The Beatles

Oh! Darling

Song Review by

"Oh! Darling" was one of the more accessible, pop-friendly songs on Abbey Road (though that was itself an immensely accessible, pop-friendly album), owing much to the late-'50s rock & roll and doo wop on which the Beatles had grown up. Though "Oh! Darling" is much like updated doo wop, it's not revivalist doo wop -- the melody is far more complex and unpredictable than the standard doo wop tune, and the arrangement is comfortably integrated with the harder rock of the late '60s. There's also a sense of affectionate, almost ironic pastiche, as if principal composer Paul McCartney's being at once fiercely passionate and vaguely satirical in both his songwriting and vocal. It is McCartney's vocal, more than anything else, that puts the song over, as he really pours his heart into his upper range, projecting both romance and humor (as well as a touch of raunchiness) -- not an easy combination to make work. Some high-pitched "ooh"s -- perhaps subconscious echoes of the "ooh"s the Beatles sprinkled liberally over their early work -- are interjected from time to time, and the background harmonies are smooth and accomplished. The vocal really hits its peak on the bridge, where the melody jerkily ascends like a stopping-and-starting escalator, and McCartney gets as high as he can without resorting to falsetto, trailing off dramatically at the very end. The track itself also trails off very imaginatively, throwing in a new chord change before trickling solitary descending notes bring the track to a close, like drops of water falling from the faucet to the floor. John Lennon rather unkindly said in his 1980 Playboy interview that the song "was a great one of Paul's that he didn't sing too well," adding, "I always thought that I could've done it better -- it was more my style than his...If he'd had any sense, he should have let me sing it." In fact, it's hard to imagine that Lennon or anyone could have done a better job with the vocal than McCartney did; perhaps Lennon was a little jealous of Paul having written such a solid 1950s-style rock ballad. McCartney certainly did work very hard on his vocal, reputedly doing many takes to attain a raw quality. Incidentally, "Oh! Darling" was so popular in Cajun country in Louisiana -- as it was very much in the swamp pop style popular in the region -- that retailers in the area were inundated with calls for the song on a single, though it remained an LP-only cut.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Abbey Road 1969 Apple Records / Capitol
No Image 1991 Yellow Dog Records
No Image 1993 Big Music 2:13
The Ultimate Box Set 1995 Capitol 3:26
Anthology 3 1996 Apple / Capitol 4:08
No Image 199? VigoTone
The Beatles: Stereo Box Set 2009 Capitol 3:27
The Beatles USB 2009 Capitol / EMI 3:27