Glass Onion

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Album This song officially appears on the The Beatles (Mono) LP.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1968

Master album


Other Beatles songs talking about walrus


Come Together

Officially appears on Abbey Road


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Song facts

From Wikipedia:

“Glass Onion” is a song by the English rock band the Beatles from their 1968 double album The Beatles (also known as the “White Album”). The song was written by John Lennon and credited to Lennon–McCartney.

Lyrics

Lennon wrote the song voluntarily to confuse people who “read in” to Beatles songs, searching for hidden messages surrounding the Paul is dead rumor, which annoyed him. With this in mind, the lyrics are intended to confuse the listener. Most lines refer to earlier Beatles songs, including “Strawberry Fields Forever“, “I Am the Walrus“, “Lady Madonna“, “The Fool on the Hill“, and “Fixing a Hole“. The song also refers to the “Cast Iron Shore”, a coastal area of south Liverpool known to local people as “The Cazzy”. Lennon dismissed any deep meaning to the mysterious lyrics:

I threw the line in—”the Walrus was Paul”—just to confuse everybody a bit more. It could have been “the fox terrier is Paul.” I mean, it’s just a bit of poetry. I was having a laugh because there’d been so much gobbledygook about Pepper—play it backwards and you stand on your head and all that.

“Glass Onion” was a name suggested by Lennon for the Iveys, a group who signed to Apple in 1968 and later became Badfinger.

Recording

The song was one of several recorded as a demo at George Harrison’s Esher home in 1968 before the recording sessions for the “White Album”. The Esher demo was first released on Anthology 3 (1996) and the 2018 deluxe edition of the “White Album”. Anthology 3 also included an alternate version which contained various sound effects rather than the string arrangement.

This is the first track on the album to feature Ringo Starr on drums. Starr briefly left the group during recording sessions for the album and was replaced on drums by Paul McCartney on both “Back in the U.S.S.R.” and “Dear Prudence“.

Legacy

Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of its release, Jacob Stolworthy of The Independent listed “Glass Onion” at number 10 in his ranking of the White Album’s 30 tracks. He wrote of the song: “Lennon embraced his cheeky side with “Glass Onion”, a self-referential track which parades as symbolic. Instead, it was designed to trick fans into thinking their songs meant more than they actually do.” For the 50th anniversary editions of the White Album, a music video for the song, created by Alasdair Brotherston and Jock Mooney, was released. […]

“The Walrus was Paul.” I said this to Ray Coleman; I said at that time, I was still in my love cloud with Yoko and I thought, well, I’ll just say something nice to Paul: “It’s all right, you did a good job over these few years, holding us together.” And he was trying to organise the group and that, and do the music, and be an individual artist and all that, so I wanted to say something to him. And I did it for that reason. I thought, well, he can have it. “I’ve got Yoko, and thank you, you can have the credit.”

John Lennon – Interview, December 8, 1970:

From The Usenet Guide to Beatles Recording Variations:

[a] stereo 10 Oct 1968. edited.
UK: Apple PCS 7067 white album 1968.
US: Apple SWBO 101 white album 1968.
CD: EMI CDP 7 46443 2 white album 1987.

[b] mono 10 Oct 1968. edited.
UK: Apple PMC 7067 white album 1968.

[c] mono 26 Sep 1968.
CD: Apple CDP 8 34451 2 Anthology 3 1996.

The edit adds the end orchestral piece. Stereo [a] is lacking Paul’s added vocal “oh yeah” at the end of the break.

Mono mix [c] has various sound effects, of which only the whistle after “fool on the hill” was used in the standard mix. The orchestra was added on Oct 10 and used for the standard versions.

Last updated on May 23, 2021

Lyrics

I told you 'bout strawberry fields
You know the place where nothing is real
Well, here's another place you can go
Where everything flows

Looking through the bent backed tulips
To see how the other half live
Looking through a glass onion

I told you 'bout the walrus and me, man
You know that we're as close as can be, man
Well, here's another clue for you all
The walrus was Paul

Standing on the cast iron shore, yeah
Lady Madonna trying to make ends meet, yeah
Looking through a glass onion

Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah
Looking through a glass onion

I told you 'bout the fool on the hill
I tell you man he living there still
Well, here's another place you can be
Listen to me

Fixing a hole in the ocean
Trying to make a dovetail joint, yeah
Looking through a glass onion

Officially appears on


The Beatles (Mono)

LP • Released in 1968

2:18 • Studio versionB • Mono

Paul McCartney :
Bass, Piano, Recorder
Ringo Starr :
Drums, Tambourine
John Lennon :
Acoustic guitar, Vocals
George Harrison :
Lead guitar
George Martin :
Producer
Chris Thomas :
Producer, Recorder
Ken Scott :
Recording engineer
John Underwood :
Viola
Eldon Fox :
Cello
Eric Bowie :
Violin
Henry Datyner :
Violin
Reginald Kilbey :
Cello
Norman Lederman :
Violin
Ronald Thomas :
Violin
Keith Cummings :
Viola

Session Recording:
Sep 11, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
12, 13, 16 Sep, 10 Oct 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Oct 10, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Abbey Road


The Beatles (Stereo)

LP • Released in 1968

2:18 • Studio versionA • Stereo

Paul McCartney :
Bass, Piano, Recorder
Ringo Starr :
Drums, Tambourine
John Lennon :
Acoustic guitar, Vocals
George Harrison :
Lead guitar
George Martin :
Producer
Chris Thomas :
Producer, Recorder
Ken Scott :
Recording engineer
John Underwood :
Viola
Eldon Fox :
Cello
Eric Bowie :
Violin
Henry Datyner :
Violin
Reginald Kilbey :
Cello
Norman Lederman :
Violin
Ronald Thomas :
Violin
Keith Cummings :
Viola

Session Recording:
Sep 11, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
12, 13, 16 Sep, 10 Oct 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Oct 10, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Abbey Road


Anthology 3

Official album • Released in 1996

1:51 • DemoD • Mono • John only.

Session Recording:
Late May 1968
Studio :
George Harrison's Home, Kinfauns, Esher, Surrey, UK


Anthology 3

Official album • Released in 1996

2:08 • OuttakeC • Mono • This mono mix of Glass Onion, made on 26 September 1968, encompasses sound effects compiled by John Lennon for his song: a telephone, an organ note, the smashing of glass and the then BBC-tv soccer commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme acclaiming "It's a goal!" over the sound of a roaring crowd. George Martin, on holiday at the time, heard the mix on his return and suggested a different approach: he scored the song for a string arrangement, recorded on 10 October, that rendered this mix and the FX ideas redundant and the tape to the vault shelf labelled "do not use".

Chris Thomas :
Producer
Ken Scott :
Recording engineer

Session Recording:
Sep 11, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
12, 13, 16 Sep 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Sep 26, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Love

Official album • Released in 2006

1:20 • Studio versionE • This track is much shorter than the original version, containing less vocals. The track contains Paul's falsetto "Oh, No" and "Hello, Hello" both from "Hello, Goodbye", guitar from "Things We Said Today", and brass from "Magical Mystery Tour" and "Penny Lane."

George Martin :
Producer
Giles Martin :
Producer
Paul Hicks :
Remix engineer
Sam Okell :
Remix engineer assistant
Chris Bolster :
Remix engineer assistant
Mirek Stiles :
Remix engineer assistant

Session Mixing:
Circa 2004-2006
Studio :
EMI Studios, Abbey Road


The Beatles (Mono - 2009 remaster)

Official album • Released in 2009

2:18 • Studio versionB2009 • Mono • 2009 mono remaster

Paul McCartney :
Bass, Piano, Recorder
Ringo Starr :
Drums, Tambourine
John Lennon :
Acoustic guitar, Vocals
George Harrison :
Lead guitar
George Martin :
Producer
Chris Thomas :
Producer, Recorder
Ken Scott :
Recording engineer
John Underwood :
Viola
Eldon Fox :
Cello
Eric Bowie :
Violin
Henry Datyner :
Violin
Reginald Kilbey :
Cello
Norman Lederman :
Violin
Ronald Thomas :
Violin
Keith Cummings :
Viola
Paul Hicks :
Remastering
Guy Massey :
Remastering
Sean Magee :
Remastering
Allan Rouse :
Project co-ordinator

Session Recording:
Sep 11, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
12, 13, 16 Sep, 10 Oct 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Oct 10, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Abbey Road


The Beatles (Stereo - 2009 remaster)

Official album • Released in 2009

2:18 • Studio versionA2009 • Stereo • 2009 stereo remaster

Paul McCartney :
Bass, Piano, Recorder
Ringo Starr :
Drums, Tambourine
John Lennon :
Acoustic guitar, Vocals
George Harrison :
Lead guitar
George Martin :
Producer
Chris Thomas :
Producer, Recorder
Ken Scott :
Recording engineer
John Underwood :
Viola
Eldon Fox :
Cello
Eric Bowie :
Violin
Henry Datyner :
Violin
Reginald Kilbey :
Cello
Norman Lederman :
Violin
Ronald Thomas :
Violin
Keith Cummings :
Viola
Guy Massey :
Remastering
Steve Rooke :
Remastering
Allan Rouse :
Project co-ordinator

Session Recording:
Sep 11, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
12, 13, 16 Sep, 10 Oct 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Oct 10, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Abbey Road


The Beatles (Mono - 2014 vinyl)

LP • Released in 2014

2:18 • Studio versionB2014 • Mono • 2014 remaster

Paul McCartney :
Bass, Piano, Recorder
Ringo Starr :
Drums, Tambourine
John Lennon :
Acoustic guitar, Vocals
George Harrison :
Lead guitar
George Martin :
Producer
Chris Thomas :
Producer, Recorder
Ken Scott :
Recording engineer
John Underwood :
Viola
Eldon Fox :
Cello
Eric Bowie :
Violin
Henry Datyner :
Violin
Reginald Kilbey :
Cello
Norman Lederman :
Violin
Ronald Thomas :
Violin
Keith Cummings :
Viola
Sean Magee :
Remastering
Steve Berkowitz :
Remastering

Session Recording:
Sep 11, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
12, 13, 16 Sep, 10 Oct 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Oct 10, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Abbey Road


Anthology 3 (2016 remaster)

Official album • Released in 2016

1:51 • DemoD2016 • Mono • John only.

Session Recording:
Late May 1968
Studio :
George Harrison's Home, Kinfauns, Esher, Surrey, UK


Anthology 3 (2016 remaster)

Official album • Released in 2016

2:08 • OuttakeC2016 • Mono • This mono mix of Glass Onion, made on 26 September 1968, encompasses sound effects compiled by John Lennon for his song: a telephone, an organ note, the smashing of glass and the then BBC-tv soccer commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme acclaiming "It's a goal!" over the sound of a roaring crowd. George Martin, on holiday at the time, heard the mix on his return and suggested a different approach: he scored the song for a string arrangement, recorded on 10 October, that rendered this mix and the FX ideas redundant and the tape to the vault shelf labelled "do not use".

Paul McCartney :
Bass
Ringo Starr :
Drums
George Harrison :
Guitar, Vocals
George Martin :
Producer
Chris Thomas :
Harpsichord
Ken Scott :
Recording engineer

Session Recording:
Sep 11, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
12, 13, 16 Sep 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Sep 26, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Bootlegs


White Album Sessions Volume 1

Unofficial album

1:49 • Studio version


White Album Sessions Volume 1

Unofficial album

2:08 • Studio version • RM2 From Take 33 Mono


Complete Home Recordings 1968

Unofficial album • Released in 2002

1:51 • Demo

Films


Glass Onion

2018 • For The Beatles • Directed by Alasdair Brotherston

Videos

Live performances

Paul McCartney has never played this song in concert.

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