1968 French single cover
|Single by the Beatles|
|from the album The Beatles|
|Released||22 November 1968|
|Recorded||8, 9, 11 and 15 July 1968|
|Studio||EMI Studios, London|
|Single by the Beatles|
|Released||8 November 1976 (US)|
|Format||Vinyl record 7"|
|The Beatles US singles chronology|
"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. 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. Another example of the term in popular culture is the 1945 song 'In the Land of Oo-Bla-Dee', which Mary Lou Williams composed for Dizzy Gillespie (heard on Dizzy Digs Paris).
Scott-Emuakpor later tried to claim a writer's credit for the use of his catchphrase in the song. McCartney said that the phrase was "just an expression", whereas Scott argued that the phrase was not a common expression, and was used exclusively by the Scott-Emuakpor family. He later dropped the case when McCartney agreed to pay his legal expenses for an unrelated issue.
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. "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" was one of the twenty-seven demos recorded there. 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". 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.
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. Harrison and Lennon yell "arm" and "leg" between the lines "… Desmond lets the children lend a hand" and "Molly stays at home …"
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?" 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.
The intro of this song is heard on the Beatles' 1968 Christmas Record.
Releases and live performances
"Ob-La-Di, Ob-la-Da" was released on The Beatles on 22 November 1968. In the US, in 1976, it was released as a single with "Julia" as the B-side. 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. 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. 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 2016-2017 One on One tour, as well as his September 7, 2018 Grand Central Terminal concert.
"Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" topped 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 reached number 1.
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. 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". Tom Rowley in The Telegraph named the track as a "reasonable choice" for derision, following the result of the Mars poll. It was also included in Blender magazine's 2004 list "50 Worst Songs Ever!" CNN journalist Todd Leopold reported in 2006 that Lennon "loathed" the song.
Conversely, Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic includes the song among McCartney's "stunning" compositions on The Beatles. In his contemporary review for Rolling Stone, Jann Wenner wrote: "Part of the phenomenal talent of the Beatles is their ability to compose music that by itself carries the same message and mood as the lyrics. The lyrics and the music not only say the same thing, but are also perfectly complementary. This comes also with the realization that rock and roll is music, not literature, and that the music is the most important aspect of it. 'Obladi Oblada,' where they take one of the familiar calypso melodies and beats, is a perfect example. And it's not just a calypso, but a rock and roll calypso with electric bass and drums. Fun music for a fun song about fun. Who needs answers?"
- Paul McCartney – vocal, electric bass, acoustic bass, handclaps, vocal percussion
- John Lennon – piano, backing vocal, handclaps, spoken word, vocal percussion
- George Harrison – acoustic guitar, backing vocal, handclaps, spoken word, vocal percussion
- Ringo Starr – drums, bongos, maracas, other percussion, handclaps, vocal percussion
- Horns arranged by George Martin
|Single by The Marmalade|
|Format||7" vinyl record|
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. Their cover sold around half a million in the UK, and a million copies globally by April 1969. They appeared on BBC One's music programme Top of the Pops to perform the track in kilts.
- Arthur Conley, 1968, also on the album More Sweet Soul.
- Paul Desmond on the album Summertime (1968).
- Las Trillizas de Oro from Argentina, Spanish version in 1969.
- Amateur Transplants, on the album Unfit to Practise as "Urology Clinic A."
- 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); the latter as a part of the "Beatles Medley."
- Bing Crosby (did not chart)
- Maria Muldaur, on the album The Blues White Album.
- The Bedrocks, a West Indian band from Leeds. (Their version reached number 20 in the UK Singles Chart in 1968.)
- The Spectrum. (Its version 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.
- The Henry Watterson Expressway recorded their version of the song in March 1969 on the TRX label.
- Herb Alpert released his Tijuana Brass's version as a single in 1969, and he and it also included their version on the album Warm.
- Peter Nero recorded his version as “Variations on the theme - Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da” included in the 1969’s album I’ve Gotta Be Me.
- Florida band Mercy covered the song and released it on their 1969 album "Love Can Make You Happy"
- Two Anything Muppets performed the song on an episode of The Muppet Show.
- The 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.
- This selection was the inspiration for The Offspring's "Why Don't You Get a Job?"
- Youssou N'Dour, on the album 7 Seconds.
- The cast of Life Goes On performed a version during the show's opening sequence. One of its cast members, Chris Burke, drew the title of an album he recorded and released independently, Singer with the Band, from its lyrics.
- Pato Fu, a Brazilian band, on the album Gol de Quem?
- Arik Einstein performed a version in Hebrew.
- Vesyolye Rebyata (Весёлые Ребята), on the 1970 EP.
- Instrumental version was performed in the intro of the first episodes, and different covers were used for the outtros of the Branko Milićević`s children TV series "Cube, Cube, Cublet" (1974), thus this song gained great popularity among the children in the former Yugoslavia.
- 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). However, the song was removed from later reprints of the album due to royalty problems.
- Jetti Palletti, a Dutch performer, recorded the song for the Dutch carnival in 2011.
- MercyMe, a Christian rock band, released a cover video online featuring Jars of Clay, Matt Maher, Thousand Foot Krutch, The Afters, and Lecrae.
- Desmond Dekker covered the song as part of a medley with "Wise Man."
- In 2011, the song was parodied by The Fringemunks to recap Fringe episode 4.03, "Alone in the World."
- An orchestral cover version of this song was played in a Thomas & Friends Japanese special titled Thomas and the UK Trip.
- Swedish singer Claes-Göran Hederström recorded a Swedish version of the song in 1968. The B-side of its single release was a cover of "Hey Jude" titled "Jo du" (Yes, you).
- Swedish band Scotts recorded the song on the 2009 album Längtan.
- Floyd Cramer recorded it on his annual "Class of" series, this one being "Class of '69."
- Mr. Vegas performed a cover with his reggae band on the album Sweet Jamaica.
- Reggae band Inner Circle covered the song which is included on several "best of" compilations.
- Reggae Band, Opus Pistorum, recorded it on their album Legalize Marijuana.
- Helen Gamboa released a cover version in 1969 as a single with a cover of "Harper Valley PTA" as the B-side.
- Hungarian duo band Pa-dö-dö used the main theme of the song for their Kiabálj! (1991) album with the same title.
- The Hampton String Quartet recorded a version that was heavily spiced with Schubert's "The Erl-King", as the opening track of The Off White Album.
- Czech singer Petr Spálený recorded a Czech version of the song in 1970, under name "To vadí".
- Filipino entertainer Yoyoy Villame also covered the song with parody lyrics in Cebuano under the title "Birth Control".
- Caspar Babypants, on the 2013 album Baby Beatles!
- Herbie Mann w/ the Tommy McCook Band on the album "Reggae". 1974. Atlantic records.
The Beatles version
|Australia (Kent Music Report)||1|
|Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)||1|
|Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)||5|
|French Singles Chart||3|
|Netherlands (Single Top 100)||3|
|Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)||1|
|Japanese Oricon Singles Chart||7|
|Japanese Oricon International Chart||1|
|New Zealand (Listener)||1|
|West German Media Control Singles Chart||1|
|Canada RPM Top Singles||19|
|US Billboard Hot 100||49|
|US Billboard Adult Contemporary||39|
|US Cash Box Top 100||47|
|UK Singles (Official Charts Company)||1|
|Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)||1|
|Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)||2|
- The Complete Beatles Chronicle by Mark Lewisohn, p. 288-289.
- Peter Ames Carlin,"Paul McCartney: A Life",ISBN 1-4165-6209-5, p.172.
- Thomas, Stephen. "The Beatles [White Album] – The Beatles". AllMusic. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
- Spitz, Bob (2005). The Beatles. New York: Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 0-316-80352-9.
- Turner 2005, p. 154.
- MacDonald 1998, pp. 243–44.
- Unterberger 2006, pp. 195–96.
- Emerick & Massey 2006, p. 246.
- Lewisohn 1988, pp. 140–142.
- Lewisohn 1988, p. 141.
- Leonard 1993, pp. 849–851.
- Fontenot, Robert. "The Beatles Songs: 'Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da' – The history of this classic Beatles song". oldies.about.com. Archived from the original on 10 January 2013. Retrieved 17 December 2015.
- Lewisohn 1988, p. 200–201.
- Wallgren 1982, p. 109.
- WMMR 2009.
- "Beatles classic voted worst song". BBC. 10 November 2004. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
- Rowley, Tom (5 October 2012). "Poll: What is the worst Beatles song?". The Telegraph. Retrieved 15 February 2014.
- "'We Built This City' dubbed worst song ever". Today. 20 April 2004. Retrieved 15 February 2014.
- Leopold, Todd (27 April 2006). "The worst song of all time, part II". CNN. Retrieved 15 February 2014.
- Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "The Beatles The Beatles [White Album]". AllMusic. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
- Wenner, Jann S. (21 December 1968). "Review: The Beatles' 'White Album'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
- Babiuk, Andy. Beatles Gear. p. 221. ISBN 1617130990. Retrieved July 4, 2017.
- MacDonald 1998, p. 258.
- Lewisohn 1988, p. 140-142.
- Roberts 2006, p. 351.
- Roberts, David (2001). British Hit Singles (14th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 40. ISBN 0-85156-156-X.
- Murrells 1978, p. 243.
- Gallucci 2008.
- Roberts 2006, p. 51.
- "Live Phish, Vol. 13: 10/31/94, Glens Falls Civic Center, Glens Falls, NY - Phish". AllMusic. Retrieved 7 September 2017.
- "Забавно-едукативна емисија за децу „Коцка, коцка, коцкица"" (PDF). Historiansclub.org. Retrieved 2016-10-02.
- Remmer 2009.
- "Fringemunks Web site". Davidwumusic.com. Retrieved 26 November 2011.
- "Längtan" (in Swedish). Svensk mediedatabas. 2009. Retrieved 29 May 2011.
- "Yoyoy Villame - Birth Control (HD)". YouTube. 27 January 2013. Retrieved 14 August 2016.
- Kent, David (2005). Australian Chart Book (1940–1969). Turramurra: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-44439-5.
- "Austriancharts.at – The Beatles – Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
- "Ultratop.be – The Beatles – Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
- "Song artist 1 - The Beatles". Tsort.info. Retrieved 2016-10-02.
- "Dutchcharts.nl – The Beatles – Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
- "Swisscharts.com – The Beatles – Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
- Oricon 2009.
- Hung, Steffen. "charts.org.nz - Forum - 1969 Chart (General)". charts.org.nz. Retrieved 30 December 2016.
- "Offizielle Deutsche Charts" (Enter "Beatles" in the search box) (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
- "The Beatles Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
- Whitburn, Joel (1993). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–1993. Record Research. p. 25.
- Hoffmann, Frank (1983). The Cash Box Singles Charts, 1950-1981. Metuchen, NJ & London: The Scarecrow Press, Inc. pp. 32–34.
- "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
- "Austriancharts.at – The Marmalade – Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
- "Norwegiancharts.com – The Marmalade – Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da". VG-lista. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
- "Swisscharts.com – The Marmalade – Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
- Hal Leonard Publishing Corporation, ed. (1993). The Beatles – Complete Scores. Milwaukee: Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 0-7935-1832-6.
- "Beatles classic voted worst song". BBC News. 10 November 2004.
- "Paul McCartney Says He's Doing All He Can to Fight Global Warming". WMMR. 4 December 2009. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011.
- Emerick, Geoff; Massey, Howard (2006). Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles. New York: Penguin Books. ISBN 1-59240-179-1.
- Gallucci, Michael (2008). "Review of Humanitarian". Allmusic. Retrieved 7 January 2008.
- "Japan No. 1 IMPORT DISKS". Oricon. 2009. Archived from the original on 21 April 2015.
- Lewisohn, Mark (2005) . The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions: The Official Story of the Abbey Road Years 1962–1970. London: Bounty Books. ISBN 978-0-7537-2545-0.
- Lewisohn, Mark (1988). The Beatles Recording Sessions. New York: Harmony Books. ISBN 0-517-57066-1.
- MacDonald, Ian (1998). Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties. London: Pimlico. ISBN 978-0-7126-6697-8.
- "The Marmalade – Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da". norwegiancharts.com. 2009.
- Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
- Remmer, Dennis (2009). "Factory Communications UK Discography". Archived from the original on 17 July 2009. Retrieved 13 September 2009.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- Turner, Steve (2005). A Hard Day's Write: The Stories Behind Every Beatles Song (3rd ed.). New York: Harper Paperbacks. ISBN 0-06-084409-4.
- Unterberger, Richie (2009). "Review of "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da"". AllMusic. Archived from the original on 7 September 2009. Retrieved 13 September 2009.
- Unterberger, Richie (2006). The Unreleased Beatles: Music & Film. San Francisco, CA: Backbeat Books. ISBN 978-0-8793-0892-6.
- Wallgren, Mark (1982). The Beatles on Record. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-45682-2.
- "45cat - The Henry Watterson Expressway - Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da / Ypu Better Take Me Home - TRX - USA - 45-T-5020". www.45cat.com. 2014.