Beatles 50th Blog

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: July 9, 1968

Recording: Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, Revolution

Studio Three, EMI Studios, Abbey Road
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Geoff Emerick

Although The Beatles had recorded a remake of Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da during the previous night's session, they began this day's work by starting a third version.

Paul McCartney led the group through two new takes of the song, numbered 20 and 21, in a five-hour session beginning at 4pm. Following an hour's break, however, he decided to return to the previous night's take 13, which became the basis for the master version released on the White Album. The lead and backing vocals were wiped and re-recorded, although these were replaced by more recordings made on 15 July 1968.

A reduction mix of take 13 was then made, numbered take 22, accounting for the earlier takes. Handclaps and more vocal noises were then added, along with piano in the final verse. The song was completed on 15 July.

This second session ended at 3.30am. Before it did, The Beatles began work on a remake of Revolution, which was to feature on their next single as the b-side of Hey Jude. McCartney and George Harrison had decreed that Revolution 1 was not commercial-sounding enough, much to the annoyance of John Lennon.

Although this night's performances were recorded, this was more a rehearsal of Revolution than a proper session. It featured lead and rhythm guitars, bass guitar and drums, plus Lennon's lead vocals. The tape was later wiped, however, and replaced with proper takes on 10 July.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: July 8, 1968

Recording: Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

Studio Two, EMI Studios, Abbey Road
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Geoff Emerick

Following three abortive days of work on Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, The Beatles started afresh with a remake during this session.

The group recorded 12 takes of the backing track, with Paul McCartney on distorted bass guitar, John Lennon on piano, George Harrison playing an acoustic guitar and Ringo Starr on drums. Each instrument was recorded onto a separate track on the tape.

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da's distinctive piano introduction came about during this session, after Lennon grew frustrated with playing the song.

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 'Alright, 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.

Geoff Emerick
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

A reduction mix, numbered take 13, put all the instruments onto track one of the tape. Initial lead and backing vocals were then overdubbed onto tracks three and four, and maracas and bongos were added to track two.

An unnumbered rough mono mix was created at the end of the session. This was taken away by McCartney to be reviewed, although the next day's session began with yet another remake. However, they later returned to this night's take 13, which became the basis for the album version.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: July 7, 1968

The Beatles are recording

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: July 6, 1968

The Beatles are busy recording the White Album, but with tension arising.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: July 5, 1968

Recording: Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

This session, which took place from 5pm-1.30am, was an eventful one which saw numerous overdubs added to Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.

Between 6pm and 10.30pm three saxophones and a set of bongos were added to the song. The saxophonists were James Gray, Rex Morris and Cyril Reuben, while the percussionist was Jimmy Scott – whose pet phrase Paul McCartney had used for the song's title.

Scott's full name was Jimmy Anonmuogharan Scott Emuakpor. The phrase 'Ob-la-di, ob-la-da' was said to be a Urhobo colloquialism meaning 'Life goes on', but was actually just a family phrase.

Additional percussion – maracas, marimba and claves – were also added, from the second chorus onwards. These were recorded onto track three along with the saxophone and bongos.

Between 10.30pm and 11.45pm a piccolo was overdubbed onto track two, although this was subsequently wiped and replaced by a guitar part played by McCartney. The guitar was added towards the end of the session, and was distorted to make it sound like a bass guitar.

McCartney took away a rough mono mix of Ob-La-Di at the end of the session. After reviewing it over the weekend, he decided the song required a remake, which was begun on Monday 8 July 1968. It was, however, released on 1996's Anthology 3.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: July 4, 1968

Recording: Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

This was the second recording session for Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, and saw vocal overdubs added to the previous day's recordings.

Paul McCartney began by adding lead vocals onto take four. A reduction mix was then made to create more space for further overdubs, which was labelled take five.

McCartney then double-tracked his lead vocals, with backing vocals by John Lennon and George Harrison. During the final verse McCartney sang a harmony part to the earlier recording.

This version of Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da remained unused, as the song was given two remakes before it was judged suitable for release.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: July 3, 1968

The Beatles are taking a break.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: July 2, 1968

The Beatles are taking a break

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: July 1, 1968

John Lennon and Yoko Ono opened their first joint art exhibition on this day. You Are Here took place at the Robert Fraser Gallery at 69 Duke Street, London.

The exhibition's full title was You Are Here (To Yoko from John Lennon, With Love). Also in attendance were various guests, reporters, and Apple's publicist Derek Taylor. Lennon and Ono wore white, to match the white gallery walls and many of the exhibits.

At the launch ceremony Lennon and Ono released 365 white helium-filled balloons over London. Lennon proclaimed "I declare these balloons high". Attached to each was a printed card with the words "You are here" on one side, and "Write to John Lennon, c/o The Robert Fraser Gallery, 69 Duke Street, London W1" on the other.

Many of who returned the cards received a letter signed by Lennon, which read: "Dear Friend, Thank you very much for writing and sending me my balloon back. I'm sending you a badge just to remind you that you are here. Love, John Lennon." However, Lennon was hurt to discover that many recipients of the cards returned them with racist comments about Ono.

The exhibition mostly contained an assortment of charity collection boxes. There was also a huge circular canvas with "you are here" written in tiny letters in the centre, and an upturned white hat with a sign written by Lennon, which said: "FOR THE ARTIST. THANK YOU."

Also added to the exhibition was a rusty bicycle, which was donated by students at Hornsey College of Art with a note stating: "This exhibit was inadvertently left out." The gesture appealed to Lennon, to promptly added it to the gallery space.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: June 30, 1968

Paul McCartney records Thingumybob by Black Dyke Mills Band

The Black Dyke Mills Band, a brass band from Yorkshire, England, was one of Apple Records' first signings. On this day Paul McCartney recorded them performing the Lennon-McCartney composition Thingumybob, which became their first single for the label.

The recording took place in Saltaire near Bradford, with McCartney producing the session. As well as Thingumybob, the group recorded Yellow Submarine for the single's b-side. While in Yorkshire McCartney was interviewed by Tony Cliff for the BBC Television programme Look North.

Thingumybob was written as the theme tune to the Yorkshire Television comedy of the same name, which was transmitted from August 1968. The single, credited to John Foster & Sons Ltd Black Dyke Mills Band, was released as Apple 1800 in the US on 26 August, and in the UK as Apple 4 on 6 September.

McCartney was accompanied to Yorkshire by Apple employees Derek Taylor, Peter Asher and Tony Bramwell, and New Musical Express reporter Alan Smith.

On their return to London they sought to break their journey, and after consulting a map decided to take a detour off the M1 motorway to Harrold, a small village in Bedfordshire which they liked the name of. They visited two pubs in the village – the Oakley Arms and the Magpie – where McCartney premiered The Beatles' Hey Jude.

While walking through the village they encountered Gordon Mitchell, a resident who was in his garden at Mulberry Lodge in the High Street. They asked Mitchell the way to the river but, having received directions, saw a sign for the Magpie pub and went there instead.

We wound through Bedfordshire checking off the signs steadily until we reached the village sign. Harrold. Oh it was a joyful sight.

It was the village we were supposed to have fought the world wars to defend, for which we would be expected to fight the third when told to, but won't. It was a Miniver hamlet on the Ouse and there were notices telling of the fete next Saturday and a war memorial which made me weep.

Thrushes and blackbirds sang and swallows dived into thatches and a little old mower wheezed as we walked down the only street there was past the inn which was closed and the church which was open nodding to a sandy man with 1930s moustache and khaki shorts as he clipped his hedge and stared at these city people with funny hair and clothes.

Having recognised McCartney, Mitchell and his wife Pat decided to also pay a visit to the pub. There they were greeted warmly by the Apple group, and fell into conversation.

After a while, thoughts were on something to eat. In those days few pubs served food. Pat suggested that she could provide something, so we trooped back to Mulberry Lodge, where she managed to produce a sumptuous meal. Paul showed his humanity by visiting Pat's father, at that time an invalid in bed, and had a long chat with him. He also played a pink piano which was in the room, commenting that he had never seen one which was pink before!

We had a lovely evening of conversation and music and food and wine. Our younger daughter, Shuna, produced a child-size guitar, which Paul tuned by putting two coins under the bridge and then proceeded to play in his normal left-handed manner. He played and sang throughout the evening and then told us he had a new song – not yet recorded – called Hey Jude, which he sang several times. Shayne, our other daughter, was so unfazed by what was happening that she retired to bed to read a book!

We had long chats about his life as a pop star and what it was like to be so famous and so well off so early in one's life, and he related some of the difficulties it was creating for him.

They all were the nicest people one could wish to meet, and great fun, and it was a very special evening. Pat, in particular, always felt great respect and affection for Paul and took great interest in his career and life, until her death in 2002.
It was after midnight when the group decided to return to London. Not knowing where their chauffeur had parked their Rolls-Royce, however, they wandered up the High Street, where the car was parked outside the Oakley Arms.

After many hours, and well after midnight, they suggested that perhaps they should think of returning to London, so, not having any idea where their Rolls Royce and chauffeur were, we walked back up the High Street and there outside the Oakley Arms was their car.

The landlord of the Oakley, Frank Evans, had been told by the chauffeur who the travellers were, and the pub was kept open for their return. Sure enough, the party did decide to call in for drinks, and while there McCartney took to the piano to sing a number of Beatles songs. They stayed until around three o'clock in the morning before beginning the final leg of their journey to London.

A few days later, we received a letter of thanks signed by them all (except Alan Smith) and also received a gift of two bottles of champagne for the bottle stall at our Playing Fields Association fair on the following Saturday, which were duly raffled.

The weekend was reported by Alan Smith in two issues of the NME, published on 6 July and 10 August 1968. It was also mentioned in memoirs by Smith, Derek Taylor and Tony Bramwell.

It was also the best drink-up and general night out I've had since sliced bread, and my heartfelt thanks for a nice piece of living go out to Paul, Derek Taylor and Co (for the lift), the villagers of Harrold (for being real people) and to Gordon, the Irish dentist and his wife, Pat (for feeding us all at 3am with such pleasant meat and rice).