Monday, October 26, 2009

"The Beatles" On a Lark - "You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)"

This was a Beatles song I discovered fairly late when the two-disc "Beatles Anthology" CD collection came out in the mid-1990's. I really enjoy the sense of fun and seeming improvization to the song--as John and Paul wrote it, it comes across as a goof-up of lounge act and maybe a bit of a parody of their earliest hits with the two-line mantra technique used in "Love Me Do" and "Please Please Me".
The Rolling Stones Brian Jones plays the alto sax on this one.

Paul later said this was one of his favorite records the group did. It grew out of John scanning a phone directory while waiting for Paul at his London townhouse. The two met up that day in 1967 to work on a song or two. The catch-phrase emblazoned on the book told users that "You Know the Name--Look Up the Number". It may be the closest The Beatles ever got to creating a Goon Show sketch or an audio version of Monty Python material. (The latter show was yet to premiere.)

This was the B-Side to the more famous "Let it Be" single. Here's some background on the recording from music critic Robert Fontenot from
The original backing track for the first section was laid down in May 1967 during work on the seminal Sgt. Pepper album, requiring 16 takes. In June of that year, fourteen additional takes produced the other three sections. (The song was also performed on January 14, 1969, during the rehearsals for the "Get Back"/Let It Be project. Vocals, however, weren't recorded until April 30, 1969, when John and Paul set aside their increasing differences and performed all the vocals in one take into the same microphone, finally completing the song for release as the b-side of the group's new single ("Let It Be," completed at the same session). Finally, John edited the song from the original 6:18 length -- which included a fifth section -- to a single-length 4:19.


  1. I discovered this song in the early eighties, when I was really digging into The Beatles less well known pieces. My sister had this on an LP called Rarities that was released around that time and which I think she bought predominantly for the song 'Rain'. As you say there are strong Goons influences, and listening to it again this evening at the end I can hear bits of the work of two different British comedians from the 90s that sound very similar. (Paul Whitehouse's 'Rowley Birkin' from The Fast Show and Vic Reeves 'The Pub Singer')

    Clearly very un-Beatles, but also noticeably very-John to anyone who's read 'A Spaniard in the Works'

  2. You're right, Ian, it sounded very un-Beatles to me, but I know they were just the right age for The Goon Show programs, which I used to listen to some of their very off-beat programs that were recorded on LP records. (Younger people may not believe this, but LPs were these big black discs that you put on a turntable... oh, never mind :-) John does a great "Bluebottle" by the way.

    Been thinking about Lennon a lot this month as this was the month he was born back in 1940. I'll have to check out Reeves and Whitehouse by the way. Thanks for the reminder and the extra updated background!

  3. For some strange reason I can't get this clip to play Doug

  4. Now I can't seem to get the video to play either ... something is amiss, AA. I will have to see if I can fix or reload this one. Sorry.

  5. Cheers Doug, what I usually do when that happens to me is cut and paste the YouTube clip into the comments, it seems the least painful option to me.

  6. A good idea, AA, as You Tube seems to have me mucked up at every turn.

  7. This must be one of very few Beatles songs I'd never heard before Doug, amazing!

    Thanks for posting it, I agree about the Goons influence, a bit of an oddity this one is, isn't it?

  8. Glad you like it, AA. I agree it is an odd tune, and something I never expected from their playlist. A glimpse into whatever was running about in John and Paul's head at the time.

    As a sidenote--the release of the latest multi-disc "The Beatles" remastered collection and their "Rock Band" video game has netted the owners of the rights to the songs, the Michael Jackson estate, one billion and a half dollars.

    How one man could own the rights to all that music and his own and still reportedly have been afflicted with money problems is a staggering insight in to how businessmen and hangers-on can fleece one person outright.

  9. I can't say I've ever heard this, Doug. If someone had played it to me I don't think I'd have ever guessed who it was.

    Thank you for posting this.

  10. You're welcome Cassandra. -If I didn't hear this strange but engaging tune on a Beatles LP, I might have thought it was something by "The Rutles", the group Eric Idle and Neil Innes put together as a satirical/tribute band --only the music is better!