You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)
- John Lennon – lead vocals, guitar, maracas, sound effects
- Paul McCartney – lead vocals, piano, bass, handclaps, sound effects
- George Harrison – backing vocal, lead guitar, vibes
- Ringo Starr – vocal, drums, bongos
- Brian Jones – saxophone
- Mal Evans – sound effects
There are a number of strong contenders for the prize as strangest Beatles song. Revolution 9 comes to mind. But the prize probably should go to You Know My Name (Look Up The Number). It is a true collaboration of Paul and John, originally recorded in 1967 during the Sgt. Pepper sessions, but left alone until the single release of Let It Be in 1970, when it occupied the b-side.
The Beatles never intended for the song to be taken seriously. It is a comedy number in the style of the old music hall sing-along, with some avant-garde touches thrown in. The lyrics are essentially the words in the title, repeated over and over, with whimsical spoken lines added in as if everyone were in some cabaret, entertained by a series of different acts. Lennon came up with the title phrase, which he referred to as "a mantra," derived from a slogan on the cover of a telephone directory. John later explained that they had planned to make a kind of "Four Tops" song out of the phrase, and the chord changes reflect that, but the concept never jelled. So it became a kind of joke song. Paul added in 1988 that it was his favorite Beatles song ("because it was so insane"), though that is hard to take totally seriously.
The first part of the song is Lennon and McCartney together with a piano accompaniment. Part two had a ska rhythm, and was edited out at John's request. Part three, the nightclub segment, has the well-known Lennon intro: "Good evening and welcome to Slaggers, featuring Dennis O'Bell" (a made-up lounge singer with a name quite similar to that of the real film producer Dennis O'Dell, who had worked with Lennon on How I Won the War and on Help! ). Part four is a swing-style take of the song in the mold of Monty Python, with strange voices and sound effects. The ending segment is in a jazz-piano style with vibes and muffled mumblings. Brian Jones, sax player and guitarist for the Rolling Stones, plays a solo.
Recording proceeded by parts, starting with part one on May 17, 1967, in 14 takes. More work was added on June 7. A day later, part two was recorded in 12 takes, plus part three in 4 takes, part four in 6, and part 5, with Brian Jones, in just one. Editing took place on June 9, and then the song lay fallow until April 30 of 1969. Then McCartney and Lennon worked on more overdubs and sound effects. Even though their friendship was seriously stressed by then, they sang into a single mike to do the vocals, and visibly enjoyed working together. Then, more than 6 months later, on November 26, Lennon edited the whole song down from over six minutes to just over 4. His intent was to release it as a single by the "Plastic Ono Band." This was vetoed by the others, and so eventually the track was released in March of 1970 on the flip side of Let it Be.
An early, extended version can be heard on Anthology 2. The Past Masters collection contains the song as it was released as a single, and it can be found in Rarities (1980).