John Lennon had a habit of throwing people off his true intentions. That mostly came in undermining his own material, shrugging off interpretations and simply insisting that he didn’t take a good amount of his work with The Beatles seriously. When listeners began looking for clues in his songs, like they did for ‘I Am the Walrus’, Lennon himself began to get in on the game by writing an even more confusing follow-up, ‘Glass Onion’.
Featuring a number of allusions to previous Beatles tunes, including ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, ‘Fixing a Hole’, ‘Lady Madonna’, and ‘The Fool on the Hill’, ‘Glass Onion’ was the meta song to end all meta songs within The Beatles catalogue. One notable line gave a contradictory analysis of ‘I Am the Walrus’, with Lennon insisting that the walrus was, in fact, Paul McCartney.
“That’s me, just doing a throwaway song, à la ‘Walrus’, à la everything I’ve ever written,” Lennon told David Sheff in 1980. “I threw the line in – ‘the Walrus was Paul’ – just to confuse everybody a bit more. And I thought Walrus has now become me, meaning ‘I am the one.’ Only it didn’t mean that in this song. It could have been ‘the fox terrier is Paul,’ you know. I mean, it’s just a bit of poetry. It was just thrown in like that.”
Throwaway references aside, Lennon also insisted that the identity confusion was meant to be an oblique reference to his own planned departure from the band. “Well, that was a joke. The line was put in partly because I was feeling guilty because I was with Yoko and I was leaving Paul,” Lennon claimed. “I was trying – I don’t know. It’s a very perverse way of saying to Paul, you know, ‘Here, have this crumb, this illusion – this stroke, because I’m leaving.’”
Lennon’s lyrics became a fascination for fans, especially after The Beatles broke up in 1970. The band’s press officer, Derek Taylor, believed that Lennon was trying to say something meaningful at all times, even when the songs were as silly as ‘Glass Onion’.
“You’d be in Parkes sitting around your table wondering what was going on with the flowers and then you’d realise that they were actually tulips with their petals bent all the way back, so that you could see the obverse side of the petals and also the stamen,” Taylor explained. “This is what John meant about ‘seeing how the other half lives’. He meant seeing how the other half of the flower lives but also, because it was an expensive restaurant, how the other half of society lived.”
Check out ‘Glass Onion’ down below.