Oh! Darling

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Album This song officially appears on the Abbey Road LP.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1969
Timeline This song has been written (or started being written) in 1968 (Paul McCartney was 26 years old)

Master release


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Song facts

When we were recording Oh! Darling’ I came into the studios early every day for a week to sing it by myself because at first my voice was too clear. I wanted it to sound as though I’d been performing it on stage all week.

Paul McCartney – From “The Beatles Anthology” book, 2000

From Wikipedia:

“Oh! Darling” is a song by the English rock band the Beatles, appearing as the fourth song on the 1969 album Abbey Road. It was composed by Paul McCartney (credited to Lennon–McCartney). Its working title was “Oh! Darling (I’ll Never Do You No Harm)”. Although not issued as a single in either the United Kingdom or the United States, a regional subsidiary of Capitol successfully edited it as a single in Central America, having “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” as its B-side. It was also issued as a single in Portugal. Apple Records released “Oh! Darling” in Japan with “Here Comes the Sun” in June 1970.

Background

McCartney later said of recording the track, “When we were recording ‘Oh! Darling’ I came into the studios early every day for a week to sing it by myself because at first my voice was too clear. I wanted it to sound as though I’d been performing it on stage all week.” He would only try the song once each day; if it was not right he would wait until the next day. According to sound engineer Alan Parsons, McCartney once lamented that “five years ago I could have done this in a flash”.

In a 1980 interview with Playboy magazine, John Lennon said, “‘Oh! Darling’ was a great one of Paul’s that he didn’t sing too well. I always thought I could have done it better – it was more my style than his. He wrote it, so what the hell, he’s going to sing it.” The song is in the key of A.

George Harrison described the song as “a typical 1950s–’60s-period song because of its chord structure”.

Recordings

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. The song is one of several tracks on Abbey Road that have never been performed onstage by McCartney or any other of the Beatles to date.

Let It Be session

After an early attempt at this song on 27 January 1969 during the Let It Be sessions, Lennon announced, “Just heard that Yoko’s divorce has just gone through”, after which he and the band burst into an improvised version of the song, substituting “I’m free at last” for a part of the lyric. The song and the following improvisation are included on the Anthology 3 CD. This version also features a keyboard part played by Billy Preston.

Style

“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. […]

‘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.

John Lennon, 1980

Paul slaved over getting ‘Oh! Darling’s vocal right. He was really screaming it, so he couldn’t do it more than a couple of times a day. He used to come in every afternoon at 2. Then he’d say, “No, I haven’t got it yet. I’ll try again tomorrow”.

Assistant engineer Alan Parsons, Uncut, October 2019

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 a little bit 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.

Paul McCartney – From “Many Years From Now” by Barry Miles, 1997

It was around this time that Paul started getting in the habit of coming in early every afternoon, before the others arrived, to have a go at singing the lead vocal to ‘Oh Darling.’ Not only did he have me record it with fifties-style tape echo, he even monitored the backing track over speakers instead of headphones because he wanted to feel as though he were singing to a live audience. Every day we’d be treated to a hell of a performance as McCartney put his all into singing the song all the way through once and once only, nearly ripping his vocal cords to shreds in the process.

George Martin would frequently announce triumphantly, “That’s it; that’s the one,” but Paul would overrule him, saying, “No, it’s not there yet; let’s try it again tomorrow. … Frankly, I think the reason Paul did those vocals each day before the other Beatles arrived was so he wouldn’t have to face their disapproval or withering remarks — he wouldn’t even play them each day’s attempt to solicit their opinion. … There was one other factor, and that was pride. Paul’s ego prevented him from ever giving John a stab at singing the lead on “Oh Darling,” despite fact that it was a song that was probably better suited to Lennon’s voice. … Paul was determined to give a Lennon performance all by himself.

Geoff Emerick – From “Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles“, 2006

‘Oh Darling’, to me, is another Paul song, which is a typical 1950s to 1960s period type of song. The chord structure is, sort of, very nice. It’s typical of a 1955-type song. This is more really just Paul singing, and we do a few ‘Oohs’ in the background, very quietly. It’s mainly Paul shouting.

George Harrison, 1969

From The Usenet Guide to Beatles Recording Variations:

[a] stereo 12 Aug 1969.
UK: Apple PCS 7088 Abbey Road 1969.
US: Apple SO-383 Abbey Road 1969.
CD: EMI CDP 7 46446 2 Abbey Road 1987.

From “Abbey Road” Super Deluxe edition book (2019)

Last updated on February 1, 2022

Lyrics

Oh! Darling, please believe me
I'll never do you no harm
Believe me when I tell you
I'll never do you no harm

Oh! Darling, if you leave me
I'll never make it alone
Believe me when I beg you
Don't ever leave me alone

When you told me
You didn't need me anymore
Well you know I nearly broke down and cried

When you told me
You didn't need me anymore
Well you know I nearly broke down and died

Oh! Darling, if you leave me
I'll never make it alone
Believe me when I tell you
I'll never do you no harm
Believe me darling

When you told me
You didn't need me anymore
Well you know I nearly broke down and cried

When you told me
You didn't need me anymore
Well you know I nearly broke down and died

Oh! Darling, please believe me
I'll never let you down
(Oh, believe me darling)
Believe me when I tell you
I'll never do you no harm

Officially appears on


Abbey Road

LP • Released in 1969

3:27 • Studio versionA • Stereo

Paul McCartney :
Backing vocals, Piano, Vocals
Ringo Starr :
Drums
John Lennon :
Backing vocals, Guitar
George Harrison :
Backing vocals, Bass
George Martin :
Producer
Phil McDonald :
Recording engineer
Chris Thomas :
Producer
Jeff Jarratt :
Recording engineer

Session Recording:
Apr 20, 1969
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Recording:
Apr 20, 26, Jul 23, Aug 08, 11, 1969
Studio :
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Aug 12, 1969
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Anthology 3

Official album • Released in 1996

4:08 • OuttakeB • Stereo • Faded up a few seconds into the performance because the tape-machine operator missed the start, this is the Beatles routining another new Paul McCartney song that came to rest not with the Get Back/Let It Be project but on the later Abbey Road album. (That version was recorded May to August 1969.) Paul plays bass guitar here so the piece lacks the later version's piano foundation, although Billy Preston does contribute a keyboard part, and it soon develops into a jam, culminating in a newsflash that a clearly delighted John Lennon was quick to share with his fellow bandsmen.

George Martin :
Producer
Glyn Johns :
Recording engineer

Session Recording:
Jan 27, 1969
Studio :
Apple Studios, 3 Savile Row, London


Abbey Road (Stereo - 2009 remaster)

Official album • Released in 2009

3:27 • Studio versionA2009 • Stereo • 2009 stereo remaster

Paul McCartney :
Backing vocals, Piano, Vocals
Ringo Starr :
Drums
John Lennon :
Backing vocals, Guitar
George Harrison :
Backing vocals, Bass
George Martin :
Producer
Phil McDonald :
Recording engineer
Chris Thomas :
Producer
Jeff Jarratt :
Recording engineer
Guy Massey :
Remastering
Steve Rooke :
Remastering
Allan Rouse :
Project co-ordinator

Session Recording:
Apr 20, 1969
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Recording:
20, 26 Apr, 23 Jul, 8, 11 Aug 1969
Studio :
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Aug 12, 1969
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Anthology 3 (2016 remaster)

Official album • Released in 2016

4:08 • OuttakeB2016 • Stereo • Faded up a few seconds into the performance because the tape-machine operator missed the start, this is the Beatles routining another new Paul McCartney song that came to rest not with the Get Back/Let It Be project but on the later Abbey Road album. (That version was recorded May to August 1969.) Paul plays bass guitar here so the piece lacks the later version's piano foundation, although Billy Preston does contribute a keyboard part, and it soon develops into a jam, culminating in a newsflash that a clearly delighted John Lennon was quick to share with his fellow bandsmen.

George Martin :
Producer
Glyn Johns :
Recording engineer

Session Recording:
Jan 27, 1969
Studio :
Apple Studios, 3 Savile Row, London


Abbey Road (50th anniversary boxset)

Official album • Released in 2019

3:27 • Studio versionC • Stereo • 2019 Stereo Mix

Paul McCartney :
Backing vocals, Piano, Vocals
Ringo Starr :
Drums
John Lennon :
Backing vocals, Guitar
George Harrison :
Backing vocals, Bass
George Martin :
Producer
Giles Martin :
Producer
Phil McDonald :
Recording engineer
Chris Thomas :
Producer
Jeff Jarratt :
Recording engineer
Sam Okell :
Mix engineer

Session Recording:
Apr 20, 1969
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Recording:
20, 26 Apr, 23 Jul, 8, 11 Aug 1969
Studio :
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Aug 12, 1969
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Abbey Road (50th anniversary boxset)

Official album • Released in 2019

3:31 • Alternate takeD • Take 4

Paul McCartney :
Piano, Vocals
Ringo Starr :
Drums
John Lennon :
Guitar
George Harrison :
Bass
Giles Martin :
Producer
Chris Thomas :
Producer
Jeff Jarratt :
Engineer
Billy Preston :
Hammond organ
Sam Okell :
Mix engineer

Session Recording:
Apr 20, 1969
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road


Let It Be (50th anniversary boxset)

Official album • Released in 2021

5:19 • Studio versionE • Jam - January 27, 1969 (EMI Tape E90498-8T and NAGRA Roll 515 A and 1104 B). A 4:08 version was previously available in ‘Anthology 3’. The complete performance (not captured from the beginning on the 8-track tape) lasts 6:30.

Session Recording:
Jan 27, 1969
Studio :
Apple Studios, 3 Savile Row, London


Let It Be (50th anniversary boxset - SHM - Japanese edition)

Official album • Released in 2021

5:19 • Studio versionE • Jam - January 27, 1969 (EMI Tape E90498-8T and NAGRA Roll 515 A and 1104 B). A 4:08 version was previously available in ‘Anthology 3’. The complete performance (not captured from the beginning on the 8-track tape) lasts 6:30.

Session Recording:
Jan 27, 1969
Studio :
Apple Studios, 3 Savile Row, London

Bootlegs


Abbey Road Sessions

Unofficial album

3:28 • Outtake • Get Back Session 27.56 Stereo


Abbey Road Sessions

Unofficial album

4:07 • Outtake • Take 26 Mono


Abbey Road Sessions

Unofficial album

3:26 • Outtake • Unknown Take Stereo


Abbey Road Sessions

Unofficial album

0:57 • Outtake • Vocal Overdub Session Mono


Abbey Road Sessions

Unofficial album

2:07 • Outtake • Vocal Overdub Session 1 Mono


Live performances

Paul McCartney has never played this song in concert.

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