George Harrison wrote this song and also played guitar, organ and bass on the track; it was one of the few times he included a guitar solo for himself. Regarding the words, opposites were a common theme in Harrison's lyrics: right/wrong, short/tall. He explained: "I started the chord sequences on the piano, which I don't really play, and then began writing ideas for the words from various opposites... Again, it's the duality of things - yes no, up down, left right, right wrong, etcetera."
The album cover to the single echoes the album cover for Hey Jude in a clever way. On the single version for "The Ballad of John and Yoko," John and Yoko are seated on a pair of statues, while the rest of the group, looking rather forlorn, stand in the background. On the cover of Hey Jude, all four Beatles stand indoors in a classical setting flanked by statues - one of which off to the side wears Yoko's hat.
Even fans argue to this day whether that's George's or Paul's bass work. The various editing sessions in the studio muddy the waters quite a bit. To wit: During the Let It Be sessions, the group did two recordings, one with Harrison and piano accompaniment, and one with the whole group plus Billy Preston. They rehearsed the song eight more times for these sessions, and there's some bootlegs of these tapes out there. Then a complicated hail of edits on different tracks ensued when they actually went to record "Old Brown Shoe," with Harrison replacing two guitar tracks with his own and wiping Lennon's rhythm guitar in favor of a Hammond organ. Remember that this was towards the end of the Beatles' career, and there were growing creative fractures in the band. For the record, Harrison told a Creem interview that that's his bass.