You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)

You Know My Name (Look Up The Number) single artwork - United KingdomWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 17 May; 7, 8 June 1967; 30 April 1969
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Geoff Emerick

Released: 6 March 1970 (UK), 11 March 1970 (US)

John Lennon: vocals, guitar, maracas, harmonica, handclaps
Paul McCartney: vocals, piano, bass, handclaps
George Harrison: backing vocals, guitar, vibes, handclaps
Ringo Starr: vocals, drums, bongos, handclaps
Mal Evans: spade in gravel
Brian Jones: alto saxophone

Available on:
Past Masters
Anthology 2

One of the strangest songs in The Beatles' entire canon, You Know My Name (Look Up The Number) was originally recorded in 1967, but remained unreleased until the Let It Be single three years later.

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A multi-part song containing a nightclub cabaret pastiche and a host of silly voices and effects, You Know My Name was recorded in the weeks following the completion of the Sgt Pepper album.

By this time The Beatles had lost some of their focus, and were experimenting with a number of songwriting and recording techniques.

John had arrived one night with this song which was basically a mantra: 'You know my name, look up the number.' And I never knew who he was aiming that at, it might have been an early signal to Yoko. It was John's original idea and that was the complete lyric. He brought it in originally as a 15-minute chant when he was in space-cadet mode and we said, 'Well, what are we going to do with this then?' and he said, 'It's just like a mantra.' So we said, 'Okay, let's just do it'.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

In fact, the song was inspired by a slogan on the front of the London telephone directory for 1967, which Lennon had seen at McCartney's house.

That was a piece of unfinished music that I turned into a comedy record with Paul. I was waiting for him in his house, and I saw the phone book was on the piano with 'You know the name, look up the number.' That was like a logo, and I just changed it. It was going to be a Four Tops kind of song - the chord changes are like that - but it never developed and we made a joke of it. Brian Jones is playing saxophone on it.
John Lennon
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

In 1988 Paul McCartney, perhaps unexpectedly, named You Know My Name (Look Up The Number) as his favourite song by The Beatles.

People are only just discovering the b-sides of Beatles singles. They're only just discovering things like You Know My Name (Look Up The Number) - probably my favourite Beatles track, just because it's so insane. All the memories...
Paul McCartney
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

Structurally, You Know My Name (Look Up The Number) consists of five separate parts. The first was the most conventional, consisting of the song's title chanted by Lennon and McCartney, with a prominent piano backing.

Part two, which was later edited out at Lennon's behest, repeated the mantra to a ska backing. This was restored in 1996 in a new stereo mix prepared for Anthology 2.

The third part was the nightclub section, introduced by Lennon with the words, "Good evening and welcome to Slaggers. Featuring Dennis O'Bell".

O'Bell was a fictional lounge singer character played by McCartney. The name was similar to film producer Dennis O'Dell, who had worked on A Hard Day's Night and with Lennon on How I Won The War.

O'Dell later produced Magical Mystery Tour and became the head of Apple Films. Following the song's release in 1970, he received a spate of phone calls from Beatles fans who took the song's invitation literally.

There were so many of them my wife started going out of her mind. Neither of us knew why this was suddenly happening. Then I happened to be in one Sunday and picked up the phone myself. It was someone on LSD calling from a candle-making factory in Philadelphia and they just kept saying, 'We know your name and now we've got your number'.

It was only through talking to the person that I established what it was all about. Then Ringo, who I'd worked with on the film The Magic Christian, played me the track and I realised why I'd been getting all these mysterious phone calls.

Dennis O'Dell
A Hard Day's Write, Steve Turner

The song's fourth part - actually recorded as part five, as the sections were later edited in a different order - was a Monty Pythonesque swing version, containing cuckoo sounds, harmonica, bongos, piano, other effects from the Abbey Road collection, and some supremely silly voices.

The final section was another piano-led jazz version, with a vibraphone part and a series of incomprehensible vocal mutterings. It also featured a saxophone solo performed by The Rolling Stones' Brian Jones, whom McCartney invited to the session.

He arrived at Abbey Road in his big Afghan coat. He was always nervous, a little insecure, and he was really nervous that night because he's walking in on a Beatles session. He was nervous to the point of shaking, lighting ciggy after ciggy. I used to like Brian a lot. I thought it would be a fun idea to have him, and I naturally thought he'd bring a guitar along to a Beatles session and maybe chung along and do some nice rhythm guitar or a little bit of electric twelve-string or something, but to our surprise he brought his saxophone. He opened up his sax case and started putting a reed in and warming up, playing a little bit. He was a really ropey sax player, so I thought, Ah-hah. We've got just the tune.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

In the studio

The Beatles began recording You Know My Name (Look Up The Number) on 17 May 1967. they recorded the backing track for part one in 14 takes, along with a number of rehearsals. The best of these was take 10, which featured guitars, bass, drums, handclaps and bongos.

They returned to take nine of the song on 7 June, adding a number of overdubs. They then recorded five takes lasting a total of 20 minutes. The instrumentation was flute, electric guitar, drums, organ and tambourine, and the music was little more than an unstructured jam.

Part two was recorded on the following evening, and was completed in 12 takes. Four attempts at part three followed; six of part four; and finally a single take of part five. This was the session which Brian Jones attended.

The song was edited on 9 June, and rough mono mixes were made. The song was then left dormant until 30 April 1969, when John Lennon and Paul McCartney oversaw the addition of all the vocals and more sound effects.

John and Paul weren't always getting on that well at this time, but for that song they went onto the studio floor and sang together around one microphone. Even at that time I was thinking, 'What are they doing with this old four-track tape, recording these funny bits onto this quaint song?' But it was a fun track to do.
Nick Webb, engineer
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

Among the sound effects were The Beatles' assistant Mal Evans running a spade through gravel, handclaps and bizarre voices.

We had these endless, crazy fun sessions. And eventually we pulled it all together... and we just did a skit, Mal and his gravel. I can still see Mal digging the gravel. And it was just so hilarious to put that record together. It's not a great melody or anything, it's just unique.
Paul McCartney, 1988
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

On 26 November John Lennon edited the song from 6'08" to 4'19", with the intention of releasing it as the b-side to What's The New Mary Jane. He wanted the songs issued as a Plastic Ono Band single, but the idea was vetoed by the other Beatles. Instead, it eventually saw light of day in March 1970, as the b-side to Let It Be.

56 responses on “You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)

  1. John Atwell

    “Slaggers” should be spelled “Schlagers”. Schlager was a musical genre favored by Germans (and other nationalities) when the Beatles were playing in Germany in the ’60s. I believe that the Beatles actually played at a club named “Schlagers”, but I can’t find a reference on the World Wide Web — yet.

  2. Paul Angel

    I love this song dearly, my father hates it. I’ve recently heard the original 6’20 version of it and it sounds fantastic. McCartney saids that it was this song that would later on inspire him to do McCartney II and would lead to The Fireman. Its such a brilliant song and those chords are just to go gaga for.

  3. J.J. Drake

    Funny that you call that particular section “Monty Pythonesque”, even though this was recorded before the first Monty Python broadcast had even gone out (1969).

    Funny how the Beatles yet again do something before every one else gets round to it. It’s like that South Park episode, “The Simpsons Did It!…Simpsons Did It!”

    1. Vonbontee

      I don’t know if the 6’20” version has ever been bootlegged – I don’t know much about bootlegs in general – but if you have simple music editing software you can reassemble a near-perfect facsimile from the two released versions. (That’s what I did!) Basically, it’s just the “Anthology 2” version with about 40 extra seconds from the “silly” section restored, plus the full finish rather than the fade at the end.

      I love this track! It makes me smile in so many ways.

        1. Jean Erica Moniker

          Thanks for that! I love this version and this song. It was very Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band-like. They appeared in the tent nightclub scene in Magical Mystery Tour. Neil Innes later often guested on Monty Python (which is why this song sounds ‘Pythonesque’ even before Python was broadcast) and was the musical genius behind The Rutles.
          -excerpt from:

          Definite Goon Show influence as well.

          It’s great that Brian Jones played with The Beatles – perhaps if he had joined them after his ousting from the Stones, he’d be alive today. His eccentric instrumentation would have suited the Fabs incredibly well.

  4. Joseph Brush

    This track reminds of the Bonzo Dog Band.
    This song is another indication of what set the Beatles apart from other musical acts of that era.
    I believe a lot of us would love to find the 6’20” version of this song that Paul Angel refers to.

  5. scott

    I love the Beatles and their music for ages. Although I listened to this song all-ears and all good-will and open mind, I think this is just junk. Some gobbledygook recorded by some heavy drunk and/or stoned fellows. Total cacophony. Boring to death.

  6. B.H.Z.

    Wow, there’s way too much hate for this song (not here in particular, just across the Internet).

    It’s just fun. Nothing more, and certainly nothing less.

  7. Vonbontee

    I love how they kept working on the thing for three full years as if it was some long-awaited masterpiece in the works instead of a silly piece of nonsense. And the fact that it started out as a regular serious song (a fairly unremarkable one, from the sound of it) which they decided to turn into a joke amuses me too.

    1. Von Bontee

      You can still download my re-assembled complete 6:20 version at the Sendspace link above – it’s the next best thing! (And in stereo for all but 50 seconds or so.)

      1. Clemenza08

        In fact there are 6:13 and the common version is full stereo except for 20 seconds. You can find this one in Purple Chick’s “Let It Be Deluxe Vol.3, Disc 1”, track 21 I guess.

  8. Robert

    I’m 52 years old and I was 13 when this song first came out. My friends and I were avid Beatles fans – Abbey Road was already out and the rumors about the Let It Be/Get Back sessions were flying. We had the Get Back session bootlegs so we all knew “Let It Be”. The single came out and we saw this b-side You Know My Name etc – we had NO IDEA what this was. We rode home on bikes as fast we could pedal. Played Let it Be then flipped the single over and out came the chords, the shouts and all the rest. Jaws dropped? What the f***? We played that damn single over and over and over – amazed – The Beatles were as crazy as we were. I still have the single picture sleeve and all. Anyone who was a teenager when that song came out knows what I’m talking about. And Lennon burps!!

    1. Headcase

      I was waiting for someone to mention that. I heard it way back when I first listened to this song on a ‘Rarities’ lp I had from the 80’s (?) Thought it was hilarious, and still listen for it every time.

  9. Nick Burger

    “because you know my name,when you call upon me I will answer”…look it up in the Bible. or as they put it “look up the number” they reversed the order,a typical Beetles trick.

    1. Don

      Don’s Reply to Nick (Part 1 of 2)

      Revelation 13:11-18 (in part, KJV): “And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth…and he causeth all…to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name…Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.”

      Today we use Arabic symbols for numbers, but the Greeks and Hebrews used the letters of their alphabets for their numeric systems. Roughly, the first letter of the alphabet was used for the number 1, and so on. If you know someone’s name in Greek or Hebrew, you can look up their number. Many modern scholars think that the author of Revelation was referring to Caesar Nero.

      “You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)” has an eerie resonance if you are familiar with this passage—especially if you reject the hypothesis that “the beast” was Nero. If you believe that “the beast” was born in the 1960’s and is alive today, you might try to scour this Beatles’ song for clues as to his identity. Someone might try to figure out what “Dennis O’Bell” is in Hebrew and see whether that adds up to 666. Alternatively, “Dennis O’Bell” could be an anagram for “Bonnie Dells.” Could SHE be “the beast”? Of course, another anagram for “Dennis O’Bell” is “Senile Blond,” which vastly increases the number of candidates.

      1. Don

        Don’s Reply to Nick (Part 2 of 2)

        I am utterly fascinated by these exotic interpretations of Beatles’ songs. We know how tragically wrong Charles Manson took “Helter Skelter” and “Piggies.” Our evidence seems pretty conclusive that “You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)” was musical playfulness derived from a slogan on a phone book. Our minds constantly look for patterns, and that is one of our greatest assets; but we must temper our imagination with a solid grasp of reality.

        P.S. See also my comments on “Help!” and “Blue Jay Way”

  10. rocco

    Like Robert, I was 13 when this song came out. There was nothing like it before except for maybe novelty songs like “Your Red Scarf Matches Your Eyes” or “The Monster Mash”. This was pure goofiness. I loved the various melodies, but, as a bloody Yank, it was my first exposure to Cockney and the upper class twitty harrumphing (“Heavy, heavy, very heavy…”) at the end. Paul’s lounge lizard, pseudo-Sinatra, crooning is priceless. I always break into a smile when I hear this come on.

  11. nick (on the hill)

    I just listened to this song for the first time ever (just got past masters) is fantastic!!! Probably one of my favourite beatles songs..if not my favourite. It actually makes me laugh out loud every time i have listened to it. It’s fantastic!!! This is exactly what the beatles are all about!!! Having fun!!

  12. kedame

    Does anyone know another song where the piano sounds almost just like the opening piano on here? I swear I’ve heard a tune like that on another, more recent pop song, and it is driving me crazy that I can’t think of what it is! I LOVE THIS SONG!!

  13. Tweeze

    The thing that astounds me is that this is unintentionally a very sophisticated chord progression. It has class which makes it even funnier to people like me who write music. Most people would toss together common commercial triads and call it a day – but not these guys. Also, that guy at the beginning screaming his lungs out on the word ‘NAAAAYYYMMM’. As silly as this was it is very deep.

    1. Eric

      Tweeze, the Beatles were unintentionally very sophisticated songwriters, that unintentionally changed popular music forever. They regularly wrote unintentionally sophisticated songs with unintentionally sophisticated lyrics, chords, melodies and harmonies. In fact they did it with such regularity that one might think it was intentional. But, no, that couldn’t be. People like us who write music know it was all unintentional.

  14. Wilf

    Love the song.
    However, I have always thought (and, as far as I know this is true) the Brian Jones playing the sax is not the Stones’ Brian but Brian Jones from the Undertakers, an old friend from Liverpool and bandmate of Jackie Lomax.

  15. Nuria

    You know my name is a great song. I start playng the saxophone beacuse this song and I would like to learn to pay it, So, if someone have the scores or know about a web or a blog, please tell me or reply me wiht the link.
    Excuse me for my writing, my inglish isn’t very good

  16. robert bloomer

    In the first part, who is the one singing in the foreground and who is the one screaming in the background. I can’t tell which is? John and which is Paul.

  17. Mike White

    I purchased the “REMASTERED” version of “Past Masters” and I can tell you that the 4:08 Stereo version of “You Know My Name” IS NOT ON IT!! Therefore: Does anyone in this group know what’s unique about Ringo’s voice in the Stereo version? If you can’t answer that question, then you’ve NEVER heard the stereo version of this song!

  18. Mike White

    For all you “disbelievers” of the existance of a 45 RPM STEREO version of this song: I’ve contacted Capitol Records, and the record IS in their archives! When I asked why Wikipedia doesn’t recognise it, they said “THAT IS STRANGE!” And when I asked how come no re-issue has appeared in over 25 years, I got only silence! (Now that I made noise, be on the watch for a possible re-issue of it).

    1. Dev Darinko

      Though I’ve never heard it, there are plenty of folks who assert that in some countries, the originally released Apple single contained a voice (either during or after the cuckoo clock) speaking a telephone number – and anecdotal tales of a recorded message congratulating those who dialled it, before it was disconnected in the early 1970s.

      The choice to remove such a spoken number would be a plausible reason for an initial stereo mix being quickly and/or subsequently substituted with mixes which don’t feature it.

  19. Brian McGuire

    This has always been one of my favorite Beatles songs, not Top Ten, but maybe Top 30.
    When I was a young teenager, the first time that I flipped the 45 and heard it, like a lot of people my reaction was WTF?! But I still loved it. I love the goofiness of it. I’ve always enjoyed bands taking a moment to show some levity and that you don’t have to take everything seriously. It’s okay to do something silly just for fun. That always seemed to be more common with British bands.
    A close friend (and former bandmate) created a “famous lounge singer” character named Sergio Lamente based on the grumbling incoherent section of this song and he actually recorded an entire fake live album like that. It’s both hilarious and brilliant. Out of all of his solo albums, that one is by far my favorite.

  20. lewis n. villegas

    This one I always felt was about “We won’t be playing ‘Love Me Do’ after we are 30 in Vegas”. This was recorded as The Beatles impersonating themselves not as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but as a Vegas lounge act: The Slaggers. I’m a HUGE fan of that band!

  21. Johannes Bols

    This turns out to be my favourite Beatles song bar none. 47 years after buying “Magical Mystery Tour” from a bargain bin at Grand Union grocery store in Hicksville, Long Island, New York and 45 years after buying the “Let It Be” single and dissing this track, it’s the one I now listen to the most. Thanks, guys!

  22. Graham Paterson

    I love this song as well. First got my copy in 1981 with a reissue of the Let It Be single. Lennon and McCartney are great with their contrasting offerings. A real influence of the Goons in this, who John Lennon was particularly a fan of. It is great Paul McCartney loves this so much. It is a real representation of the Beatles zany side, which is one of their defining features. This was particularly evident in their early days and really helped endear them to George Martin who had worked with the Goons. John Lennon loved Spike Milligan and of course George Harrison had a long association with The Pythons. Great saxophone on this by The Stones Brian Jones.

  23. Kees Oosterwijk

    I think this song was influenced by the song “America drinks and goes home”, the last track of the album Absolutely Free – Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention from May 1967

  24. Barry

    Although this was traditionally deemed a Lennon song, I have wondered if there was any contribution from McCartney. In one interview clip, John says he ‘turned it into a comedy number with Paul.’ Perhaps that means you can give Paul a co-author credit.

  25. Robert

    Nutty song for sure. It’s John and Paul horsing around, having fun with their music and not worrying about having to create a hit. I remember my brother and I playing in our basement,and recording our spontaneous made up songs. We would play them back and say”That’s God awful, isn’t it great?!” I still remember it 50 years later.

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