Beatles' hit Hey Jude is now 50 years old.

If the legendary music producer Sir George Martin had his way, the Beatles' most successful hit single would never had been released, at least as a single.

When Paul McCartney first played the song to George Martin it was over seven minutes in duration. Martin said radio stations wouldn't play it as it was too long.

John Lennon's reply to that: "They will if it's us."

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And sure, enough they did.

Hey Jude became the band's most successful single. It topped the charts around the world, staying at No 1 in the US for nine weeks and selling over five million copies.

The song has just turned 50 years old. It was released on August 26, 1968 in the US and August 30 in the UK.

It was one of four singles issued simultaneously to launch Apple Records (the others being Mary Hopkin's Those Were the Days, Jackie Lomax's Sour Milk Sea and the Black Dyke Mills Band's Thingumybob).

Hey Jude was written by Paul McCartney while driving to John Lennon's house to console John's 5-year-old son Julian over his parents' divorce. By the time he arrived at the Weybridge home of John and Cynthia he had composed the song, originally titled Hey Julian.

Not long after he changed the song's title to Hey Jude because, in Paul's words, that sounded a bit better.

There are a number of very unusual events surrounding the recording of Hey Jude.

When the recording of the song began in the Trident Studios in July, Ringo was missing.

He had slipped out of the studio to go to the toilet. He returns with impeccable timing at the 50 second mark in the song and strikes up the drums.

Another fun fact about the song. Paul is playing on Trident Studio's Bechstein piano, which has to be one of the most famous pianos in rock and roll history. It was the same piano used by Freddie Mercury on Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody.

It is also the one Elton John plays Levon on, and the one Rick Wakeman plays in David Bowie's Life on Mars.

Once the Beatles had completed their recording, they added a 36-piece orchestra along with some hand clapping and the tapes were then delivered to EMI's Abbey Road Studios for the final mix.

Although Hey Jude was nominated for the Grammy Awards of 1969, it failed to win a single award, but it did win the 1968 NME Readers' poll for single of the year and won the 1968 Ivor Novello Award.

Hey Jude, happy birthday!