We’re digging through the Far Out vaults to bring you one of The Beatles more obscure songs and the track which, for a time at least, Paul McCartney called his favourite of their esteemed back catalogue.
It’s a curious and somewhat morbid thing to continually ask your favourite musical heroes what their favourite songs are, even more so when you’re asking them to pick from their own canon. Often when asked, you’ll hear the artist in question compare the act of picking the favourite of their records, to picking a favourite child. Yet, still, we paw away, asking them to make Sophie’s choice. In 1988, Paul McCartney gave up that information voluntarily and claimed a relatively deep cut to be his “favourite Beatles track”.
Any Beatles fan will tell you that the recording sessions for Let It Be, the album the band tried to record before creating Abbey Road, were fraught with tension and testicular measurements. The band were continuously butting heads and it left the tape reels empty. As the creativity between the four members began to stagnate with ego, their attentions were drawn to their back catalogue and how to enliven them.
“There was another song I wrote around ‘Pepper’ time that’s still in the can, called ‘You Know My Name Look Up The Number’,” revealed Lennon back in 1969, before the record was released. “That’s the only words to it. It just goes on all the way like that, and we did these mad backings. But I never finished it, and I must.”
‘Finish’ is such a loose term but the band did revisit the song for the Let It Be sessions, as Lennon recalled in his infamous Playboy interview of 1980 with David Sheff, the song took on a new stance when the band jumped back on it and it was released as the B-side to the single ‘Let It Be’. “That was a piece of unfinished music that I turned into a comedy record with Paul.
“I was waiting for him in his house, and I saw the phone book was on the piano with the words, ‘You know the name, look up the number.’ It was like a logo, and I just changed it. It was going to be a four tops kind of song—the chord changes are like that—but it never developed and we made a joke out of it.”
Paul McCartney’s favourite Beatles song
It seems the comical engineering of the song struck a chord with Paul McCartney and during his interviews with Mark Lewisohn in 1988, “People are only just discovering the B-sides of Beatles singles. They’re only just discovering things like ‘You Know My Name’ — probably my favourite Beatles track! Just because it’s so insane.”
Macca continued to explain his love for the song, “All the memories— I mean, what would you do if a guy like John Lennon turned up at the studio and said, ‘I’ve got a new song.’ I said, ‘What’s the words?’ and he replied, ‘You know my name look up the number.’ I asked, ‘What’s the rest of it?’ ‘…No. No other words, those are the words. And I wanna do it like a mantra!’ We did it over a period of maybe two or three years. We started off and we just did 20 minutes, and we tried it again and it didn’t work. We tried it again, and we had these endless, crazy fun sessions.
“Eventually, we pulled it all together and I sang, (sings in jazzy voice) ‘You know my name…’ and we just did a skit. Mal (Evans) and his gravel. I can still see Mal digging the gravel. And it was just so hilarious to put that record together. It’s not a great melody or anything, it’s just unique. Some people haven’t discovered that song yet.”
Macca also revealed in 1994, that the track had a special guest provide a sax solo: “I remember at one point we asked Mal (Evans) to shovel a bucket of gravel as a rhythmic device. We had a bit of a giggle doing those kind of tracks… Brian Jones (Rolling Stones) plays a funny sax solo. It’s not amazingly well played but it happened to be exactly what we wanted. Brian was very good like that.”
The validity of whether this is, in fact, McCartney’s favourite Beatles song ever, an accreditation he’s given to a couple over the years, in 1984 saying, “Well, it’s difficult to choose the favourite. It (‘Here, There and Everywhere’) is one of my favourites. You look at your songs and kinda look to see which of the ones you think are maybe the best constructed and stuff,” says McCartney. “I think ‘Yesterday’—if it wasn’t so successful—might be my favourite.”
“But, you know, you get that thing when something is just so successful… people often don’t want to do ‘the big one’ that everyone wants them to do. They kind of shy away from it,” continued McCartney. “‘Here, There and Everywhere’ with ‘Yesterday’ as a close second.”
So while we can’t say for sure that Macca’s favourite is this or that song we can be sure that this little known B-side certainly makes it into the top three.