After an early attempt at this song on 27 January 1969 during the Get Back sessions at Apple, the Beatles began recording O h! Darling properly at Abbey Road on the 20th of April. On the 26th, Paul made his first attempt at a lead vocal, though this was unused. He returned to it on July
17th, beginning a series of single-take attempts in the early morning.
Paul later said in The Beatles Anthology, "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.“
The final version was recorded on the 23rd of July. The three-part doo-wop vocal harmonies were taped on August 11th, with which Oh! Darling was complete.
In a 1980 Playboy interview with David Sheff, 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…
But if he’d had any sense, he should have let me sing it. [laughs]“
Abbey Road came out in September of 1969, but if The Beatles’ final recordings (if not their final release, which was Let it Be) don’t feel like a Christmas miracle, I don’t know what does.
What other classic rock band on the verge of splitting up managed to put their differences aside long enough to conjure up their magic one last time, and come away with an album for the ages?
The answer is NONE – not like this!
Innovating ‘til the end, The Beatles throw the gauntlet down with Lennon’s “Come Together,” trot out one of their greatest love songs in Harrison’s “Something,” then undermine it somewhat by what Lennon dismissed as “more of Paul’s granny music” on “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.”
But of course it’s not that bad, and McCartney immediately redeems himself on the lusty Doo Wop of “Oh! Darling,” before making way for “Octopus’s Garden” (“Ringo’s kiddie music”?), and the arguable birth of doom (I’m fucking serious) via Lennon’s “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).”
Into side two we go, where George’s “Here Comes the Sun” is quite simply one of the loveliest lullabies ever written, and Lennon’s “Because” is like a Bach piece sung in nine-part harmony.
And then, led by Paul’s “You Never Give Me Your Money” (a sideways swipe at the business issues destroying the band), we come to the famous suite, which is simply exquisite in its totality, but kicks into another gear of splendor with the heart-rending “Golden Slumbers” through to the heart-warming “The End,” with its infinitely wise final blessing:
“And in the end … the love you take is equal to the love you make.”
I can’t think of a better sentiment with which to approach this time of year, can you?