The piece of paper features the opening line of each of the song’s four verses and two bridges, the word “break” after the first verse and “ending, fading” at the end. According to the description at Julien’s Auctions, McCartney used it at London’s Trident Studios and then gave it to one of the engineers. Julien’s had estimated its value between $160,000 and $180,000, and it sold for more than five times that figure.
McCartney’s notes were part of a 218-item lot of Beatles memorabilia that Julien’s sold in recognition or the 50th anniversary of their’ breakup. Among the other big-ticket objects were a bass drum head from a 1964 concert at the Cow Palace in San Francisco (winning bid: $200,000), a drawing made by John Lennon during his and Yoko Ono‘s 1969 “Bed-In for Peace” ($93,750) and Lennon’s handwritten shooting notes for the promotional film for “Hello, Goodbye.”
“Hey Jude” was written by McCartney to bring some comfort to Julian Lennon, then five years old, in the wake of his father’s divorce from his first wife, Cynthia. Needing an eight-track tape machine in order to fully capture the 36-piece orchestra, the Beatles moved from their usual base of Abbey Road Studios, which only had a four-track, to Trident. Despite its 7:11 running time, the song stayed at No. 1 in the U.S. for nine weeks, tying the record at the time.
According to NME, the auction was originally expected to be held at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York’s Times Square, but it was moved entirely online due to the city’s shutdown as a result of the coronavirus.