John Lennon Told Paul McCartney He Was Leaving The Beatles in a ‘White Album’ Song

During an interview, John Lennon revealed he put a joke in one of the songs from The BeatlesWhite Album because he wanted to send a message to Paul McCartney. He said this joke was motivated by a sense of guilt. The joke alluded to an earlier Beatles song.

John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison sitting on a step the year before The Beatles released the 'White Album'
The Beatles’ John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison | Bettmann / Contributor

The Beatles’ ‘White Album’ includes a lot of humor

Although it’s not as comedic as a “Weird Al” Yankovic or Flight of the Conchords album, The Beatles’ White Album includes many humorous lyrics. For example, “Piggies” is a darkly satirical look at class differences, “Back in the U.S.S.R.” is an uptempo spoof of The Beach Boys’ “California Girls” and Chuck Berry’s “Back in the U.S.A.,” and “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” plays with gender roles a tad.

The Beatles delve into self-referential humor in “Glass Onion.” It features callbacks to “The Fool on the Hill,” “Strawberry Fields Forever,” and “Lady Madonna.” The song also features the line “Here’s another clue for you all/The walrus was Paul.” This is a reference to “I Am the Walrus,” wherein John says he’s the walrus.

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According to the book All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, John explained that lyric. “Well, that was a joke,” he said. “The line was put in partly because I was feeling guilty because I was with Yoko and I was leaving Paul. I was trying — I don’t know. It’s a very perverse way of saying to Paul, you know, “Here, have this crumb, this illusion, this — this stroke, because I’m leaving.”

How John Lennon reacted when he heard The Beatles’ ‘Glass Onion’ on the radio

John was surprised when he heard “Glass Onion” on the radio one day. “Well, I heard some Beatles stuff on the radio the other day and I heard ‘Green Onion’ — no, ‘Glass Onion’ — I don’t even know my own songs!” he remarked. “I listened to it because it was a rare track. It’s a song they usually don’t play.”

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John then commented on the way radio stations handled The Beatles’ catalog. “When a radio station has a Beatles weekend, they usually play the same 10 songs — ‘A Hard Day’s Night,’ ‘Help!‘ ‘Yesterday,’ ‘Something,’ ‘Let It Be‘ — you know, there’s all that wealth of material, but we hear only 10 songs.”

The way the world reacted to the ‘White Album’

“Glass Onion” was never released as a single, so it did not chart on the Billboard Hot 100. On the other hand, the White Album was a massive hit. The album topped the Billboard 200, staying on the chart for 215 weeks.

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The Official Charts Company reports “Glass Onion” did not chart in the United Kingdom either. Meanwhile, the White Album peaked at No. 1 there. The album lasted on the chart for 37 weeks. The meaning of the “I Am the Walrus” reference in “Glass Onion” may have gone over some listeners’ heads, but The Beatles’ White Album certainly ended up in many fans’ hands.