What does The Beatles song ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ mean?

News What does The Beatles song ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ mean?

By the time The Beatles gave up the touring life, there was no telling what they could get up to in the studio. As much as their fans may have liked to have the lovable moptops that they knew from A Hard Day’s Night, the Fab Four were clearly different creative thinkers than the ones mugging for the camera in interviews at JFK airport in 1964. The next phase of the band’s career was going to be different, but ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ showed they didn’t lose their whimsy.

After making one of the cultural touchstones of their generation with Sgt Pepper, the band knew that they needed a bit of a break from songwriting when studying transcendental meditation. Once they wrapped production on the film Magical Mystery Tour, the group would venture to India to study under Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who helped open their consciousness to what they could do outside of their physical body.

Outside of George Harrison’s experiences with the philosophy, though, the rest of the band used their time in India to write songs, making up the lion’s share of what would become their double album, The White Album. Although John Lennon and Harrison offered more expansive songs like ‘Dear Prudence’ and ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ respectively, Paul McCartney’s lighthearted romp would become both the best and worst thing about the album.

Being the story-driven song that most people know today, ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ has been given a lot of praise and scorn from a handful of Fab fans, with many thinking that it’s just a piece of McCartney-style nonsense. So what does that seemingly non-sensical phrase actually mean, and can we actually find some kind of merit in a song that sounds like a second-rate children’s show theme song?

Who wrote ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’?

While it’s unclear when the song came to him, McCartney conceived of ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ during the leadup to The White Album. Even though many fans thought that the phrase didn’t mean anything, it originates from one of McCartney’s friends from Jamaica, Jimmy Scott, who used the phrase in his home country as slang for “Life goes on”, which McCartney clears up in the next line. Despite McCartney coming up with the arrangement, the phrase did get him in a bit of trouble.

After becoming one of the greatest deep cuts on the project, Scott would pursue legal action against McCartney over the use of the song name, claiming that it was only a regional expression amongst his family and that McCartney had stolen it. Although McCartney would win the case, he did get the chance to make it up to Scott a few years later, using proceeds from the song to help him out of various legal troubles.

What did the other Beatles think of ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’?

For all of the action happening in court over the song, it was a far cry from the venom that McCartney was getting from his bandmates during the recording of the song. Having to go through numerous takes just to get the one they were happy with, every member of the band considered the song a chore to work through, with even easygoing Ringo Starr complaining that it was labour trying to get everything off the ground.

After being fed up with the song for months, a very tripped-out Lennon would ultimately give the song one of its most recognisable moments, playing the iconic keyboard intro after storming into the studio wanting to get the track done. While anything had the potential to work as long as it served the song, the tension behind ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ was practically a warning for the nastiness that was to come with The Beatles’ breakup.

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