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played the fool

The Fool on the Hill

This article is about The Beatles' song, "The Fool on the Hill". For the novel by Matt Ruff, see Fool on the Hill (novel).
"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.

Origins

McCartney said of the song:
'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 didn't; he was sure he wouldn't 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."

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 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.

Credits

  • John Lennon – harmonica, maracas
  • Paul McCartney – lead vocal, piano, recorder, bass guitar
  • George Harrison – acoustic guitar, harmonica
  • Ringo Starr – drums, finger cymbals
  • Richard Taylor – flute
  • Jack Ellory – flute

Credits per Ian MacDonald Flautists also documented by Mark Lewisohn.

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 unfavorably 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.'"

Cover versions and references

Trivia

Notes

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