- John Lennon – double-tracked vocal, acoustic guitar
- Paul McCartney – bass, piano, recorder
- George Harrison – lead guitar
- Ringo Starr – drums, tambourine
- George Martin – string arrangement
- Henry Datyner – violin
- Eric Bowie – violin
- Norman Lederman – violin
- Ronald Thomas – violin
- John Underwood – viola
- Keith Cummings – viola
- Eldon Fox – cello
- Reginald Kilby – cello
Glass Onion is the third song on The Beatles White Album. It was written and conceived by John Lennon and is one of the primary examples of why Lennon was considered the one of the most creative lyricists of his day.
The lyrics are both mysterious and purposefully abstract, as well as thought provoking and nostalgic. Lennon gamely makes reference to memorable people and places from other Beatles songs as well as subtle illusions to other ghosts from the Beatles past. Overt references to Strawberry Fields Forever, I Am the Walrus, Fixing a Hole, Lady Madonna, and The Fool on the Hill are especially fun for anyone that had been paying attention to the band's releases since 1967.
John Lennon later said he had no deep meaning for the lyrics, but rather was having fun with a bit of nonsense. Maybe, but any Freudian might say there is a lot to be learned from such nonsense about what was on Lennon's mind at the time.
The line, "The Walrus was Paul" was both a gesture towards Paul, as they were sorting out issues with their friendship at the time, as well as a nod to the "Paul is Dead" myth that was making the rounds which held that McCartney had died in 1966 during the recording of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and the death had been covered-up by the band and their managers.
The arrangement includes the band's conventional instruments, plus strings, a banjo and a recorder played by Paul. Interestingly enough, this was also the first track on the White Album on which Ringo played the drums. McCartney took over the drumming on Back in the U.S.S.R and Dear Prudence for Ringo, who had briefly quit the band.