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Glass Onion

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"Glass Onion"
Song by The Beatles
Album The Beatles
Released 22 November 1968
Recorded 11 September 1968
Genre Rock
Length 2:17
Label Apple Records
Writer Lennon/McCartney
Producer George Martin
The Beatles track listing

Side one

  1. "Back in the U.S.S.R."
  2. "Dear Prudence"
  3. "Glass Onion"
  4. "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da"
  5. "Wild Honey Pie"
  6. "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill"
  7. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"
  8. "Happiness Is a Warm Gun"

Side two

  1. "Martha My Dear"
  2. "I'm So Tired"
  3. "Blackbird"
  4. "Piggies"
  5. "Rocky Raccoon"
  6. "Don't Pass Me By"
  7. "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?"
  8. "I Will"
  9. "Julia"

Side three

  1. "Birthday"
  2. "Yer Blues"
  3. "Mother Nature's Son"
  4. "Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey"
  5. "Sexy Sadie"
  6. "Helter Skelter"
  7. "Long, Long, Long"

Side four

  1. "Revolution 1"
  2. "Honey Pie"
  3. "Savoy Truffle"
  4. "Cry Baby Cry"
  5. "Revolution 9"
  6. "Good Night"


KEY: "Glass onion" is British slang for "monocle" ... So, "looking through a glass onion"...


I was just having a laugh because there had been so much gobbledegook written about Sgt. Pepper. People were saying, "Play it backwards while standing on your head, and you'll get a secret message, etc." Why, just the other day I saw Mel Torme on TV saying that several of my songs were written to promote the use of drugs, but really, none of them were at all. So this one was just my way of saying, "You're all full of shit!"

—John Lennon, The Beatles: A Celebration (1993), by Geoffrey Giuliano

[Regarding the line "Here's another clue for you all, the Walrus was Paul"] Yeah. That line was a joke, you know. That line was put in partly because I was feeling guilty because I was with Yoko, and I knew I was finally high and dry. In a perverse way, I was sort of saying to Paul, 'Here, have this crumb, have this illusion, have this stroke — because I'm leaving you.'

—John Lennon, Playboy interviews, 1980

Tom was a very sweet, quiet-spoken Liverpool guy. His mum had a flower stall outside the Liverpool News Theatre which showed cartoons and news all day while you were waiting for a train. He said, 'You know the old lady who sells flowers outside the News Theatre?' 'Yeah?' 'It's me mum!' 'Oh, well, blow me down!' So of course then the flowers on every plate was all explained.

These same flowers made their way into "Glass Onion." Tom would bend the petals back on tulips to create a strange organic sculpture for each plate, the stamen and inside colouring of the petals making an almost unrecognisable object. John referred to them in the song: "Looking through the bent back tulips, to see how the other half live." The other half being the wealthy Chelsea crowd who patronised the restaurant, as well as, presumably, the parts of a tulip not normally seen.

—Paul McCartney, Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now, Barry Miles, 1997

[John] and Yoko came round to Cavendish Avenue and John and I went out into the garden for half an hour, because there were a couple of things he needed me to finish up, but it was his song, his idea, and he worked on the arrangement with George Martin. It was a particuarly good arrangement, I think. It was a nice song of John's. We had a fun moment when we were working on the bit, 'I've got news for you all, the walrus was Paul.' Because, although we'd never planned it, people read into our songs and little legends grew up about every item of so-called significance, so on this occasion we decided to plant one. What John meant was that in Magical Mystery Tour, when we came to do the costumes on "I Am The Walrus", it happened to be me in the walrus costume. It was not significant at all, but it was a nice little twist to the legend that we threw in. But it was John's song. I'd guess I had minor input or something as we finished it up together.

—Paul McCartney, Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now, Barry Miles,1997

You'd be in Parkes sitting around your table wondering what was going on with the flowers and then you'd realise that they were actually tulips with their petals bent all the way back, so that you could see the obverse side of the petals and also the stamen. This is what John meant about 'seeing how the other half lives'. He meant seeing how the other half of the flower lives but also, because it was an expensive restaurant, how the other half of society lived.

—Derek Taylor, A Hard Day's Write, Steve Turner, 1994

There were simple explanations for the other perplexing references: the Cast-Iron Shore was Liverpool's own beach (also known as the Cassie); a dovetail joint referred to a wood joint using wedge-shaped tenons.

A Hard Day's Write, Steve Turner, 1994

John Lennon must have found the mono mixes of 'Glass Onion' lacking in something, and he decided that sound effects were needed. The remainder of the session was spent compiling a bizarre four-track tape — never used — lasting 2'35" but identical from beginning to end. Track one had a telephone ringing, track two had one note of an organ, track three had the BBC television soccer commentator, Kenneth Wolstenholme, shouting 'It's a goal!,' with the crowed roaring in the background, and track four had the sound of a window being smashed. [This version is available on the Beatles' 'Anthology 3' CD set.]

On his return from holiday, George Martin was presented with a set of five acetate discs worked on in his absence. [...] In response to John's searching for the finishing touch to 'Glass Onion' George suggested strings. These were scored by Martin and recorded as an overdub on 10 October.

The Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn, 1988

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