Ladies and gentlemen, introducing John Lennon, AKA the greatest troll in rock ‘n’ roll. As the Beatles’ lyrics became more…shall we say, obtuse, listeners were determined to interpret what the hell the band–well, let’s be frank and just call Lennon out, because he was the culprit–was talking about. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” in 1963? I think I understand. “I Am the Walrus, goo goo g’joob” four years later? Slightly less clear.
Considering what a rock icon Lennon is, it’s borderline bizarre how he approached popular music as a listener. He didn’t like seeing his favorite artists in concert, because live performances never exactly replicated the familiar sound of the records he loved. He also couldn’t fathom why fans would be compelled enough to analyze his lyrics. Why can’t they just turn off their minds and enjoy the music?
So John Lennon got an idea! An awful idea! John Lennon got a wonderful, awful idea!
“I know just what to do,” he said with a smirk so intense. “I’ll write a song to have a laugh at their expense!”
You’re a mean one, Mr. Lennon.
“Glass Onion” was essentially John teasing fans with vivid, perplexing imagery to which they, predictably, applied a deeper meaning. For good measure, he tossed in references to several older Beatles songs. If you don’t take it too seriously, it’s a fun gimmick that enhances an otherwise decent but largely forgettable song.
Of course, the gag not only went over listeners’ heads, but it backfired when one line actually became the most widely misinterpreted lyric of all time. Throwing back to a song from the previous year, Lennon gave a shout-out to his songwriting partner, “Now here’s another clue for you all: the walrus was Paul.” A year later, conspiracy theorists pointed to this (and literally hundreds of other “clues” hidden in song lyrics and album covers) as evidence that Paul McCartney had died in 1966 and been replaced by a taller lookalike/soundalike. That said, the line also birthed a tribute 29 years later, when arguably the best 90s band named after a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory character, Veruca Salt, referenced one of their own past hits in the middle eight of the song “Volcano Girls.”