The mood in the studio sessions for The Beatles’ White Album was grim, with John Lennon and Paul McCartney constantly at each other’s throats. The two had once been close collaborators. Suddenly, they could hardly agree on anything. Lennon openly derided one of McCartney’s songs. After spending too much time on it, he left the studio in a rage.
John Lennon was not happy with Paul McCartney after hours of working on his song
One of Lennon’s least favorite songs on the White Album was “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” McCartney’s bouncing, reggae-inspired tune. He rolled his eyes every time the band worked on it, which was often. McCartney worked endlessly to perfect it, much to the irritation of everyone else in the studio.
“The previous week’s work was a typical study in frustration,” audio engineer Geoff Emerick wrote in his book Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles. “We’d worked endlessly on just two songs: Lennon’s ‘Revolution’ and McCartney’s ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,’ done over and over again until we were all sick to death of them. Nonetheless, here we were again, breathing in the same stale studio air, working on those same two tracks.”
No one was more frustrated than Lennon, who called the song “granny music.” He reached a point where he didn’t think he could possibly hear it again.
“So when Paul announced several nights later that he wanted to scrap everything that had been done so far and start the song from scratch, John went ballistic,” Emerick wrote. “Ranting and raving, he headed out the door, with Yoko [Ono] trailing closely behind, and we thought we’d seen the last of him that evening.”
John Lennon eventually returned to show Paul McCartney how to play the song
While it may have been a relief to get the agitated Lennon out of the studio, he wasn’t gone for long. Several hours later, he returned, stoned out of his mind. Drugs hadn’t done much to improve his mood, but he had at least given the song some thought.
“‘And this,’ Lennon added with a snarl, ‘is how the f***ing song should go.’ Unsteadily, he lurched down the stairs and over to the piano and began smashing the keys with all his might, pounding out the famous opening chords that became the song’s introduction, played at breakneck tempo.”
While McCartney didn’t appreciate his bandmate’s attitude, he accepted the notes. Emerick believed he felt grateful that Lennon had thought about the song at all.
He ultimately did the same thing with his own song
While Lennon was furious at McCartney’s nitpicking, he did the same thing with his song, “Revolution.”
“It didn’t take long for the ever-impatient John to start getting ratty and bored again, so work on ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ was suspended once more when he strapped his guitar on and started barking orders,” Emerick recalled. “‘Okay, we’re doing “Revolution” again,’ he announced. I thought he was kidding, taking the piss out of Paul for having them do his song so many times, but George Martin quickly set me straight. They were indeed doing it again, but with a different approach.”
Somewhat unsurprisingly, Lennon found fault in McCartney for something he also did.
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