Song facts: Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da is a Beatles' song credited to Lennon/McCartney but written soley by Paul. It was released on the band's White Album aka The Beatles in 1968 and also as a single in several countries, except in the UK. The United States didn't see a single release until 1976.

The Beatles working on the White Album, 1968. 

The Beatles working on the White Album, 1968. 

Origins

In May of 1968 when The Beatles got back from studying meditation in India, the band got together at George Harrison's bungalow in Esher, to record demos of songs they wrote while on silent retreat. One of the 27 demos recorded that day was McCartney's Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da. These recordings have been largely bootlegged over the years.

"I had a friend called Jimmy Scott who was a Nigerian conga player, who I used to meet in the clubs in London. He had a few expressions, one of which was, 'Ob la di ob la da, life goes on, bra'. I used to love this expression... He sounded like a philosopher to me. He was a great guy anyway and I said to him, 'I really like that expression and I'm thinking of using it,' and I sent him a cheque in recognition of that fact later because even though I had written the whole song and he didn't help me, it was his expression." - Paul McCartney

Recording

Recording began on July 3rd at Abbey Road Studios. Lennon reportedly hated the track, calling it more of Paul's granny music. During one of the sessions John allegedly walked out then later returned under the influence of marijuana. He then proceeded immediately to play the opening piano part at a faster pace, insisting this is the way it was meant to be played. This turned out to be the tempo at which the final master was played.

While recording his vocals, Paul accidentally sang the line Desmond stays at home and does his pretty face (in place of Molly). This mistake was left in as the other Beatles liked it. Seven takes in total were recorded on this day; take four was chosen as the best for later overdubs.

An alternate version (take 5) can be found on Anthology 3, which is played in a different key to the master.

Personnel

  • Paul McCartney – vocal, bass guitar, handclaps, vocal percussion
  • John Lennon – piano, backing vocal, handclaps, spoken word, vocal percussion
  • George Harrison – acoustic guitar, backing vocal, handclaps, spoken word, vocal percussion
  • Ringo Starr – drums, bongos, other percussion, handclaps, vocal percussion
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