- Published on 1969
- Author: Lennon/McCartney
- Track 4 on “Abbey Road”
What the Beatles said about “Oh! Darling”
JOHN 1980: “‘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)
PAUL circa-1994: “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 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.”
GEORGE: “A typical 1950s–’60s-period song because of its chord structure”
Info about “Oh! Darling”
It was composed by Paul McCartney. Its working title was “Oh! Darling (I’ll Never Do You No Harm)”.The basic track was recorded on 20 April 1969. There were many overdub sessions, including McCartney’s attempts at the lead vocal. According to Ian MacDonald, the backing vocals were “exquisite”, but “sadly underplayed in the mix”. Engineer Geoff Emerick recalled that McCartney sang while the backing track played over speakers, instead of headphones, because he wanted to feel as though he was singing to a live audience.
McCartney first recorded a demo of “Oh! Darling” at Twickenham Studios on 16 January 1969 during the Get Back sessions without the other Beatles being present, as the Twickenham set they had been using was being dismantled due to their moving the sessions to Apple Corps’ headquarters. The song and the following improvisation are included on the Anthology 3 CD. This version also features a keyboard part played by Billy Preston.
“Oh! Darling” is a rhythm and blues song incorporating elements of doo-wop and the New Orleans rhythm and blues sound popularised during the 1950s and early 1960s by musicians such as Fats Domino; it also seems to have drawn on the Louisiana swamp blues sound found in songs like Slim Harpo’s “Rainin’ in My Heart” and Charles Brown’s “Please Come Home for Christmas”.
Furthermore, it may have drawn on the related Louisiana genre known today as swamp pop, whose distinctive sound bears an uncanny resemblance to the basic structure of “Oh! Darling” – so much so that some in Louisiana originally thought the song had been recorded by a local musician. (When swamp pop musician John Fred met the Beatles in London in the 1960s, he was shocked to learn that “they were very familiar with Louisiana music.”) Fittingly, swamp pop musician Jay Randall eventually covered “Oh! Darling” for the Lanor label of Church Point, Louisiana.
The song has been performed live by Paul McCartney and The Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde during a memorial concert for Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins on 3 September 2022.
- Paul McCartney – lead and backing vocals, bass
- John Lennon – backing vocals, piano
- George Harrison – backing vocals, electric guitar
- Ringo Starr – drums