"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).
The song is in the key of B-flat major and written in 4/4 time. The alternative version issued on Anthology 3 is in the lower 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. "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.
"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.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.
On the other hand, 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? Not Molly or Desmond Jones, they're married with a diamond ring and kids and a little 'Obladi Oblada.' All you need is Obladi Oblada."
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.
- 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
- Personnel per Ian MacDonald and Mark Lewisohn
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.
Because the song features the lyrics "life goes on", a version performed by Patti LuPone and the cast of Life Goes On was featured on the 1989-1993 drama of that name on ABC.
- 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. (His version 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 (? ), 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 Mili?evi?`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!
The Beatles version
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