“Glass Onion” is a Beatles’ song on their 1968 “White Album”, of course.
Released: 22th November, 1968
Recorded: 11th – 13th September, 10th October, 1968
Studio: EMI Studios, London
Genre: Psychedelic rock
Track Duration: 2:17
Record Label: Apple
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Ken Scott
George Martin: string arrangement including:
Henry Datyner, Eric Bowie, Norman Lederman, Ronald Thomas: violin
John Underwood, Keith Cummings: viola
Eldon Fox, Reginald Kilby: cello
Written mostly by John Lennon but credited to the Lennon-McCartney partnership, “Glass Onion” is a another psychedelic song from The Beatles.
He wrote the song for those conspiracy theorists who were reading too much into The Beatles’ songs by looking for hidden meanings. This annoyed Lennon so he deliberately set them up with even more distraction with this track.
“I threw the line in – ‘the Walrus was Paul’ – just to confuse everybody a bit more. And I thought Walrus has now become me, meaning ‘I am the one.’ Only it didn’t mean that in this song.
It could have been ‘the fox terrier is Paul,’ you know. I mean, it’s just a bit of poetry.”
All We Are Saying, David Sheff
Lennon once said, “I don’t know what Helter Skelter has to do with knifing someone. I’ve never listened to it properly, it was just a noise.”
The title of the song was actually a name which John Lennon suggested for a group from South Wales, The Iveys. They signed up to The Beatles’ new record label but they took on the name of “Badfinger” instead.
Although Lennon hated people looking into Beatles’ lyrics the wrong way, he couldn’t help adding phrases like “bent back tulips”, “dovetail joints” and “hole in the ocean”. These lyrics, together with “the walrus was Paul”, gave the conspiracy theorists an abundance of elements with which to look for further “clues”.
The Beatles started recording “Glass Onion” on the 11th September, 1968, in Studio Two of the EMI Studios, London, during the 7.00pm-3.30am session. In short, they recorded 34 takes that day with take 33 becoming the master track for overdubbing John Lennon’s vocals the next day. Further tweaks to the song occurred until the 10th October when George Martin overdubbed the string arrangement conducted by himself.
The song sits after “Dear Prudence” and before “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” on side 1 of the classic double album, “The Beatles”, aka “The White Album”. Meanwhile, the 1996 album, “Anthology 3” has two versions.
Firstly, there is the demo version from George Harrison’s bungalow in Esher, Surrey, UK. This version is in experimental mode, of course, and it looks like Lennon wanted a lot of gibberish thrown in the mix.
Secondly, there is the mono version of take 33. This version makes it clear that Lennon wanted sound effects because there are quite a few at the end running on a loop for about 15 seconds. The sound effects include breaking glass and a ringing telephone. However, there’s also BBC football commentator, Kenneth Wolstenholme, shouting over the top of those with the famous line, “It’s a goal!”. As well as that there is an ecstatic football crowd cheering continuously.
The finished article obviously eliminated the sound effects for the George Martin’s string arrangement. Just what the conspiracy theorists would have thought had this been on the album is anyone’s guess!
Love Album Version
In 2006, The Beatles release of the “Love” album sees “Glass Onion” make an appearance on that too, albeit a much shorter version. However, the mix is very interesting and includes a little from 6 other Fab Four songs. For example, there is the “Oh, no” and “Hello, hello” both come from the “Hello, Goodbye” song. Then there is the guitar from “Things We Said Today“, and the violin from “All You Need Is Love“.
Not only that, but there is the brass from the classic songs, “Magical Mystery Tour” and “Penny Lane” together with the sound effects from “Only a Northern Song“. The “Love” album mix is a fine example of how a good Beatles’ mashup should sound.