“Oh! Darling” is a Beatles’ song from their 1969 album, “Abbey Road”.
Recorded: 20th, 26th April; 17th, 18th, 22nd July; 11th August, 1969
Genre: Hard rock, swamp pop, rock and roll
Track Duration: 3:26
Record Label: Apple
Producer: George Martin
Engineers: Jeff Jarratt, Phil McDonald
** John Lennon also plays electric guitar on the “Anthology 3” version.
Billy Preston: Fender Rhodes (on the “Anthology 3” version).
This rock song has a combination of some interesting individual instrumentation together with possibly the biggest strain on Paul McCartney’s voice ever. The track appears to draw influences from many unusual sources.
Firstly, there is a deep connection to the New Orleans rhythm and blues sound. African-American musicians from this area such as Fats Domino were particularly prominent from the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.
Secondly, there is a strong connection to the Louisiana swamp blues sound. Indeed, Charles Brown’s “Please Come Home for Christmas” bears a strong resemblance. The similarity continues in Slim Harpo’s “Rainin’ in My Heart”.
Thirdly, there is a connection to swamp pop from the Louisiana region. The basic structure of “Oh! Darling”has such a strong resemblance to this genre that some folk in Louisiana originally thought the song came from a local musician!
Swamp pop musician, John Fred, met The Beatles in London during the 1960’s and recalls, “they were very familiar with Louisiana music”. This surprised the singer somewhat. Incidentally, John Fred & His Playboy Band had a massive hit single with “Judy in Disguise (With Glasses)” in 1967. Of course, as we know, this is a play on the title of The Beatles’ song, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds“.
Without doubt, “Oh! Darling” was going to rip Paul McCartney’s voice to shreds due to pushing his screaming to the limit. However, his determination to capture the the correct vocals for the song persisted. Indeed, McCartney often arrived in the studio before the rest of the band to record his vocal tracks.
“Paul came in several days running to do the lead vocal on Oh! Darling. He’d come in, sing it and say, ‘No, that’s not it, I’ll try it again tomorrow.’ He only tried it once per day, I suppose he wanted to capture a certain rawness which could only be done once before the voice changed. I remember him saying, ‘Five years ago I could have done this in a flash,’ referring, I suppose, to the days of Long Tall Sally and Kansas City“.
Alan Parsons, engineer
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn
Lennon And McCartney Quotes
Although written by Paul McCartney, as ever the credits go to the songwriting partnership of Lennon-McCartney, of course. However, they did sort of compete at times.
“I mainly remember wanting to get the vocal right, wanting to get it good, and I ended up trying each morning as I came into the recording session. I tried it with a hand mike, and I tried it with a standing mike, I tried it every which way, and finally got the vocal I was reasonably happy with. It’s a bit of a belter, and if it comes off a little bit lukewarm, then you’ve missed the whole point. It was unusual for me, I would normally try all the goes at a vocal in one day.”
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
“Oh! Darling was a great one of Paul’s that he didn’t sing too well. I always thought that I could’ve done it better – it was more my style than his. He wrote it, so what the hell, he’s going to sing it. If he’d had any sense, he should have let me sing it”. [Laughs.]
All We Are Saying, David Sheff
To begin with, The Beatles began rehearsing “Oh! Darling” on the 27th January, 1969, during the Get Back sessions. From that day’s session in London’s Savile Row, we get a version which is on their Anthology 3 album. It was also a day of celebration for John Lennon and he tells us at the end of the jamming session, “Just heard that Yoko’s divorce has just gone through. Free at last …..I’m free!”
After this impromptu announcement, John Lennon continues to sing in tune with the song:
Baby told the lawyer, it’s OK
Believe me when I tell you (duet with Paul McCartney)
I’ll never do you no harm (duet with Paul McCartney)
For the official album recording, The Beatles began recording “Oh! Darling” on the 20th April, 1969, in Studio Three at the EMI Studios in London during the 7.00pm-12.45am sessions. They recorded 26 takes in which the last one was suitable for the basic rhythm track.
Although various overdubbing took place to tweak the song, the vocals still proved problematic. Instead of using headphones, McCartney would use the studio speakers in order for him to feel as though he was singing to a live audience. The first attempt by Paul McCartney was on the 26th April but this was not suitable. Further attempts on the 17th July were no good for the song.
Then, on the 23th July, Paul McCartney cracked it. This was during the 2.30pm-11.30pm sessions. They now had all the material necessary to mix the song suitable enough to grace the Abbey Road album.
To this date, neither Paul McCartney nor any other band members have ever sang “Oh! Darling” onstage. This is possibly due to the effects the vocal piece would have on their voices.