When was it recorded? Apr. 20 & 26; Jul. 17-23; and Aug. 11, 1969
When was it first released, and on which album? Sept. 26, 1969 on “Abbey Road”
Who wrote it? McCartney
Have I heard this song before? Yes
What my research dug up:
Quoth Alan Pollack, “Paul gives us yet another one of those uncanny Beatlesque stylistic hybrids with this song: the emotional ethos of slow and heavy blues mixed with the form and chord progressions of the slow, wall climbing doo-wop oldie.” George even compared “Oh! Darling” to “a typical 1950s–’60s-period song because of its chord structure.” In fact, the song owes a lot to New Orleans R&B (think Fats Domino) and Louisiana Swamp Blues.
(Pollack also noted, “As a point of formal curiosity you’ll note that this song has virtually no intro or outro.”)
Originally titled, “Oh! Darling (I’ll Never Do You No Harm),” the Beatles were first heard performing the song on Jan. 27, 1969 during the Get Back sessions. This version turns into a goof, with John celebrating the finalization of Yoko’s divorce from Tony Cox in place of the actual lyrics near the end. My man Billy Preston also performed a keyboard part on the track, which appeared on “Anthology 3.”
Anyway, the Beatles recorded 26 takes of the rhythm track on Apr. 20. They also added a Hammond organ part that was soon scrapped.
According to the Beatles Bible, “Having been some years since he deployed the larynx-shredding rock ‘n’ roll stylings of ‘I’m Down’ and ‘Long Tall Sally’ (1968’s ‘Helter Skelter’ is a notable exception), McCartney broke his voice back in carefully” when it came time to record the song for “Abbey Road.” Since Paul lived two streets away from the Abbey Road studios, he “got in the habit of arriving before the other Beatles to record his vocals for the song” (BB).
“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.” — Alan Parsons (sound engineer) (Mark Lewisohn, The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions)
The Beatles Bible noted Paul “thought his voice was too clear to do the song justice;” John agreed.
“‘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.]” — John Lennon (David Sheff, All We Are Saying)
Paul first attempted to record his lead vocals Apr. 26. He tried again Jul. 17, but the final take was recorded Jul. 23. George and John taped their backing vocals Aug. 11, and the song was completed the same day.
“Oh! Darling” was actually released as a single in Central America and Portugal. In 1970 it appeared as the B-side to the “Here Comes the Sun” single in Japan.
Not my favorite Beatles track, but it can’t deny that it’s a good one.