‘Oh Woman, Oh Why’ was the b-side of ‘Another Day’, Paul McCartney’s debut solo single.

The songs were both recorded during the Ram album sessions, but were kept aside for the standalone single.

Ram had a mostly laid-back, bucolic sound, and the bluesy rocker ‘Oh Woman, Oh Why’ would have sounded out of place. As a b-side, however, it was perfect, and it remains one of McCartney’s lesser-known and underrated tracks.

It remains one of my favorite tracks from that period. The drums’ sound was amazing, one of the best from CBS Studios. It was not a jam, Paul brought the tune in and Spinozza played electric. Then Paul and I played shakers and percussion.
Denny Seiwell
Paul McCartney Recording Sessions (1969-2013), Luca Perasi

Paul McCartney's handwritten lyrics for Oh Woman, Oh Why

A subgenre of the blues I really like is the ‘woman, you done me wrong’ song. I don’t know whether all these bad things could really have happened to all these blues players. It does seem that there are an awful lot of wrongdoing women out there. I suspect there might be a few wrongdoing men too!

This is a song that’s somewhat in the vein of ‘Frankie And Johnny’, a tale of dirty doings that has innumerable manifestations, sung by innumerable artists, including Lead Belly’s version of 1935…

I was plugging into that system of imagery when I wrote, ‘I met her at the bottom of a well’. I thought that was a more interesting image than, say, ‘I met her on Bourbon Street’ or ‘I met her in a brothel in Paris’. I like to be direct but not necessarily literal.

The well itself is more associated with the folk tradition. There’s an erotic subtext to the image of the well. I think of William Bell’s ‘You Don’t Miss Your Water’. The other reason I gravitate towards these songs is that I’m looking for a vehicle for my voice. I want to get dirty with my voice, and I want to make a nice dirty backdrop. I try to let my voice have a go at singing something more bluesy rather than trying to hold a melody. It’s nice to cut loose on the vocals.

In the studio

The backing track for ‘Oh Woman, Oh Why’ was recorded on 3 November 1970 at New York’s Columbia Studios.

Overdubs were added from 6-11 December, again at Columbia, followed by final touches at A&R Studios in NYC on 26 January 1971.

The A&M overdubs included the sound of McCartney firing blanks from a revolver. Six gunshots can be heard in the final recording.

Paul McCartney firing a gun, A&M Studios, New York, 26 January 1971

‘Oh Woman, Oh Why’ was remixed in 2005 for the Twin Freaks album.

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