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