Glass Onion: A daggers-drawn mystery slices through a classic Beatles song
Of course, most people assume the title is just another name for a glass-topped coffin with a clear lid, the better to “bury Paul,” according to “Paul is dead” conspiracy theories. But even that’s so much cranberry sauce.
Written by Lennon during the Beatles’ spiritual retreat, “Glass Onion” was completed with a little help from his friend Paul McCartney.
“He and Yoko came to Cavendish Avenue, and John and I went out in the garden for half an hour, because there were a few things he needed me to finish, but that was his song, his idea,” McCartney says. in Barry Miles’ 1994 biography Paul McCartney: Many Years Away. “People were reading our songs and little legends were growing about every supposedly significant element, so on this occasion we decided to plant one.”
Recording began on September 11, 1968 at Abbey Road. According to Mark Lewisohn Complete the Beatles recording sessions, the session was produced by engineer Chris Thomas as George Martin was on vacation. The Beatles went through 34 takes of the rhythm track. Lennon strums a Gibson acoustic guitar, George Harrison plays a Fender Stratocaster, McCartney plays a Fender Jazz bass. Ringo Starr hits a Ludwig Hollywood kit, which was new, countered for that extra kick, and a cigarette-pack rigged trap, which hits an insinuating sting in the incendiary voice.
The lyrics were finalized on September 12 when Lennon recorded his main vocal track, and the opening line is a major achievement in A minor. Each line references a different song, obviously name-checked “Strawberry Fields Forever,” but also Harrison’s “There A Place” and “Within You Without You.” The song would go on to reference “Lady Madonna”, “Fool on the Hill”, and possibly “She Loves You”. Everything is subject to interpretation.
The Beatles loved comedic jokes and self-references. Paul improvised “She loves you, yeah, yeah yeah” live during the worldwide transmission of the recording of the single “All You Need is Love”. Lennon references both “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “Lady Madonna” in the song “I am The Walrus”. Harrison pulls a tasty nugget from “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” for “Savoy Truffle,” itself a song about Eric Clapton’s sweet tooth.