I’m guessing that today’s session was probably quite fun. In these latter years The Beatles tended to enjoy themselves more when they had guests in the studio, and today they were joined by three saxophone players as well as percussionist Jimmy Scott, from whom Paul had nicked the title for the song being recorded.

According to Steve Turner’s A Hard Day’s Write,

Paul first heard the phrase “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” uttered by Nigerian congo player Jimmy Scott, whom he met at the Bag O’ Nails club in Soho, London. A flamboyant and unforgettable character in dark glasses and African clothing, Scott was renowned for his catch phrases. His wife Lucrezia says that “ob-la-di, ob-la-da” is a phonetic translation of something that his father would say to him in the Urhobo language used by the Warri people in the mid-West region of Nigeria. “It had a special meaning which he never told anyone,” she says. “Even the Beatles didn’t know what it meant. When I once asked Paul what it meant he said he thought it ‘Comme ci, comme ca’ but that isn’t right. To Jimmy it was like a philosophy that he took with him through life.”

Scott later attempted to claim a share of the song’s royalties, but dropped the case when he was arrested for failure to pay alimony and Paul agreed to pay his bail.

Today, though, everything was sunshine and smiles. In addition to the saxes and Scott’s congas, Paul decided to add maracas, marimba and claves (“a percussion instrument consisting of a pair of short, thick dowels”). Things got so giddy at one point that he even recorded a piccolo part — then quickly came to his senses and erased it, using the track for an overdriven bass instead.

At the end of the session a mono mix was made. This is the version that appears on Beatles Anthology 3, and because the Beatles Industrial Complex has recently decided to start putting stuff up on YouTube, I can embed it here:

Paul took this mix home with him and pondered it over the weekend. By Monday he had soured on it, giving today’s session the dubious distinction of being the first time The Beatles used outside musicians on an unreleased recording.

Listening to it now, you can certainly hear why Paul rejected it. It is somehow both too spare and too busy, and try as it may to be sprightly it just kind of lays there. At this point he could have easily just given up on “Ob-La-Di” altogether; certainly that’s what his bandmates would have preferred. But Paul is a stubborn man.

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