Beatles Song of the Week

This week we bring you “You Know My Name (Look Up The Number),” one of the most curious songs The Beatles ever released. And the story of its creation is equally as strange.

After The Beatles had finished work on the Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band LP in April of 1967 they kept up their frantic pace in the studio by recording a number of songs in succession with no particular project in mind.  Some would become singles, like “Baby You’re a Rich Man” and “All You Need is Love.”  Others would turn up on the Magical Mystery Tour EP.  And still more would be selected for the Yellow Submarine soundtrack released in January of 1969 (though it is doubtful that they were recorded with that in mind).  But in the middle of this very prolific studio period, on May 17, 1967, The Beatles began work on a strange little experimental song featuring only one lyric, “You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)”.

The Beatles approach to this song was to record it in separate sections and then edit the piece together (similar to Brian Wilson’s approach to “Good Vibrations”).  One section featured sound effects and bird whistles.  Another gave the impression of a nightclub lounge act.  And yet another swung into some cool piano jazz.  To add to the party atmosphere of the sessions Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones sat in with The Beatles and contributed an alto sax part (which is in the finished recording).  A complete six-minute rhythm track (with no vocals) was completed on June 9, 1967.  And then the song was abandoned.

In April of 1969, during the Abbey Road sessions The Beatles (for reasons unknown) decided that it was time to finish YKMN(LUTN).  On April 30 John and Paul recorded all of the vocals for the track.  Every shout, grunt, and silly voice was recorded that day.  Beatles assistant Mal Evans also provided a bizarre percussion track by shoveling gravel on the studio floor.  The song was seemingly complete.  Then it was abandoned again.

In late 1969, after The Beatles had privately broken up (but before the public was aware of the fact) John and Yoko were insistent upon releasing “You Know My Name (Look Up The Number) as a Plastic Ono Band single, backed with the unreleased White Album era song “What’s The New Mary Jane.”   In a way that would have been fitting as both songs are cut from the same experimental cloth.  John even went as far as editing the original six-minute track down to four minutes, arranging the catalogue numbers with Apple and arranging a press release about the new single.  But as both tracks were officially Beatles material it was not an idea that was destined to succeed.  The Beatles (possibly on the insistence of John) eventually released the song as the B-side to the “Let it Be” single in March of 1970.  For those of you that have an original British  “Let it Be” 45, take a look at the runout groove.  You will see the original Plastic Ono Band catalogue number scratched out and the Beatles number etched in.

Anyway, after all that back story here is the full six-minute version of the incredibly weird, but strangely endearing “You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)” from 1967, 1969, and finally 1970.

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