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Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

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“Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”
“Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” cover
Single by The Beatles
A-side "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"
"Julia" (US edition)
Released 8 November 1976
Format 7"
Recorded Abbey Road Studios
3 July 1968
Genre Rock
Length 3:07
Label Capitol 4347
Writer(s) Lennon/McCartney
Producer George Martin
The Beatles singles chronology
"Got to Get You Into My Life" / "Helter Skelter"
(1976)
"Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" / "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"
"Julia"(1976)
"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" / "With a Little Help from My Friends"
(1978)
I might've given him a couple of lyrics, but it's his song, his lyric.

—John Lennon, 1980

After about four or five nights doing 'Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da', John Lennon came to the session really stoned, totally out of it on something or other, and he said, 'All right, we're gonna do Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.' He went straight to the piano and smashed the keys with an almighty amount of volume, twice the speed of how they'd done it before, and said, 'This is it! Come on!' He was really aggravated. That was the version they ended up using.

—Mark Lewisohn, The Beatles Recording Sessions, p.141, 1988

Throughout the preceding weeks I had noticed that John's behavior was becoming increasingly erratic — his mood swings were more severe, and they were occurring more frequently. That was definitely the case with the recording of 'Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.' One moment he'd be into it, acting the fool and doing his fake Jamaican patois, the next minute he'd be sulking and grumbling about how the song was more of Paul's 'granny music shit.' [...] So when Paul announced several nights later that he wanted to scrap everything that had been done so far and start the song again from scratch, John went ballistic. Ranting and raving, he headed out the door, with Yoko trailing closely behind, and we thought that we'd seen the last of him that evening. But a few hours later he stormed back into the studio, clearly in a highly altered state of mind. 'I AM FUCKING STONED!!' John Lennon bellowed from the top of the stairs. [...] 'I am more stoned than you have ever been. In fact, I am more stoned than you will ever be!' [...] 'And this,' Lennon added with a snarl, 'is how the fucking song should go.' Unsteadily, he lurched down the stairs and over to the piano and began smashing the keys with all his might, pounding out the famous opening chords that became the song's introduction, played at a breakneck tempo. [...] 'Okay, then, John,' [McCartney] said in short, clipped words, staring his deranged bandmate straight in the eye. 'Let's do it your way.' [...] The remake, I had to admit, was quite good.

—Geoff Emerick, EMI Recording Engineer, Here, There and Everywhere with John Massey, 2006

A fella who used to hang around the clubs used to say, (Jamaican accent) 'Ob-la-di, ob-la-da, life goes on,' and he got annoyed when I did a song of it, 'cuz he wanted a cut. I said, 'Come on, Jimmy, it's just an expression. If you'd written the song, you could have had a cut.' He also used to say, 'Nothin's too much, just outta sight.' He was just one of those guys who had great expressions, you know.

—Paul McCartney, 1984

After finally turning in what sounded like a flawless performance, [McCartney] burst out laughing. 'Oh shit!' he said. 'We'll have to do it again!' 'Well, it sounded OK to me,' John yawned. 'Yeah,' George agreed. 'It was perfect.' 'But didn't you notice?' Paul demanded. 'Notice what?' said John. 'I just sang "Desmond stays at home and does his pretty face" ... I should've sung "Molly!"' The others refused to believe him — until George Martin played back the tape and proved Paul was right. 'Oh, it sounds great anyway,' Paul concluded. 'Let's just leave it in — create a bit of confusion there. Everyone will wonder whether Desmond's a bisexaul or a transvestite.

—Pete Shotton, John Lennon: In My Life, 1987

We went to a cinema show in a village where a guy put up a mobile screen and all the villagers came along and loved it. I remember walking down a little jungle path with my guitar to get to the village from the camp. I was playing 'Desmond has a barrow in the market place...' I had a friend called Jimmy Scott who was a Nigerian conga player, who I used to meet in the clubs in London. He had a few expressions, one of which was, 'Ob la di ob la da, life goes on, bra'. I used to love this expression... He sounded like a philosopher to me. He was a great guy anyway and I said to him, 'I really like that expression and I'm thinking of using it,' and I sent him a cheque in recognition of that fact later because even though I had written the whole song and he didn't help me, it was his expression. It's a very me song, in as much as it's a fantasy about a couple of people who don't really exist, Desmond and Molly. I'm keen on names too. Desmond is a very Caribbean name.

—Paul McCartney, Anthology, 1995

Articulation of the words really should determine the overall riff of the whole thing ... Ob-la-di has an accent, ob-la-da has an accent, 'life goes on...' sort of leads you into that ska feel. There's a definite scansion to those lyrics, which is probably why they ended up playing a ska beat. In fact, that's one of the first examples of white reggae.

—Stewart Copeland, drummer for The Police, Musician Magazine, 1988


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