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 Beatles
B-side "Julia"
Released 8 November 1976 (US)
Format Vinyl record 7"
Label Capitol 4347
Writer(s) Lennon–McCartney
The Beatles US chronology
"Got to Get You into My Life"
"Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da"
"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"

"Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" is a song by the Beatles from their 1968 album The Beatles (often called "the White Album"). Although credited to Lennon–McCartney, the song was written solely by Paul McCartney. It was released as a single that same year in many countries, but not in their native United Kingdom, nor in the United States until 1976.


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, brah" 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 major and written in 4/4. The alternative version issued on Anthology 3 is in the key of A major.


In May 1968, following their return from studying Transcendental Meditation in Rishikesh, India, the Beatles gathered at George Harrison's Esher home, in Surrey, to record demos for their upcoming project.[5] "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" was one of the twenty-seven demos recorded there.[6] McCartney performed this demo solo, with only an acoustic guitar. He also double-tracked his vocal, which was not perfectly synchronised, creating an echoing effect.

The formal recording of "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" involved several days of work, during which the Beatles experimented with different tempos and styles. At McCartney's insistence, the band remade the song twice in an effort to capture the version he was aiming for. According to studio engineer Geoff Emerick, John Lennon "openly and vocally detested" the song, calling it Paul's "granny music shit".[7] Having left the studio during one of the sessions, Lennon then returned while under the influence of marijuana, went immediately to the piano and played the opening chords louder and faster than before. He claimed that was how the song should be played, and that is the version the Beatles ended up using.[8]

When singing the vocals over the final verse, 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 retained because the other Beatles liked it.[9] Harrison and Lennon yell "arm" and "leg" between the lines "… Desmond lets the children lend a hand" and "Molly stays at home …"[10]

The lyrics of Harrison's White Album track "Savoy Truffle" include the line "We all know Ob-la-di-bla-da, but can you show me where you are?"[11] According to music journalist Robert Fontenot, Harrison (like Lennon) was "very vocal in [his] dislike of 'Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da'", and the reference in "Savoy Truffle" was his way of conveying his opinion of McCartney's song.[12]

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.[13] In the US, in 1976, it was released as a single with "Julia" as the B-side.[14] 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, focusing on acoustic guitars.

The first time the song was performed live by any of the Beatles was on 2 December 2009, when McCartney played it in Hamburg, Germany on the first night of a European tour.[15] 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 performed during McCartney's on the Run Tour. It was also performed in front of Buckingham Palace for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations, then at San Francisco's Outside Lands concert on 9 August 2013. Most recently, it was performed by McCartney on his 2013-2015 Out There! tour and his 2016 One on One tour..


"Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" 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.

The track is often the subject of ridicule. It was voted the worst song of all time in a 2004 online poll organised by Mars.[16] 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".[17] Tom Rowley in The Telegraph named the track as a "reasonable choice" for derision, following the result of the Mars poll.[17] It was also included in Blender magazine's 2004 list "50 Worst Songs Ever!"[18]

CNN journalist Todd Leopold reported in 2006 that Lennon "loathed" the song.[19]

Authorship dispute[edit]

Jimmy Scott-Emuakpor (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.[9]


Personnel per Ian MacDonald[20] and Mark Lewisohn[21]

Cover versions[edit]

Marmalade version[edit]

"Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da"
Single by The Marmalade
B-side "Chains"
Released 1968
Format 7" vinyl record
Genre Pop
Label CBS
Writer(s) Lennon–McCartney
Producer(s) Mike Smith

The Scottish pop band Marmalade released their rendition of "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" in 1968. Their version reached number one in the UK Singles Chart in January 1969, making them the first Scottish group to ever top that chart.[22][23] Their cover sold around half a million in the UK, and a million copies globally by April 1969.[24] They appeared on BBC One's music programme Top of the Pops to perform the track in kilts.

Other versions[edit]

Chart positions[edit]

The Beatles version[edit]

Chart (1969) Peak
Australian Kent Music Report[32] 1
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[33] 1
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[34] 5
French Singles Chart[35] 3
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[36] 3
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[37] 1
Japanese Oricon Singles Chart[38] 7
Japanese Oricon International Chart[38] 1
West German Media Control Singles Chart[39] 1
Chart (1976) Peak
US Billboard Hot 100[40] 49
US Cash Box Top 100[41] 47

Marmalade version[edit]

Chart (1968-69) Peak
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[42] 1
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[43] 1
Norway (VG-lista)[44] 1
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[45] 2

See also[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. ^ MacDonald 1998, pp. 243–44.
  6. ^ Unterberger 2006, pp. 195–96.
  7. ^ Emerick & Massey 2006, p. 246.
  8. ^ Lewisohn 1988, pp. 140–142.
  9. ^ a b Turner 2005, p. 154.
  10. ^ Lewisohn 1988, p. 141.
  11. ^ Leonard 1993, pp. 849–851.
  12. ^ Fontenot, Robert. "The Beatles Songs: 'Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da' – The history of this classic Beatles song". oldies.about.com. Retrieved 17 December 2015. 
  13. ^ Lewisohn 1988, p. 200–201.
  14. ^ Wallgren 1982, p. 109.
  15. ^ WMMR 2009.
  16. ^ "Beatles classic voted worst song". BBC. 10 November 2004. Retrieved 3 June 2013. 
  17. ^ a b Rowley, Tom (5 October 2012). "Poll: What is the worst Beatles song?". The Telegraph. Retrieved 15 February 2014. 
  18. ^ "'We Built This City' dubbed worst song ever". Today. 20 April 2004. Retrieved 15 February 2014. 
  19. ^ Leopold, Todd (27 April 2006). "The worst song of all time, part II". CNN. Retrieved 15 February 2014. 
  20. ^ MacDonald 1998, p. 258.
  21. ^ Lewisohn 1988, p. 140-142.
  22. ^ Roberts 2006, p. 351.
  23. ^ Roberts, David (2001). British Hit Singles (14th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 40. ISBN 0-85156-156-X. 
  24. ^ Murrells 1978, p. 243.
  25. ^ Gallucci 2008.
  26. ^ Roberts 2006, p. 51.
  27. ^ "Забавно-едукативна емисија за децу „Коцка, коцка, коцкица"" (PDF). Historiansclub.org. Retrieved 2016-10-02. 
  28. ^ Remmer 2009.
  29. ^ "Fringemunks Web site". Davidwumusic.com. Retrieved 26 November 2011. 
  30. ^ "Längtan" (in Swedish). Svensk mediedatabas. 2009. Retrieved 29 May 2011. 
  31. ^ "Yoyoy Villame - Birth Control (HD)". YouTube. 27 January 2013. Retrieved 14 August 2016. 
  32. ^ Kent, David (2005). Australian Chart Book (1940–1969). Turramurra: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-44439-5. 
  33. ^ "Austriancharts.at – The Beatles – Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  34. ^ "Ultratop.be – The Beatles – Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  35. ^ "Song artist 1 - The Beatles". Tsort.info. Retrieved 2016-10-02. 
  36. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – The Beatles – Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  37. ^ "Swisscharts.com – The Beatles – Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  38. ^ a b Oricon 2009.
  39. ^ "Offizielle Deutsche Charts" (Enter "Beatles" in the search box) (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 16 May 2016. 
  40. ^ "The Beatles – Chart history" Billboard Hot 100 for The Beatles. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  41. ^ Hoffmann, Frank (1983). The Cash Box Singles Charts, 1950-1981. Metuchen, NJ & London: The Scarecrow Press, Inc. p. 32–34. 
  42. ^ "Archive Chart: 1969-01-07" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  43. ^ "Austriancharts.at – The Marmalade – Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  44. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – The Marmalade – Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da". VG-lista. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  45. ^ "Swisscharts.com – The Marmalade – Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 16 May 2016.


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)

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