All good things come to an end; it’s an old adage with a ring of truth that, sadly, The Beatles bore out. Although Let It Be may have been their last release chronologically, Abbey Road was actually the final album that they recorded, and on the 11th of August 1969, John Lennon turned in his last days work with the four-piece on the track ‘Oh! Darling’.
The track is an old school rocking gut-punch, featuring some of Paul McCartney’s heaviest vocals on record, vocals that make any listeners larynx shudder. It was croaky and shouty very much by design, Paul commenting that he, “Wanted it to sound as though [he’d] been performing it on stage all week”.
Such an impassioned singing performance, however, did not necessarily impress John Lennon, whose last act was to add some layering backing vocals. Although he was a fan of the song, Lennon wasn’t about to give Paul full credit for the performance, stating: “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.”
As far as Lennon’s praise for McCartney goes during the break-up period that’s not far from being a big thumbs up, but perhaps there is some truth in the fact that it may have suited John’s voice, as there is a definite likeness to the pleading vocals on the Lennon track ‘Don’t Let Me Down’. That being said, McCartney certainly doesn’t let his own song down on this occasion, resulting in one of the most emotive performances on Abbey Road. It is a simple rock arrangement that makes the towering vocal take all the more noteworthy.
Lennon’s last act was fittingly – or the polar opposite of fittingly, depending on how you look at it – a collaborative effort providing the three-part doo-wop harmonies with McCartney and Harrison. Having already provided guitar, Lennon left the studio for the final time with the lyrics, ‘I’ll never do you no harm’, ringing in the background. It is a sombre affair that adds a sad retrospective note to an otherwise stellar song. ‘Oh! Darling’ is the powerful goodbye to the biggest band there ever was.