released “The Fool on the Hill“, the Beatles never performed the song live. Paul McCartney first performed it live with Wings on their 1979 tour of the UK. He also included it on his 1989–1990 world tour. The performances on this tour incorporated sound bites from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech. A live version from this tour is found on the album Tripping the Live Fantastic. The song surfaced again for McCartney’s 2001–2002 tours, and another live version appeared on the Back in the US album. […]

From The Usenet Guide to Beatles Recording Variations:

  • [a] mono 25 Oct 1967. edited.
    UK: Parlophone MMT 1 (EP) Magical Mystery Tour 1967.
    US: Capitol MAL 2835 Magical Mystery Tour 1967.
    CD: EMI EP box set 1991.
  • [b] stereo 1 Nov 1967. edited.
    UK: Parlophone SMMT 1 (EP) Magical Mystery Tour 1967, Apple PCSP 718 The Beatles 1967-1970 1973.
    US: Capitol SMAL 2835 Magical Mystery Tour 1967, Apple SKBO-3404 The Beatles 1967-1970 1973.
    CD: EMI CDP 7 48062 2 Magical Mystery Tour 1987, EMI EP box set 1991, EMI CDP 7 97039 2 The Beatles 1967-1970 1993.
  • [c] stereo 1995. edited.
    CD: Apple CDP 8 34448 2 Anthology 2 1996.

The editing is unspecified by Lewisohn but shortened the song by over a minute from the longest state. In mono [a] the vocal track is faded out a little sooner in the fadeout. The home video Magical Mystery Tour uses a 1988 stereo mix that is similar to these two.

The Anthology mix [c] is deliberately different, showing the state at the end of the first day and showing why Lewisohn calls the overdub and editing “almost a remake” in his Recording Sessions: it has a different lead vocal and a prominent guitar rhythm section missing from the standard mixes.

Last updated on December 3, 2016

Lyrics

Day after day
Alone on a hill
The man with the foolish grin
Is keeping perfectly still
But nobody wants to know him
They can see that he's just a fool
And he never gives an answer

But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning round

Well on the way
Head in a cloud
The man of a thousand voices
Talking perfectly loud

But nobody ever hears him
Or the sound he appears to make
And he never seems to notice

But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning round

And nobody seems to like him
They can tell what he wants to do
And he never shows his feelings

But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning round, oh oh oh, round round round round

He never listens to them
He knows that they're the fools
They don't like him

The fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning round

Oh, round round round round, oh

Officially appears on


Magical Mystery Tour (Stereo)

Official album

2:59 • Studio versionB

Paul McCartney:
Acoustic guitar, Bass, Piano, Recorder, Vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Finger cymbals, Maracas
John Lennon:
Harmonica, Jew's harp
George Harrison:
Acoustic guitar, Harmonica
George Martin:
Producer
Ken Scott:
Engineer
Christopher Taylor:
Flutes
Richard Taylor:
Flutes
Jack Ellory:
Flutes

Session Recording:
Sep 25, 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
25,26,27 Sep, 20 Oct 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Nov 01, 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road


Magical Mystery Tour (Mono)

Official album • Released in 1967

2:59 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Acoustic guitar, Bass, Piano, Recorder, Vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Finger cymbals, Maracas
John Lennon:
Harmonica, Jew's harp
George Harrison:
Acoustic guitar, Harmonica
George Martin:
Producer
Ken Scott:
Engineer
Christopher Taylor:
Flutes
Richard Taylor:
Flutes
Jack Ellory:
Flutes

Session Recording:
Sep 25, 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
25,26,27 Sep, 20 Oct 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Oct 25, 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Magical Mystery Tour (Mono)

EP • Released in 1967

3:00 • Studio versionA • Mono

Paul McCartney:
Acoustic guitar, Bass, Piano, Recorder, Vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Finger cymbals, Maracas
John Lennon:
Harmonica, Jew's harp
George Harrison:
Acoustic guitar, Harmonica
George Martin:
Producer
Ken Scott:
Engineer
Christopher Taylor:
Flutes
Richard Taylor:
Flutes
Jack Ellory:
Flutes

Session Recording:
Sep 25, 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
25,26,27 Sep, 20 Oct 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Oct 25, 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Magical Mystery Tour (Stereo)

EP • Released in 1967

3:00 • Studio versionB • Stereo

Paul McCartney:
Acoustic guitar, Bass, Piano, Recorder, Vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Finger cymbals, Maracas
John Lennon:
Harmonica, Jew's harp
George Harrison:
Acoustic guitar, Harmonica
George Martin:
Producer
Ken Scott:
Engineer
Christopher Taylor:
Flutes
Richard Taylor:
Flutes
Jack Ellory:
Flutes

Session Recording:
Sep 25, 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
25,26,27 Sep, 20 Oct 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Nov 01, 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road


Tripping The Live Fantastic

Official live • Released in 1990

5:01 • LiveL1

Performed by:
Paul McCartneyLinda McCartneyRobbie McIntoshHamish StuartPaul WickensChris Whitten
Paul McCartney:
Producer
Eddie Klein:
Assistant engineer
Matt Butler:
Assistant engineer
Peter Henderson:
Producer
Bob Clearmountain:
Mixing engineer, Producer
Jeff Cohen:
Recording engineer
Geoff Foster:
Assistant engineer
Scott Hull:
Assistant engineer
George Cowan:
Assistant engineer
Paul Rushbrook:
Assistant engineer

Concert From the concert in London, United Kingdom on Jan 13, 1990


Anthology 2

Official album • Released in 1996

2:48 • DemoC • Three weeks before he recorded it for disc release on Magical Mystery Tour, Paul taped a piano/vocal demo of his latest song. Taking as long to achieve as it sounds - less than three minutes - he sat at the studio piano, playing and singing live. The result is far from the sound of the final master (indeed Paul hadn't yet fleshed out a full lyric) but it has a charm of its own and a nicely sent-up ending.

George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Sep 06, 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Anthology 2

Official album • Released in 1996

3:45 • OuttakeD • Take 4. The master of Paul's The Fool On The Hill was a remake, started on 26 September. Three takes of an alternative arrangement were recorded the previous day, the last being "bounced down" to Take 4 and on to which recorder, drums and Paul's lead vocal were added. As with the demo, it is clear that Paul had yet to finalise the lyric at this point.

George Martin:
Producer
Ken Scott:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Sep 25, 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Back In The U.S.

Official live • Released in 2002

3:09 • LiveL2

Paul McCartney:
Executive producer
Performed by:
Paul McCartneyRusty AndersonAbe Laboriel Jr.Paul WickensBrian Ray
David Kahne:
Producer
Michael Brauer:
Engineer
Ricardo Chavarria:
Assistant engineer

Concert From the concert in Washington, USA on Apr 23, 2002


Back In The World

Official live • Released in 2003

3:09 • LiveL2

Paul McCartney:
Executive producer
Performed by:
Paul McCartneyRusty AndersonAbe Laboriel Jr.Paul WickensBrian Ray
David Kahne:
Producer
Michael Brauer:
Engineer
Ricardo Chavarria:
Assistant engineer

Concert From the concert in Washington, USA on Apr 23, 2002


Love

Official album • Released in 2006

3:30 • Studio versionE • This track includes sitar from "Sea of Holes", piano from "Dear Prudence" and vocals and horns from "Mother Nature's Son", and drums from "Maxwell's Silver Hammer".

George Martin:
Producer
Giles Martin:
Producer
Paul Hicks:
Remix engineer
Sam Okell:
Remix engineer assistant
Chris Bolster:
Remix engineer assistant
Mirek Stiles:
Remix engineer assistant

Session Mixing:
Circa 2004-2006
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Live performances

“The Fool On The Hill” has been played in 236 concerts.

Latest concerts where “The Fool On The Hill” has been played








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