NFB Listens To Number Ones: “Goodbye” – Mary Hopkin

Authors note: Oh boy, here we go. It’s always funny what sets people off, but judging by the amount of negative comments this one has gotten, including threats, it’s fair to say we can add “Saying anything critical about Paul McCartney” to the list. The last time this happened, when I was threatened with physical harm, it was an article on Irish neutrality in World War 2. Suffice to say I think similar behavior on a topic as comparatively unimportant as the below is remarkably sad.

Here’s the thing: comments here have been on a “Must be approved before publishing” system for a long time, because while I will tolerate criticism and debate, I will not tolerate abusive language, personal attacks and people who think a computer or smartphone gives them the entitlement to hurl insults across the internet. It does not. All such comments are deleted, and any subsequent comments from those users are automatically deleted unread. Because of a handful of truly desperate people, comments are shut down on this one. I wish it was otherwise, but I have no patience for this stuff.

This one, another I can state to have never heard before now, is all about the Beatles really and more specifically Paul McCartney. He wrote the song, demoed it, played some instruments on the recording and most definitely choose the singer. Moreover, he helped make sure the song wasn’t as big as it could have been for good measure, with “Goodbye” being #1 in Ireland for just a week, before The Beatles’ “Get Back” knocked it aside. That was a recurring theme of Mary Hopkin’s early career actually, with “Hey Jude” siphoning attention away from her smash debut “Those Were The Days”. The singer herself wasn’t an enormous fan of this one, and has described the period when she recorded it as one where McCartney was micromanaging her career.

That doesn’t come across on the recording though in fairness. Hopkin has a really nice voice, and that is evident both in the jaunty verses and in the high-pitched titular “Gooooodbyyyyeeeee” of the chorus that does sort of hit you out of left field when it comes. You’ll be nodding along to “Goodbye” because of that, but less so when we get to some dreaded “do, do, do do” stuff towards the back half, that always makes me roll my eyes and wonder why the songwriter couldn’t admit to being out of ideas. It’s funny because I was thinking that Hopkin sounded a bit like a British Dana when I was listening to this one, but of course she sort of was: she was the runner-up to Dana in Eurovision 1970, with the now largely forgotten “Knock Knock Who’s There?”

It’s that same sort of feminine cheeriness, and I suppose you could even say that it is a bit too cheery sounding really: this, as the title might indicate, is a break-up song essentially, only Hopkin’s tone might make you think it is the exact opposite. The end result is something akin to a mania in the singer, or so it sounds, saying goodbye to her lover and sounding happy while professing unhappiness. Still, it is unique in its way, giving us a female perspective from this kind of narrative: something akin to “Leaving On A Jet Plane”, only it’s the woman going off for a professional reason presumably, and leaving the guy behind. A nice lyric to sum up that feeling of not waiting around for the man in her life is “Leave your flowers at my door, I’ll leave them for the one who waits behind”. The whole thing ends really suddenly, as if McCartney wasn’t sure how he wanted “Goodbye” to end: it’s hard to imagine this as a Beatles song, it seems a it too throwaway for that. Hopkins gives a decent performance, but this isn’t one that will be flying high on many number one lists: it’s more of a footnote, and not even for Hopkin.

I misspelled Mary Hopkin’s name as Mary Hopkins initially, put that down to a proofreading miss that has now been amended.

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1 Response to NFB Listens To Number Ones: “Goodbye” – Mary Hopkin

  1. Daniel P Hudelson says:

    It’s a lovely song, perfectly suited for a lovely voice such as Mary’s. The suggestion that Paul wanted to limit its success by placing in competition with “Get Back” is absurd.

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