Beatles – Glass Onion

The Walrus was Paul! I never knew that John. This song was written by John and Paul but mostly a John song. The song was about people trying to analyze the lyrics to Beatle songs.

Lennon mentioned other Beatles songs in the lyrics: “Strawberry Fields,” “I am the Walrus,” “Lady Madonna,” “The Fool on the Hill,” and “Fixing a Hole.”  One phrase in the song is “cast iron shore,” which is actually a nickname for a coastal area of south Liverpool also known by the locals as “The Cazzy.”

John had started the song during their spring 1968 visit to Rishikesh, India to study Transcendental Meditation with the Maharishi. Most of the songs written in India ended up on the terrific White Album. The most eclectic album The Beatles ever did.

A new name was needed for a newly signed Apple band called The Iveys. John suggested Glass Onion…this was rejected, along with another Lennon suggestion “Prix.” The band  went with the working title for the Beatles song With A Little Help From My Friends… Bandfinger Boogie. They shortened it and became the great power pop band Badfinger.

John Lennon: “I was having a laugh because there had been so much gobbledegook about ‘Pepper,’ play it backwards and you stand on your head and all that.” 

Paul McCartney: “He 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…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…We still worked together, even on a song like ‘Glass Onion’ where many people think there wouldn’t be any collaboration.”

From Songfacts

John Lennon used meaningless lyrics to confuse people who were reading too much into his songs. He got a kick out of people trying to analyze his lyrics.

A glass onion is a coffin with a see-through lid. Because of this, it became a big part of the “Paul is Dead” hoax. Another clue for those who believed the hoax: Lennon sang, “The Walrus is Paul.” In many European countries, a walrus represents death. 

Lennon wanted to name one of the bands they signed to Apple Records “Glass Onion.” They chose “Badfinger” instead.

One theory is that “Glass Onion” refers to Lennon’s opinion of the yogic concept of the lotus with its layered petals (layers of consciousness to be stripped away, much like an onion, through meditation) as a bunch of transparent bull used by the Maharishi to manipulate and seduce. He’s also saying the Maharishi’s whole shtick stinks and is a crying shame. 

When Lennon sings about the “Cast Iron Shore,” he’s referring to what was an area of beach at Liverpool, that is now partly built over. This area of Liverpool is called Otterspool. 

According to Mojo magazine, the Beatles recorded 34 takes of the song’s basic rhythm track on Wednesday September 11, 1968, then returned the next day to overdub Lennon’s vocal and again on Friday and the following Monday for further overdubs. On October 10th George Martin, after returning from holiday, added the string section.

Lennon explained to Rolling Stone in a 1971 interview why he said “The Walrus is Paul.” Said Lennon: “‘I Am The Walrus’ was originally the B side of ‘Hello Goodbye.’ 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.’ He was trying to organize the group, and organize the music, and be an individual and all that, so I wanted to thank him. I said ‘the Walrus is Paul’ for that reason. I felt, ‘Well, he can have it. I’ve got Yoko, and thank you, you can have the credit.'”

Glass Onion

I told you about 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 about the walrus and me, man
You know 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 the glass onion

Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah
Looking through the glass onion.

I told you about the fool on the hill
I tell you man he’s living there still
Well here’s another place you can be
Listen to me.

Fixing a hole in the ocean
Trying to make a dove-tail joint, yeah
Looking through a glass onion.

Author: badfinger20 (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

12 thoughts on “Beatles – Glass Onion”

    1. The next few Beatles I do will be off the White Album…this is a good one…a lot of fun also. They messed with the fans but in a good way.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have to stand by my basic premise that that album would have been better culled into one single LP, but “Glass Onion” would definitely be one of the keepers from it.

        Liked by 1 person

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