Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 191
Fri. July 20, 2012
Did you know the working title of my favorite Beatles LP, The White Album, was A Dolls House named after the most famous play from Henrik Ibsen? The Fab Four actually commissioned the artist Patrick to illustrate a mock cover of A Dolls House and the result was finally released on a 1980 Dutch Release of Parlaphone’s Beatles Ballads.
If you think about it, A Dolls House would have been the perfect title for the 1968 release which would eventually become The White Album. It’s such a varied album, like a play or collection of short stories, so many vibrantly different sections, and each song is like a door to a different world of sound. “Glass Onion” is probably the most magical room in the whole Doll House. It’s also the most talked about, as a wide-eyed teen, I spent hours trying to uncover layers behind the deeper meaning of this cryptic song. “Glass Onion” is probably one song, lyrically, that John had the most fun composing on The White Album.
The late great Ian McDonald, explored in his essential tome on The Beatles, Revolution in the Head, when talking about “Glass Onion” he wrote “Lennon’s love of word games and louche sexual euphemisms was life-long, as was his running battle with those with a taste of interpretation.” John Lennon, himself, explained his reasoning for word play in “Glass Onion” when he said—“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 Sgt. Pepper—play it backwards and you stand on your head and all that.”
Paul McCartney was there when his collaborator wrote “Glass Onion” this is Macca gave his interpretation of the song when he explained—“When we were writing [“Glass Onion”] we were thinking specifically of this whole idea of people who write in and say “Who was the walrus?” or “Is Paul the walrus?” So eventually John said. “Let’s do this joke tune “Glass Onion” where all kinds of answers to the universe are.” In reality, there were no answers; “Glass Onion” cut through The Beatles myth with Lennon’s clever sense of humor.
But there was some seriousness, buried deep inside The White Album as Peter Doggett discovered when dissecting “Glass Onion” in The Art and Music of John Lennon wrote—“Its lyrics referred to a sheaf of recent Beatles recordings, from “Fixing A Hole” to “The Fool on The Hill;” while the most quotable line revealed that “The walrus was Paul.” It was a final gesture of respect and sympathy to the man who had until recently been his best friend, and to whom he would never be close again.” John later corroborated this when he said about “The Walrus was Paul” lyric in “Glass Onion—” “At that time I was still in my love cloud with Yoko, so I thought I’d just say something nice to Paul—you did a good job over these years holding us together. I thought, I’ve got Yoko, and you can have credit.”
More than just a song that links “Dear Prudence” with “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” “Glass Onion” is one of the quintessential cuts on the LP that was originally entitled, A Dolls House. It was no surprise that Lennon wrote this as a sort of answer song to all the Beatles conspiracy theorists. John explained his songwriting philosophy, when he said—“I do it for me first. Whatever people make of it afterwards is valid, but it doesn’t necessarily have to correspond to my thoughts about it, OK? This goes for anyone’s ‘creations,’ art, poetry, song etc. The mystery and shit that is built around all forms of art needs smashing.”
John’s “Glass Onion” is Lennon taking a lyrical sledgehammer to any critical interpretation to this or any of The Beatles most beloved songs. “Glass Onion” remains one of the most talked about songs in the Beatles song canon. Lennon was right of one thing, for me, no matter what his intent; the result was and will always sound, literally— smashing!
The Evolution of “Glass Onion”
1) Take One from The Beatles Anthology 3:
2) Take Thirty-three from The Beatles Anthology 3:
3) 2009 Remastered album version from The White Album: