The Beatles’ ‘Hey Jude’ Becomes First-Ever Fab Four Song To Be Licensed For Use In China

The Beatles song “Hey Jude” will make history as the first song by the Fab Four to ever appear in a film in China. For the first time ever, the Beatles’ publisher has licensed a song by the British music legends to be used in a Chinese film, according to Billboard. “Hey Jude” will appear in ­famed director Yao Tingting’s coming-of-age film, Yesterday Once More. The iconic 1968 Beatles song will be used as the two headlining stars of the Chinese film belt out the famous Beatles hit in English.

Of course, the use of “Hey Jude” wasn’t cheap. The deal to use the Beatles classic in Tingting’s movie comes at a hefty six-figure sum, which is reportedly one of the highest fees ever paid for song usage in China.

The Beijing office of music publishing company Sony/ATV gave the approval for the use of the Beatles classic, pointing out that Tingting is a respected movie director and that the movie’s storyline about a group of high school friends could help introduce the Beatles’ music to a younger demographic.

Of course, it is a major undertaking to get approval for use of a Beatles song — and not just financially. Billboard reports that Sony/ATV has a “Beatles Board,” which is a group of executives tasked with fielding the steady stream of requests for John, Paul, Ringo, and George’s music, but very few deals actually come to fruition.

In fact, it is very rare to hear a master recording of a Beatles song in a TV show or movie. In 2012, Lionsgate, the studio that produced the AMC period drama Mad Men, made headlines when it secured the rights to the 1966 Beatles song “Tomorrow Never Knows” for a Season 5 episode, “Lady Lazarus.” According to the Wall Street Journal, the studio paid nearly $250,000 for the use of the song, and the deal marked the first time a master recording by the Beatles was ever licensed for a television show.

While the use of a Beatles song in a movie is a big deal in China, in recent years Sony/ATV has licensed nine songs for Chinese car commercials. Some of the songs used include Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” and The Who’s “My Generation.”

Clearly, classic rock is a big deal in China, but nothing is bigger than the Beatles, and “Hey Jude” is one of the band’s biggest songs. “Hey Jude” was released by the Beatles in August 1968, and it was also the very first single from the band’s Apple Records label. When it was released, the seven-minute song was the longest single to ever top the British charts, where it remained for two weeks. The famous Beatles ballad spent 19 weeks on the U.S. Hot 100 charts, with nine of them in the No. 1 spot.

Last year, Paul McCartney told Billboard that the song was partially inspired by John Lennon’s then 5-year-old son, Julian, who was dealing with the aftermath of his parents’ divorce.

“I was on the way to see him after John and Cynthia got divorced, and because I was good friends with [Julian], it came into my mind: ‘Hey, Jules, don’t make it bad,'” McCartney said. “It’s a song of hopefulness.”

McCartney later changed “Jules” to “Jude” because he thought it sounded better, but the Beatles songwriter admits he didn’t realize the word “Jude” means “Jew” in German. After the Beatles legend and some friends painted “HEY JUDE” on the window of the Apple Boutique in London in 1968, an angry visitor assumed the phrase was anti-Semitic graffiti and smashed the window glass with a soda siphon.

[Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images]