The curious case of The Beatles’ Hey Bulldog

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These days, one can hear the bluesy, rockin’ Beatles ditty Hey Bulldog everywhere. It’s one of the Fab Four’s most popular songs, and that’s now a documented fact since Labor Day weekend when SiriusXM broadcast a fan-selected countdown of the Top 100 Beatles recordings.

Hey Bulldog came in No. 13, joined in the Top 20 by the Fab Four classics you’d expect — A Day in the Life, Hey Jude, Let It Be, to name a few. Hey Bulldog came in ahead of such Beatles standards as I am the Walrus and Penny Lane.

That’s pretty remarkable for a song that wasn’t a hit when it was released 48 years ago. Hey Bulldog was part of the Yellow Submarine movie soundtrack, the first Beatles album not to hit No. 1 in the United States. It was never released as a single in North America and was cut out of the film in the American release.

If there is such a thing as a Beatles deep track, for decades, Hey Bulldog qualified. But steadily over the past decade or so, Hey Bulldog’s popularity grew to the point this could have been known as The Summer of Hey Bulldog. The morning of July 21, SiriusXM played Hey Bulldog on repeat on its Hits 1 channel, then later posted a blog with nine little known facts about the song.

Ken Dashow, a DJ at one of the country’s biggest classic rock stations, Q104 in New York, said he hadn’t necessarily noticed an uptick in requests over the past year, but that for a few years its been quite popular among Beatles fans.

“It’s always a favorite of the Breakfast With The Beatles listeners,” he said.

Just where Hey Bulldog should rate among the Beatles catalog is up for debate. Peter Asher, who hosts From Me To You on the SiriusXM Beatles Channel, has known the Beatles for more than half a century and is a musical legend in his own right. One half of the British Invasion duo Peter & Gordon, he became one of the top producers for the Beatles’ Apple Records label and worked with artists such as James Taylor.

Hey Bulldog is one of the few Beatles songs he doesn’t really like, and he has a simple explanation for its increased presence.

“I think they played it too much on the Beatles channel and people started to love it,” Asher said. “But the truth is that Bulldog is not a favorite track of mine and I was surprised by the chart position.”

John Lennon, who wrote the song and sang lead vocals, dismissed it as a “good sounding record that means nothing.”

But some of the greatest rock musicians to come around after the Beatles point to Hey Bulldog as an inspiration. A few years ago, Dave Grohl, frontman of the Foo Fighters, drummer of Nirvana and occasional collaborator with Paul McCartney, chose the song to play at show commemorating the 50th anniversary of Beatles debut on American television.

“The song I’m proud to play with these great musicians, from the ‘Yellow Submarine’ soundtrack, is not one of the Beatles greatest hits,” Grohl said that night. “But to me, it’s a quintessential Beatles rocker. Paul’s rolling bass line, the trademark Ringo drum fills, George’s gritty distorted guitar and that sound that only the back of John Lennon’s throat could produce. This is for my Mom’s favorite band, my favorite band and now my daughter’s favorite band.”

Grohl likely hit on the key reasons Hey Bulldog resonates today as much, if not more, than it did in 1969. It’s been said the recording was the last time all four Beatles gathered in the studio, all getting along, and made music. As Grohl pointed out, it’s a song that highlights the strengths of each member and it’s clear they had a blast while recording.

But perhaps even more telling is Grohl’s last sentence. We’ve reached a point in history in which three generations of Beatles fans — parents, grandparents and children — share the music together. And there’s really no better introduction to Beatles music than Yellow Submarine, both the movie and its soundtrack. Kids especially love Lennon and McCartney howling and barking near the end.

And now, nearly five decades after it was recorded there are rumors Hey Bulldog might finally be released as a single. It turns out every dog does have its day.