Oh! Darling

Abbey Road album artworkWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 20, 26 April; 17, 18, 22 July; 11 August 1969
Producers: George Martin, Chris Thomas
Engineers: Jeff Jarratt, Phil McDonald

Released: 26 September 1969 (UK), 1 October 1969 (US)

Paul McCartney: vocals, backing vocals, guitar, bass
John Lennon: backing vocals, piano
George Harrison: backing vocals, guitar
Ringo Starr: drums

Available on:
Abbey Road
Anthology 3

This retro-style rocker, written by Paul McCartney, was originally attempted by The Beatles during the Get Back sessions, but was eventually released as an album track on Abbey Road.

Abbey Road - The Beatles

Having been some years since he deployed the larynx-shredding rock 'n' roll stylings of I'm Down and Long Tall Sally (1968's Helter Skelter is a notable exception), McCartney broke his voice back in carefully.

Living in Cavendish Avenue, just two streets away from Abbey Road, Paul McCartney got in the habit of arriving before the other Beatles to record his vocals for the song.

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

In 1969 McCartney thought his voice was too clear to do the song justice, and claimed he "wanted it to sound as though I'd been performing it on stage all week".

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.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

John Lennon rated the song highly, though he was characteristically guarded in his praise.

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.]
John Lennon
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

In the studio

The Beatles first rehearsed Oh! Darling on 27 January 1969, during a Get Back session at the Apple Studio in London's Savile Row. With Billy Preston on keyboards, the somewhat ragged recording turns into an improvised jam, ending with John Lennon's announcement that "I've just heard that Yoko's divorce [from Tony Cox] has just gone through. Free at last!"

As preserved on Anthology 3, Lennon then sang, to the tune of Oh! Darling:

I'm free
This morning
Baby told the lawyer it's OK
Believe me when I tell you
I'll never do you no harm

The Beatles began recording the song properly at Abbey Road on 20 April. They recorded 26 takes of the rhythm track, with McCartney on bass and guide vocals, Lennon on piano, Starr on drums and Harrison on guitar. They also overdubbed a Hammond organ part, which was later wiped.

On 26 April McCartney made his first attempt at a lead vocal, though this was unused. He returned to it on 17 July, beginning a series of single-take attempts in the early afternoon. The final version was recorded on 23 July.

The three-part doo-wop vocal harmonies were taped on 11 August, with which Oh! Darling was complete.

65 responses on “Oh! Darling

    1. William G. Blake

      Everything in this song remind me of the obvious musical self-learned skills that Paul has been practicing and learning over the past 10 years of this 68’s Macca Version. The Vocal are crystal Clear and Drive it all the way through the song, We got here a flamboyant singing style, Wow seriously… I first heard the song in a barbershop getting a kinda look-alike beatle haircut and this barbershop was in the middle of a little town that looked actually almost the same as what paul suggested in Penny Lane, It Was A Very Little Beatle Moment Bye Bye

  1. Elsewhere Man

    IMO, Macca made the right call by coaxing the best performance he possibly could out of himself. This is arguably his best ever rock vocal performance – at least on a song that he, himself, had written.

    Lennon’s conditional praise was mere jealousy. He knew Paul had finally nailed it…

    1. David

      Completely agree. One or two others are nearly up there (I’m Down, Maybe I’m Amazed) but this is by far the best raw rock vocal on his own compoisition. Yes, John might have done it justice, but that remark that he thought he “should” have sung it did ring of jealousy. Still, one verse as a duet would have been pretty impressive (although IMO Paul generally harmonised with a John lead vocal a little better than John harmonised with a Paul lead vocal: John was better singing in counterpoint to a Paul lead). Anyway, Oh Darling is one of my ten favourites.

      1. Father McKenzie

        Completely agree. One or two others are nearly up there (I’m Down, Maybe I’m Amazed) but this is by far the best raw rock vocal on his own compoisition.

        What about
        Monkberry Moon Delight ? Woman, oh why ?

        1. David

          In my opinion, his voice conveys emotional anguish better here than in the other material: highly musical yet utterly raw. We’re all allowed to have a favourite – this happens to be mine.

  2. Julio

    It would have been so awesome if John would have sang this. I mean I love paul but his voice is always kind of an imitation of little richard, elvis etc. John’s voice is always john, always authentic and soulful.

    1. Bobby

      John’s voice was indeed unique however just recently I’ve been hearing so much Buddy Holly influence in his vocals from ’63 all the way through to Double Fantasy. THAT influence is what helped John’s voice become the gem it was.

  3. sequence8

    @Julio:

    According to Kevin Ryan and Brian Kehew’s masterful 2006 book “Recording the Beatles,” work on this song got underway April 20, 1969, and though “… it has been previously suggested that John played piano and Paul played bass, a closer look may point toward a reversal of those roles. Not only did Paul play piano during performances of the song at Apple (Apple Studios were the Beatles’ own recording facilities; however, the actual, final version of the song was recorded at EMI London, now known as “Abbey Road”) while John played bass, but computer isolation of the Abbey Road version reveals leakage of the guide vocal by Paul (inaudible in the final mix) on the piano track.”

    And, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if McCartney came in early or stayed late to overdub a different bass track after the fact, as he had a tendency to do in those later days.

    And for what it’s worth, I don’t think Lennon could have even come close to the vocal performance McCartney turned in for this song. Just my two cents.

    Trivia: Photographer Iain Macmillan captured the group walking across the crosswalk outside on Abbey Road on August 8 for one of the more iconic album covers in the history of popular music. McCartney was back inside working on more tracks for “Oh! Darling” by himself three hours later. On August 11 (almost four months after starting work on the song), final backing vocals were tracked, and this performance would mark John Lennon’s last-ever living contribution to a Beatles recording.

    1. Gustavo

      Interesting.

      What did the book said about the guitars?, because Lewisohn said Paul overdub a lead guitar part, but Everett said it was wiped. And what about vocals on “Come together”?

  4. Dick Mackridge

    I guess this is another reason why I never really liked Lennon the person – his comment reeks of pompous jealosy! As a group they were great…all 4 were essential to the mix but credit where it’s due, Lennon could never have handled this as well as Mac – Paul at his very best!

    1. Joseph Brush

      Your bias (you don’t like Lennon the person) sinks your opinion.
      This is probably your only comment here on Beatles Bible and what do you offer? Negativity.

  5. Joseph S.

    I agree with sequence8 that Lennon could not have matched Paul’s vocal performance here. This is Paul singing at the top of HIS range. John’s range was not nearly as good as Paul’s. While John probably could have hit the verse notes, tho it might have been a strain, there is no way at all that he could have even hit the chorus notes, let alone sing them well as Paul does.

  6. EltonJohnLennon

    I’m very proud that John played the piano on this song which is written by McCartney. There are so many Lennon song on which paul plays the piano. It’s good to know that there are counterexamples. And his performance is really good.

    1. Dan

      please see sequence8 comment above quoting the book on beatle recordings. Paul plays piano not John. Glad you think Paul’s piano playing was great.

    2. Michael B.

      I love the Beatles to a nearly irrational degree. (Some might say I should omit the word “nearly.”) One of the things I admire about their musicianship is the wild diversity of the roles they played. Each could step in and do a terrific job in a new musical role. I love reading these arguments about George vs. Paul on bass and George vs. Paul vs. John on lead. Or Paul vs. Ringo on dreams. And so on. I think most of these arguments are a little nutty–for I think that each Beatle grew into a perfect fit with their default instrument and role–but the very fact one can have such discussions with real evidence provided on each side reveals just how brilliant each of these guys was.

      This site is really way too much fun. I have spent WAY too much time on it, learning tons, and discovering that there are people out there as nutty about the Beatles as I am. I really appreciate the knowledge and passion so many contributors have. Very impressive! This, however, is my first post.

    3. appmanga

      Although the listing here says different, John also plays piano on “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”. The take on Anthology 3 has Paul playing bass and singing while John plays piano.

  7. EltonJohnLennon

    This compliment was not for Paul. John liked this song very much. He was a bit angry that Paul wanted to sing it. So it’s nearly impossible that he didn’t play an instrument on this track.

    In the books of McDonald and Lewisohn it is listed that John played the piano. I would say that these books are reliable sources.

  8. Robert

    I could be way off base but I am coming to the conclusion that practically every McCartney song on Abbey Road is actually about the Beatles break up.

    Oh! Darling, I believe is written from Paul to John (and no, I am not reviving the John/Paul gay thing) – however I do believe these two were close enough to write “at” each other this way.

    Just my thoughts, I could be wrong.

  9. EltonJohnLennon

    Undoubtably this is one of Paul’s best vocal performances. It’s really impressive how he sings those high notes during the middle eight with such a power. Nevertheless I would have loved to hear John’s version. In terms of vocal range he could have managed it. A good example would be “Twist and Shout”. Very powerful vocals.

    1. Joseph S.

      Look, I love John, but I’m confident that he could not have sung those high notes Paul sings during the middle eight. “Twist and Shout” IS a good example – John is straining to hit those notes, which are much lower than the ones at issue in “Oh! Darling”, which Paul still sings with more force. Granted, John was singing through a heavy cold on “Twist”, but he never sang anything as high as Paul did in “Oh! Darling”, and I think that he could not have done it because it would have been beyond his range.

      1. EltonJohnLennon

        Yes, I know that “Twist&Shout” is lower than that part in “Oh!Darling”. But have you ever heard that one can train his voice and extend his vocal range? In this song Paul gives a fine example of belting high notes. He always wanted to show that he is a tenor. Well, John didn’t want to.

        A good example for John’s belting is “I’m so Tired”. In this song he hits C#5 in full voice. Very impressive! So with a bit trainig he could have done this. He was a fine singer. Even Paul needed much time to sing that part in that way. He had difficulties to switch not into falsetto. It wasn’t a normal performance for him. He needed much time for doing that.

        1. Jon

          Come on, man. It’s apparent you love John Lennon but you can’t overlook the facts… There are many examples of John not being able to reach, let alone sustain, notes in his own songs such as “A Hard Day’s Night”, “If I Fell”, and “No Reply”, which ultimately relegated Paul to sing them. The higher notes in Oh Darling’s chorus/bridge are on par (actually, two steps higher in pitch) with the “I saw the light…” segment in “No Reply”, for which there are bootlegs of John attempting the main vocal line to no avail.

          I’m not belittling John’s abilities as a singer because he surely had a great, unique voice in his own right. I’m merely illustrating that his vocal range was undoubtedly limited and validating the argument that he would not have been able to sing Oh Darling in it’s original key of A… Regardless of all this, I’m glad we can all agree that this is a great performance by Paul, but in my opinion nothing can beat his vocal on Golden Slumbers.

          1. mr. Sun king coming together

            But his voice was different in 1969 as in 1964 (when all 3 songs list are from). It just makes for an interesting idea, if nothing else.

          2. paulsbass

            No one will assume that I’m more a John than a Paul fan, but I have to say (if I didn’t already) that it hurts a bit to hear Paul nearly dying trying to find the right vocals for the song on “Anthology”, while John just wails along and sounds better without even trying.

            I agree with anyone who says this is more a John song.

            Still an impressive performance by Paul.

  10. Mora

    I was just thinking in the possibility of John singing his version of this song….
    I’m listening to it right now..
    Paul was THE ONE, no one could have done it better :)

    1. Julio

      Paul does a great Little Richard, a great Elvis, great 1930’s pop singer, blues singer etc. John does a great John. That is why he would have done a great job with this song. Think about the genuine intensity of Yer Blues in comparison to Helter Skelter where Paul although he does a phenominal job on vocal seems to be imitating someone with a more aggressive vocal style.

      1. Jay

        IMO, the vocals on Helter Skelter are anything but phenomenal. They are strained and not at all satisfying. But then again, that whole track is a childish attempt by Paul to one up the Who in who’s rockier – something along the lines of “they say they’ve done the rawest, dirtiest rock track – I’ll show them!”… which is silly and completely unnecessary, as I’m sure most will agree that the worst of Paul’s “normal” songs easily match the who’s best (not to belittle The Who, but IMO their songwriting skills are not in the same league). In any case, Helter Skelter is not a good song IMO, including it’s less than brilliant vocal track.

        This song, however, is a completely different story. It’s great, and the vocal performance on it is just superb, no other word for it. The argument over whether John would have done a better job is pointless – perhaps John could have done it better, but he never did it, so we’d never know; Paul does it brilliantly and that is more than enough for me. Out of his stuff, this one is on the shortlist of my favorites.

        1. paulsbass

          Opinions, opinions…
          In MY opinion Oh darling! sounds very strained, while Helter Skelter is Paul’s best rock vocal performance ever.
          Nothing childish about it. At all.
          Competitive, yes. That’s a good thing, especially when you succeed: Nothing the Who or the Stones ever did can touch the hard rocking quality of this track.

          Btw, John does a fool-around backing vocal of the song on Anthology while Paul is DYING to figure out a way to sing the high notes.
          John would have nailed it, no doubt.

          Still, good thing for Paul to have in his resumee.

  11. Lino

    Hi all!
    This is one of my favorite Paul’s songs at all. But there are something that intrigues me… Does anybody know which guitar George used to play this song and how he did the last notes?? Does he used the bridge strings? maybe the headstock strings?? Anybody know some about it?

  12. apple_jam

    First, love Paul’s vocals. What some peeps are simply saying is that McCartney’s singing (on this song and many others) often comes across as a bit pretensious. He often sings as if he is trying REALLY hard to impress. Nothing wrong with it – it’s Macca! Singers who sing from their soul (Aretha, Otis, Ray, and, yes, Lennon) sound as if they have no care, no awareness of anyone or anything. They ‘lay it all out.’ It’s true.

  13. Tim E

    There’s a video on YouTube of pauls isolated vocals for this… Nobody can listen to that and tell me John could have done it better. I’d still LOVE to hear johns version though.

  14. GeorgeTSimpson

    If you read the anthology liner notes (by lewissohn) it looks like paul played bass. But in fact I can’t really imagine that john played such a fine bass line, but maybe. Of course it it also possible that the bass line was played by harrison, but i don’t know. Which instrument is it that plays during the when you told me part, I always thought it would be a synthesizer but neither beatles bible nor wikipedia tells about it (i think i will look what lewissohn and macdonald say). Can you tell me which instrument it is and who plays it?

    1. GeorgeTSimpson

      I meant that it is in the anthology liner notes that mccartney played piano. Anyway who played lead guitar, many say harrison but lewisohn said it’s mccartney

  15. omar

    I don’t think john would have sang that song better than Paul lol sorry lennon I love you with all my heart but Paul was a better singer than you and he killed oh darling

  16. Richard

    They simply don’t write or sing songs like this anymore. What a tour de force!

    It still entrances me and sends shivers up my spine like it did when I first heard it in very early 70’s.

  17. David Lee Fairey

    Re Paul’s finest rock vocals, you need to look beyond his Beatles days.

    Two relatively obscure tracks: Soily from Wings Over America and The Pound Is Sinking from Tug Of War.

    The bridge on the latter contains Paul’s finest rock vocal on record. Sadly, the rest of the song is bobbins!

  18. Pablo Castro

    Actually, this is the one Beatles song by Paul that he never dared to do live,, which is a pity. Apparently, he doesn´t have the guts to do it , and I understand him. I was once in a Beatle Tribute Band and I did Paul´s voices, and everytime we would do this song, I was always a bit afraid. The first chorus was already frightening, but genneraly I could hit the notes well and with a nice timbre. But the second chorus was always very difficult, as my voice was already tired . Anyway, a beautiful song and an outstanding performance. The sad part is that we´ll nver see the author singing it in video .

  19. Fan

    This is nothing Little Richardish or Elvisish about Paul’s voice here. It’s McCartney at his best. Yes, John could do a good job perhaps but he didn’t have Paul’s range. John’s recording of Dizzy Miss Lizzy in Hollywood Bowl is his I think best rocker performance but it’s still too one-dimensional. Paul’s ability to go from soft lows to savage highs and yet be still in control and not screaming is what makes his voice perfect for this song.

  20. Fan

    There is nothing ‘natural’ about Ray Charles or Aretha or Lennon’s voice. They all have to train their voices and attain a style. The difference with McCartney is that his taste in music is varied and for that he sings them differently. He uses his voice like another instrument. The great Ella Fitzgerald used to do the same, sing Jazz, Blues and even Bluesy R&R differently. Since when versatility is a deficiency??? And Helter Skelter childish? Come on, people. Paul is way too witty and subtle for most of you guys. His deprecating style of talking about his songs masks a true genius.

  21. Fan

    Yet another ill-informed opinion. Paul could’ve easily handled it in his mid-70’s heyday. The evidence is his live performances of songs such as Call Me Again and Soily which are punishing for any rock vocalist. But he is in his early 70’s and alas very few 70-year-old can manage that kind of histrionics, even someone with a naturally poweful voice like Little Richard. Still Paul is managing Helter Skelter. The issue I think is the low notes more than the high notes, like the ones in Fixing a Hole which he is having problem with these days.

    1. Pablo

      Come one , fan, he could have easily sang it about 40 years ago, but he didn´t , and he may never will, because now, with more than 70, he woldn´t be able to sing it. Actually, he wouldn´t even contemplate lowering the key, which would be absolutely understandable. It´s very different from Helter Skelter, because Helter Skelter is a madness, he can just scream anything if he can´t hit the notes, but Oh Darling is a ballad, is a love song, and all the high point of the track is this incredible chorus .

      I just observed that it´s his only famous beatle song that he never did live. There must be a reason, don´t you think ?

    1. Joe Post author

      I’ve no idea what you’re doing, but your messages aren’t in reply to anyone, they’re standalone comments at the bottom of the list. If they were replies they’d be slightly indented (like this one), clearly belonging to a previous comment. Which browser/OS are you using?

  22. Kevin

    Best of Paul for certain. I would have liked to hear John give it a go, but… The “Twist and Shout” song is a good example of range, referring to someone else’s comment. BTW, Paul’s voice is supposed to be raspy and raw, after all, think of the subject matter of the song. (Like an argument)

  23. David Reynolds

    I would like to know why no one can leave a reply on Maxwell’s Silver Hammer. You have only two responses only. The comments on this song (Oh Darling) are very entertaining. Dont tell me that MSH is a protected species?

  24. GuitarMike

    I think most of you missed the point. John said he would have sing it better with his own approach of the song.
    We are not talking about a copy of Paul signing it.
    Just listen to the song Magical Mystery tour: Paul signs “The Magical mystery tour is dying to take you away……
    and then later in the song John sings the same line but with a very different feel……

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