Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

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"Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da"
1968 French single cover
Single by The Beatles
from the album The Beatles
B-side "I Will" (Philippines)
"While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (elsewhere)
Released 22 November 1968
Recorded 3 July 1968,
EMI Studios, London
Genre Pop,[1] ska[2]
Length 3:07
Label Apple
Writer(s) Lennon–McCartney
Producer(s) George Martin


Music sample
The Beatles track listing
"Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da"
Single by The Marmalade
B-side "Chains"
Released 1968
Format 7" vinyl record
Genre Pop
Label CBS
Producer(s) Mike Smith
Certification #1 UK
"Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da"
Single by The Beatles
B-side "Julia"
Released 8 November 1976 (US)
Format Vinyl record 7"
Label Capitol 4347
The Beatles singles chronology
"Got to Get You into My Life"
(US-1976)
"Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da"
(US-1976)
"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"
(1978)

"Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" is a song credited to Lennon–McCartney, but written by Paul McCartney, and released by the Beatles on their 1968 album The Beatles (commonly called 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.

Writing[edit]

Paul McCartney wrote the song around the time that highlife and reggae were beginning to become popular in Britain. The starting lyric, "Desmond has a barrow in the market-place", was a reference to the first internationally renowned Jamaican ska and reggae performer Desmond Dekker who had just had a successful tour of the UK.[3] The tag line "ob-la-di, ob-la-da, life goes on, bra" was an expression used by Nigerian conga player Jimmy Scott-Emuakpor, an acquaintance of McCartney.[4]

The song is in the key of B flat and written in 4/4. The alternative version on Anthology 3 is in the key of A major.

Recording[edit]

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 and vocally detested" the song, calling it Paul's "granny music shit".[5] 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.[6]

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.[7] 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..."[8]

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."[9]

The intro of this song is heard on the Beatles' 1968 Christmas Record.

Releases and live performances[edit]

"Ob-La-Di, Ob-la-Da" was released on The Beatles on 22 November 1968.[10] In the US, in 1976, it was released as a single with "Julia" as the B-side.[11] An alternate version, known as "Take 5", was released on Anthology 3 in which the horns are much more prominent and feature less reggae-esque style of music, focussing on acoustic guitars.

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.[12] 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.[citation needed] He also added it as a number in the Latin American Leg of the Up and Coming Tour. In 2011, the song was also performed during Paul McCartney's on the Run Tour. It was also performed in front of Buckingham Palace for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations, and most recently at San Francisco's Outside Lands concert on 9 August 2013.

Reception[edit]

The song went 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. It is often the subject of ridicule. As such it was voted worst song of all time in a 2004 online poll organized by Mars.[13] New Musical Express website editor Luke Lewis has argued that the Beatles recorded "a surprising amount of ropy old toss", singling out "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" as "the least convincing cod-reggae skanking this side of the QI theme tune."[14] Tom Rowley in The Telegraph named the track as a "reasonable choice" for derision, given the result of the Mars poll.[14] It was also included in Blender magazine's 2004 list, "50 Worst Songs Ever!"[15]

CNN journalist Todd Leopold reported in 2006 that John Lennon "loathed" the song.[16]

Authorship dispute[edit]

Jimmy Scott (McCartney's Nigerian acquaintance) later tried to claim a writer's credit for the use of his catchphrase in the song; McCartney claimed that the phrase was "just an expression". Scott argued that not only was the phrase not a general expression, but that it was in fact exclusively used in the Scott-Emuakpor family. He later dropped the case when McCartney agreed to pay his legal expenses for an unrelated issue.[7]

In the 1965 movie She, the IMDB movie archive has an actor credited as Oo-Bla-Da Dancers.

Personnel[edit]

Personnel per Ian MacDonald[17] and Mark Lewisohn[18]

Cover versions[edit]

Chart positions[edit]

The Beatles version[edit]

Marmalade version[edit]

Chart (1969) Peak
position
UK Singles Chart[19] 1
Austrian Singles Chart[29] 1
Norwegian VG-lista Singles Chart[30] 1
Swiss Singles Chart[31] 2

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Peter Ames Carlin,"Paul McCartney: A Life",ISBN 1-4165-6209-5, p.172.
  2. ^ Thomas, Stephen. "The Beatles [White Album] – The Beatles". AllMusic. Retrieved 20 August 2011. 
  3. ^ Nytimes.com
  4. ^ Spitz, Bob (2005). The Beatles. New York: Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 0-316-80352-9. 
  5. ^ Emerick & Massey 2006, p. 246.
  6. ^ Lewisohn 1988, pp. 140–142.
  7. ^ a b Turner 2005, p. 154.
  8. ^ Lewisohn 1988, p. 141.
  9. ^ Leonard 1993, pp. 849–851.
  10. ^ Lewisohn 1988, p. 200–201.
  11. ^ a b Wallgren 1982, p. 109.
  12. ^ WMMR 2009.
  13. ^ "Beatles classic voted worst song". BBC. 10 November 2004. Retrieved 3 June 2013. 
  14. ^ a b Rowley, Tom (5 October 2012). "Poll: What is the worst Beatles song?". The Telegraph. Retrieved 15 February 2014. 
  15. ^ "'We Built This City' dubbed worst song ever". Today. 20 April 2004. Retrieved 15 February 2014. 
  16. ^ Leopold, Todd (27 April 2006). "The worst song of all time, part II". CNN. Retrieved 15 February 2014. 
  17. ^ MacDonald 2005, pp. 294–295.
  18. ^ Lewisohn 1988, p. 140-142.
  19. ^ a b Roberts 2006, p. 351.
  20. ^ Murrells 1978, p. 243.
  21. ^ Gallucci 2008.
  22. ^ Roberts 2006, p. 51.
  23. ^ http://www.historiansclub.org/files/Kockica.pdf
  24. ^ Remmer 2009.
  25. ^ "Fringemunks Web site". Davidwumusic.com. Retrieved 26 November 2011. 
  26. ^ austriancharts.at 2009a.
  27. ^ hitparade.ch 2009a.
  28. ^ a b Oricon 2009.
  29. ^ austriancharts.at 2009b.
  30. ^ norwegiancharts.com 2009.
  31. ^ hitparade.ch 2009b.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Lily the Pink" by The Scaffold
"Lily the Pink " by the Scaffold
UK number one single
(Marmalade version)

1 January 1969
15–22 January 1969
Succeeded by
"Lily the Pink " by the Scaffold
"Albatross" by Fleetwood Mac
Preceded by
"Fru Johnsen" by Inger Lise Rypdal
Norwegian VG-lista number-one single
(Marmalade version)

05/1969-12/1969
Succeeded by
"Oj, oj, oj så glad jeg ska bli" by Kirsti Sparboe
Preceded by
"Little Arrows" by Leapy Lee
Ö3 Austria Top 40 number-one single
(Marmalade version)

15 February 1969
Succeeded by
"Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" by the Beatles
Preceded by
"Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" by Marmalade
Ö3 Austria Top 40 number-one single
(The Beatles version)

15 March – 15 April 1969
Succeeded by
"Proud Mary" by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Preceded by
"Eloise" by Barry Ryan
Swiss Music Charts number-one single
(The Beatles version)

28 January – 4 March 1969
Succeeded by
"Crimson and Clover" by Tommy James and the Shondells
Preceded by
"I Started a Joke" by the Bee Gees
Australian Kent Music Report number-one single
(The Beatles version)

8 March – 12 April 1969
Succeeded by
"Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)" by Peter Sarstedt
Preceded by
"Manchester and Liverpool" by Pinky and the Fellas
"Manchester and Liverpool" by Pinky and the Fellas
Japanese Oricon International Chart
number one single (The Beatles version)

7–28 April 1969
12–19 May 1969
Succeeded by
"Manchester and Liverpool" by Pinky and the Fellas
"La Pioggia" by Gigliola Cinquetti