Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da is a song written mainly by Paul McCartney and credited to Lennon/McCartney and released by The Beatles on their 1968 album The Beatles (also referred to as The White Album). It was released as a single that same year in many countries, but not in the United Kingdom, nor in the United States until 1976.
The song was written, primarily by Paul McCartney , around the time that highlife and reggae were beginning to become popular in Britain. The tag line "ob-la-di, ob-la-da, life goes on, bra" was an expression that Nigerian conga player Jimmy Scott-Emuakpor, an acquaintance of McCartney, used. The song is in the key of B flat and written in 4/4.
During May 1968, The Beatles gathered at George Harrison's Esher home, in Surrey, to record demos for their upcoming project. "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" was one of the twenty-seven demos recorded there. Paul performed this demo solo, with only an acoustic guitar. He had also double-tracked his vocal, which was not perfectly synchronised, creating an echoing effect.
According to studio engineer Geoff Emerick, John Lennon openly hated the song, calling it "Paul's granny shit". Lennon left the studio during a recording of the song (after several days and literally dozens of takes of the song, trying different tempos and styles), then returned while under the influence of marijuana, went immediately to the piano and played the opening chords much louder and faster than before. He claimed that was how the song should be played, and that is the version they ended up using.
When singing the vocals for the song, specifically the last verse of the song when sung the second time, McCartney made a slip and said "Desmond stays at home and does his pretty face", rather than Molly, and had Molly letting "the children lend a hand". Reportedly, this mistake was kept in because the other Beatles liked it. George Harrison and Lennon yell "arm" and "leg" during a break in the song; between the lines "..Desmond lets the children lend a hand" and "Molly stays at home..."
Desmond Dekker later covered the song as part of a medley with "Wise Man".
The lyrics for "Savoy Truffle", composed by Harrison and also on The Beatles, include the line "We all know ob-la-di-bla-da, but can you show me where you are."
Releases and live performancesEdit
Ob-La-Di, Ob-la-Da" was released on The Beatles on 22 November 1968. In the USA, in 1976, it was released as a single with "Julia" as the B-side. An alternative version, known as "Take 5", was released on Anthology 3 in which the horns are much more prominent.
The first time the song was performed live by any of The Beatles was on 2 December 2009, when McCartney played the song in Hamburg, Germany on the first night of a European tour. McCartney also performed the song in Hyde Park on 27 June 2010 as part of the Hard Rock Calling event, and the song was well received by the crowd. He also added it as a number in the Latin American Leg of the Up and Coming Tour.
The song was well received, going to number one in singles charts in Austria, Switzerland, Australia and Japan. In the UK and Norway (where it had not been released as a single by The Beatles), a cover version by the Marmalade also made number one.
Scott later tried to claim a writer's credit for the use of his catch phrase in the song; McCartney however, claimed that the phrase was "just an expression". Scott argued it was not a general expression, but merely an expression that was exclusively used in the Scott-Emuakpor family. However, he agreed to drop the case when McCartney agreed to pay Scott's legal expenses for an unrelated issue.
- Paul McCartney - Lead Vocals, Bass Guitar (1964 Rickenbacker 4001S), Acoustic Lead Guitar (1967 Martin D-28), Handclaps
- John Lennon - Piano, Backing Vocals, Handclaps
- Ringo Starr - Drums, Bongos, Backing Vocals, Handclaps
- Session Musicians -Three Saxophones
- Marmalade, whose version reached number one in the UK Singles Chart in 1969. Their cover sold around half a million in the UK, and a million copies globally by April 1969.
- Amateur Transplants, on the album Unfit to Practice as "Urology Clinic A".
- Arthur Conley, on the album More Sweet Soul.
- Jimmy Cliff, as a bonus track on the CD version of Humanitarian.
- Celia Cruz (a version in Spanish), on the album Tropical Tribute to the Beatles.
- Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, on the album Music of the Beatles.
- Daniel O'Donnell, on his albums The Jukebox Years and Rock 'N' Roll Show.
- James Last, on the albums Die grössten Songs von The Beatles (1983) and James Last & Friends (1998) (as a part of the "Beatles Medley")
- Maria Muldaur, on the album The Blues White Album.
- The Bedrocks, a West Indian band from Leeds (reached number 20 in the UK Singles Chart in 1968).
- The Spectrum (reached number 19 on the Germany singles chart in 1968)
- No Doubt, on the albums Boom Box and Live in the Tragic Kingdom.
- Dick Hyman recorded an instrumental electronic music version of the song in the 1960s.
- Patrick Zabé, recorded a French version of the song in 1969.
- Persuasions, on the album The Persuasions Sing the Beatles.
- Phish, on the album Live Phish Volume 13.
- Shango, on the album Shango.
- The Heptones, on the album Mellow Dubmarine.
- The Gas House Gang, on the album The Gas House Gang's 5th.
- The King's Singers, on the album The Beatles Connection.
- The Punkles did a punk cover of this song on their fourth album.
- Youssou N'Dour, on the album 7 Seconds.
- The cast of Life Goes On during the show's opening sequence
- Pato Fu, a Brazilian band, on the album Gol de Quem?.
- Arik Einstein (a version in Hebrew).
- Vesyolye Rebyata (Весёлые Ребята), on the 1970 EP.
- House of Heroes in concerts. The song is featured on the House of Heroes Meets The Beatles EP that was released digitally on iTunes and Amazon MP3 in summer 2009.
- A slightly changed version called "Desmond" was recorded by Happy Mondays on their debut album Squirrel and G-Man Twenty Four Hour Party People Plastic Face Carnt Smile (White Out), but the song was removed from later reprints of the album due to royalty problems.