Lennon said in 1980 of “Fool On The Hill”:
“Now that’s Paul. Another good lyric. Shows he capable of writing complete songs.”
McCartney says that he “thinks” it was about “someone like the Maharishi. His detractors called him a fool. Because of his giggle he wasn’t taken too seriously.”
McCartney’s lead vocal is single tracked in the verses and double tracked in the refrains. The track incorporates a large number of instruments: the flute and recorder parts deserve special mention. The bass harmonica appear as an accompaniment to the flute solos. The lumbering bass harmonica part conveyed the feeling that the fool, although brilliant, was not accepted by the mainstream society which poked fun at him.
Beatle scholar Alan Pollack commented:
“This song surely belongs in McCartney’s top drawer. On one level, it is one of his most explicit efforts in the evocative direction of the Early Romantic (nineteenth century) ‘art song’. Yet, on another level, it can also be described as an intriguing fusion of the sort that is arguably one of Paul’s specialties of the house. One can only marvel at how such Classic, Romantic elegance is achieved in the likes of this song by simple means, in spite of the elaborate arrangement.”
Lyrically, the song explores some of the same themes of lonely, alienated isolation covered in the likes of “Eleanor Rigby” or “She’s Leaving Home:”
Mark Hertsegaard adds:
“McCartney’s Fool has rejected society’s constrains in favor of solitary communion with the natural world, a choice that is portrayed as knowing and noble. But beyond watching sunsets, how is he so different from the people who snub him? Paul either can’t or doesn’t bother to explain. The lovely slow melody, however, conveys such an enchanting mood of childlike wonder that it redeems his lyrical laziness.”
The line “The Fool on the Hill is talking perfectly loud / but nobody ever hears him / or the sound he appears to make” could mean that we must be ready to be called from our noisy and ambiguous concerns in order to take ownership of our lives?
Whereas in earlier Beatle songs, for the most part, the inner lives of the writer, thoughts and feelings of their protagonists were given attention to tell-tale, albeit painfully mundane details, we find in “A Fool On The Hill” a very different approach. The focus is almost exclusively on the main character’s inner life, with the external references having become vague and abstract.