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Music

The "joke" Beatles song that features Rolling Stones founder Brian Jones

@TylerGolsen

Humour was always a core component of The Beatles’ appeal. Whether it was playfully bantering in interviews or entertaining millions on the big screen, The Beatles had plenty of opportunities to show off their comedy chops. While they were mostly serious about their musical, there remain a few instances where the Fab Four devolved into complete farce, most notably on the ‘Let It Be’ B-side ‘You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)’.

“John had arrived one night with this song which was basically a mantra: ‘You know my name, look up the number,’” Paul McCartney recalled to Barry Miles in the book Many Years From Now. “And I never knew who he was aiming that at, it might have been an early signal to Yoko. It was John’s original idea and that was the complete lyric. He brought it in originally as a 15-minute chant when he was in space-cadet mode and we said, ‘Well, what are we going to do with this then?’ and he said, ‘It’s just like a mantra.’ So we said, ‘Okay, let’s just do it.'”

“That was a piece of unfinished music that I turned into a comedy record with Paul,” John Lennon explained to David Sheff in 1980. “I was waiting for him in his house, and I saw the phone book was on the piano with ‘You know the name, look up the number.’ That 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 of it. Brian Jones is playing saxophone on it.”

Indeed, Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones contributed the sax part that appears towards the end of the recording. According to McCartney, Jones was a distinctive presence at the original 1967 session for the song. “He arrived at Abbey Road in his big Afghan coat,” McCartney told Miles. “He was always nervous, a little insecure, and he was really nervous that night because he’s walking in on a Beatles session. He was nervous to the point of shaking, lighting ciggy after ciggy.”

“I used to like Brian a lot,” McCartney continued. “I thought it would be a fun idea to have him, and I naturally thought he’d bring a guitar along to a Beatles session and maybe chung along and do some nice rhythm guitar or a little bit of electric twelve-string or something, but to our surprise he brought his saxophone. He opened up his sax case and started putting a reed in and warming up, playing a little bit. He was a really ropey sax player, so I thought, ‘Ah-hah. We’ve got just the tune.'”

Jones never got to hear the final cut of ‘You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)’. Nearly two years after the original recording was left unfinished, Lennon and McCartney dusted it off, overdubbed new parts, and positioned the song as the B-side to the ‘Let It Be’ single released in March of 1970. Jones had only been dead for nine months when ‘You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)’ saw the light of day, and The Beatles themselves would only exist for another month after the single’s release.

Despite its relatively obscure reputation, McCartney clearly retained a fondness for the track. “People are only just discovering the b-sides of Beatles singles,” McCartney told Mark Lewishon in The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions. “They’re only just discovering things like ‘You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)’ – probably my favourite Beatles track, just because it’s so insane. All the memories…”

Check out ‘You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)’ down below.