The Beatles

You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)

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"You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)," with the possible exception of "Revolution 9," is the strangest song the Beatles ever recorded. Not that it's at all like "Revolution 9," but it's almost as avant-garde in a way, as a novelty-humor piece that, rather than riffing on one joke too much, becomes a downright weird multi-sectioned orgy of goofiness. It's still one of the most obscure Beatles recordings, too, in part because it first appeared as a non-LP B-side in 1970 (to "Let It Be"), never making it onto one of their standard full-length releases. the Beatles had ventured into almost experimental surreal humor-patter on some parts of their fan club Christmas records, but "You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)" is far more carefully recorded and structured (not to mention funnier) than anything on those holiday discs. It's impossible to summarize all the changes and parts of the track in a paragraph, but here's a basic outline. The most "normal" part of the song is the very beginning, where a slow, slightly jazzy soul-rock piano goes through a basic riff, with the Beatles sing-chanting the sole lyric -- "You know my name, look up the number" -- over and over, with an almost deliberate, satirical over-aggression. A drum crash suddenly propels the song into a sleazy Latin-tempoed nightclub groove, the lyrics crooned in the oiliest hack showbiz manner, complete with a sanctimonious MC. After this peters out, John Lennon comes in urging us to give the singer a hand, followed by a music hall-ish verse sounding rather like a cuckoo clock gone insane. That part ends with a tinkled lounge jazz piano, leading into a slow shuffle in which Lennon wordlessly mutters, burps, and moans, like a drunk on the verge of collapse leaning over the bar piano. Taking the track to a close is a particularly jazzy vamp with xylophones and a lazy sinuous saxophone -- played by Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones -- ending with a raucous, tumbling finale, like that of a weary, addled band ending its after-hours jam. That's not quite it: Lennon comes back on to mutter gruffly and incomprehensibly all by his lonesome, ending with an almost barked shout. "You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)" is a lot funnier when you hear it, naturally, than when it's described: the Beatles' silliness is infectious, and the sound effects and exaggerated vocals are extremely well-timed and delivered. As a bit of trivia, the "Denis O'Dell" mentioned by the MC in the song is Denis O'Dell, director of Apple Films and Apple Publicity in the late '60s. As obscure as "You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)" is, it was unexpectedly cited by Paul McCartney as his favorite Beatles track in The Beatles Recording Sessions, because he had so much fun recording it. As another odd note on this most odd recording, it was begun way back in May 1967, not seeing release until March 1970 (with some additional recording done for the track in the interim, in April 1969). Even stranger, in late 1969 Lennon wanted to release it as the A-side of a single (backed by the 1968 Beatles outtake "What's the New Mary Jane") that would have been credited to the Plastic Ono Band, though it eventually found release as the "Let It Be" B-side a few months later. A longer version of the song, including some sections that were edited out for its 1970 release, appears on Anthology 2, though this edit blows it in a serious fashion by fading out Lennon's final mutters before their conclusion.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
No Image 1980 Capitol 4:17
Past Masters, Vol. 2 1988 Capitol / EMI Records 4:19
Past Masters 1988 Apple Records / Capitol 4:19
CD Singles Collection 1993 Capitol 0:00
No Image 1994 Big Music 1:02
The Ultimate Box Set 1995 Capitol 4:19
Anthology 2 1996 Capitol / EMI Records / Apple 5:43
The Beatles: Stereo Box Set 2009 Capitol 4:19
The Beatles USB 2009 Capitol / EMI 4:19