Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 105
Tues. May 14, 2013

“Oh Darling (Saville Row/Anthology outtake)”
The Beatles

1969, 1996

“♫ Believe

When talking to David Sheff about Paul McCartney’s vocal on Abbey Road’s “Oh Darling,” John Lennon famously said, “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. [Laughs.]

Lennon’s quote always made me wonder, especially after hearing what engineer Alan Parsons said about Paul recording “Oh Darling,” “Paul came in several days running to do the lead vocal on Oh! Darling. He’d come in, sing it and say, ‘No, that’s not it; I’ll try it again tomorrow.’ He only tried it once per day; I suppose he wanted to capture a certain rawness which could only be done once before the voice changed. I remember him saying, ‘Five years ago I could have done this in a flash,’ referring, I suppose, to the days of Long Tall Sally and Kansas City.”

Paul admitted having trouble recording “Oh Darling” in Bill Harry’s The Paul McCartney Encyclopedia, when he said, “When we were recording this track, 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 [“Oh Darling”] on stage all week.” Paul could have easily handed “Oh Darling” over to John but how can you blame McCartney, if he was trying to challenge himself vocally? The final cut of “Oh Darling” was brave early morning experiment that turned out successful. Still, if you’re wondering how John would have sung “Oh Darling,” instead of Paul, in 1996’s Anthology 3 we get a glimpse of this dream in full effect. The 1969 outtake from Savile Row has John Lennon taking most of the lead vocals from Paul.

Although not as a tight performance, this outtake from Savile Row shows what if John had sung the lead vocal instead of Paul on “Oh Darling?” If this 1996 outtake is any indication, John’s vocal wouldn’t have been better or worse, just uniquely Lennon-esque. Listen, on the Anthology version, as John adds a coda singing about how Yoko’s divorce from her ex-Tony Cox had finally gone through. Paul would never have sung that at the end of a song but that’s what made John…John. But in the end. “Oh Darling” was Paul song but hearing John take lead makes you wonder of all that could have been. And as a Beatles fan, sometimes, its fun to ponder and lyrically wonder.

I love these rough draft sonic glimpses we can rediscover from The Beatles Anthology series. Although not definitive versions, nothing can replace Macca’s soulful vocal on the Abbey Road version of “Oh Darling,” going back and imagining Lennon singing this classic brings chills to my lyrical mind. Go back and relive the beauty of “Oh Darling,” imperfect and all, still hearing The Beatles rehearsing in the studio is a priceless artifact for the Fab Four fanatic in your life.