The Paul McCartney Project

Glass Onion

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Album This song officially appears on the The Beatles (Mono) Official album.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1968
Sessions This song has been recorded during the following sessions

Other Beatles songs talking about walrus

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Song facts

From Wikipedia:

Glass Onion” is a song by the Beatles from their 1968 double-album The Beatles primarily written by John Lennon and credited to Lennon–McCartney. 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“.

Lyrics

The song refers to several 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“.

The song’s “the Walrus was Paul” lyric is both a reference to “I Am the Walrus” and Lennon saying “something nice to Paul” in response to changes in their relationship at that time. Later, the line was interpreted as a “clue” in the “Paul is dead” urban legend that alleged McCartney died in 1966 during the recording of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and was replaced by a look-alike and sound-alike. The line is preceded with “Well, here’s another clue for you all“.

Lennon himself 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. […]

Interview with John Lennon, December 8, 1970:

“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

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 July 23, 2017

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)

Official album • 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
Ken Scott:
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)

Official album • 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
Ken Scott:
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:
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 (2018)

Official album • Released in 2018

2:18 • Studio versionR2018 • 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
Ken Scott:
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 (2018)

Official album • Released in 2018

Demo

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


The Beatles (2018)

Official album • Released in 2018

Outtake • Take 10

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

Videos

Live performances

Paul McCartney has never played this song in concert.


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