When was it recorded? May 17; Jun. 7-8, 1967; and Apr. 30, 1969
When was it first released, and on which album? Mar. 6, 1970 as the B-side to the “Let It Be” single
Who wrote it? Lennon (with noteworthy contribution from McCartney)
Have I heard this song before? No
What my research dug up:
Quoth the Beatles Bible, “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.”
“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.” — John Lennon (David Sheff, All We Are Saying)
Alan Pollack claimed, “Given greater familiarity and a closer look perhaps you’ll more aptly describe it as a fragmentary song submitted to us in the form of a medley of four alternate takes, each of which ‘could have’ been developed into a complete track on its own.” He breaks it down as such:
- Hard Rock: The opening take more or less passes as a normative Beatles pop/rock song if you can hold in abeyance the repetitious lyrics and their overstated mock macho delivery.
- Slaggers: Here we get a clever evocation of “the Samba beat” in the arrangement, and the atmosphere of a cheesy cabaret floor show in Paul’s crooning lead vocal and John’s clichéd Master of Ceremonies background chat.
- The Goon Show: John’s comically silly patter-style vocal sets the tone and is accompanied this time by a backbeat that is equal parts spastic and “old soft shoe.” The use of a bird whistle and other exotic sound effects amplifies the crazy atmosphere.
- The Jazz Club: This final take is set to a cool jazzy backing track with John’s lead vocal (if you can call it that) in the form of pre-verbal but expressively suave grunting.
Regarding Part Three, John Atwell argued on the Beatles Bible song page that “Slaggers” was actually “Schlagers,” a German musical genre, which makes a certain amount of sense to me. He also claimed “Schlagers” was the name of a nightclub in the 1960s that the Beatles performed at; I couldn’t find any information to back that up, but it would add another dimension to the second section if true.
Part Three also introduces Paul as “Dennis O’Bell.” Though a fictional lounge singer, he very nearly shares a name with the very real Dennis O’Dell, who produced the Beatles’ film “Magical Mystery Tour” and worked with John on the film “How I Won the War.” He later became the head of Apple Films, and in 1970 – when “You Know the Name” was finally released – was treated to a number of prank calls regarding the tune.
“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 realized why I’d been getting all these mysterious phone calls.” — Dennis O’Dell (Steve Turner, A Hard Day’s Write)
“You Know My Name” was originally five parts; the original Part Two “repeated the mantra to a ska backing” and was excised at John’s request. We’ll come back to that later.
The Beatles started rehearsing and recording “You Know My Name” on May 17, 1967. They recorded 14 takes of the first section’s rhythm track. The Fab Four decided to use either Take 9 or 10 for future overdubs (my sources conflicted yet again).
Said overdubs began on Jun. 7, 1967. Quoth the Beatles Bible, “the music was little more than an unstructured jam.” More overdubs were added the next night, including a saxophone part courtesy of the Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones.
“You Know My Name” sat on the shelf for years until John and Paul decided to add vocals and more sound effects with Mal Evans on Apr. 30, 1969. George and Ringo weren’t present, although they worked on the song at every other recording stage.
“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.” – engineer Nick Webb (Mark Lewisohn, The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions)
As I mentioned on Day 257: “What’s the New Mary Jane,” “You Know My Name” was to be released as a Plastic Ono Band single (though as the A-side, not the B-side like I previously wrote). John mixed the song from 6:08 down to 4:19 on Nov. 26, 1969, and “You Know My Name” received an Apple catalogue number and release date. It was, however, cancelled before this release could happen.
Three months later “You Know My Name” appeared as the B-side to the Beatles’ “Let It Be.” According to Wikipedia, “The original Plastic Ono Band single catalogue number is visible, though scratched out, in the run-out groove of the original British pressings of the ‘Let It Be’ single.”
Also according to Wikipedia, “You Know My Name” “was the last Beatles song from the group’s official canon to be included on an album.” It was also only available in stereo until 1996’s “Anthology 2” stereo mix was released.
While the “Anthology 2” version changes some aspects of “You Know My Name” (e.g., fading out early), it adds the omitted Section Two (the ska part) back in.
Paul went on the record in Lewisohn’s The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions to say “You Know My Name” was his favorite Beatles song, though more for the sentiment behind its making than due to the tune’s musical content.
“We had these endless, crazy fun sessions. …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
That. Was. Awesome. It was so… I don’t know, so unlike anything else I’ve heard! I think it’s hilarious. I love how it starts as your typical Beatles fare and devolves (?) more and more into a Monty Python sketch. Each section has a great melody too! I adore it.