“You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)” is the silliest recording The Beatles ever made. It is absurd, surreal and owes a huge debt to a comedy team known as The Goons.
To any one born in Britain between 1935 and 1960, The Goons, (Spike Milligan, Michael Bentine, Peter Sellers and Harry Secombe), were the defining comic influence for a generation.
They burst onto the radio in 1951 with surreal story-lines, absurd logic, puns, catchphrases and groundbreaking sound effects. To a drab, black and white Britain that was still in shell-shock after World War II, this bizarre world created a new dimension full of childlike joy and color.
All four Beatles grew up with The Goons. The silly voices on “You Know My Name” could have come straight from Milligan or Sellers. The faux jazz section could have been background music to a scene where Eccles or Neddie Seagoon found themselves in “Monte Cassino”.
One of the more interesting things about this song is that it is a testament to Paul and John’s essential ‘mateyness’. So much is made of the endless McCartney/Lennon rivalry that it is easy to forget that John and Paul were close friends for a very long time.
Yes, the competitive nature of that friendship contributed to their perfection of the songwriting art, but their collaboration was frequently joyous and light-hearted. YKMN originally started as a piece by John. He turned up at Paul’s house for a writing session with nothing prepared. He saw a phone book with the tag line “You know the name – now look up the number.”
John took the one line and repeated it, almost like a mantra, over a wildly changing backing track. John liked this technique. “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” and “Happiness Is A Warm Gun” are two examples of that particular approach to song writing. He and Paul swapped with melodies, beats and styles until they had the version that we know today. It is an example of our two heroes playing in the purest sense.
The opening of the song is very of the present moment. It sound not unlike modern day rockers “Spoon” with the pounding drum and piano. The song originally had a Ska segment with Paul singing with the worst Jamaican accent imaginable, which John wisely edited out. The track then lurches into a Latin section followed by a particularly Goonish interlude with silly voices morphing into a Jazz section. Adding another layer of absurdity, Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones plays Saxophone.
YKMN was the B-side of the last real time Beatles release “Let It Be”. There is a nice duality to the juxtaposition of these two songs. “Let It Be”, sounds like the end of something and “You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)” sounds like the beginning of something.
Everyone knew their names but by the time the record was released.
The Beatles number was up.
The Ukulele version features underground sonic pioneers Dubchek.
Dub is the darkest of all musics, the birthmother of dancehall, electro, house, hip-hop, drum & bass and dub-step. Dub is a masterpiece of engineering, true loudspeaker painting, using recording equipment to bring about musical changes. It is the music that gave birth to the idea of the remix.
“You Know My Name” is re-imagined as if it was conceived in Kingston, Jamaica in 1974. The Ukulele rules the sound system as Dubchek pays tribute to King Tubby, Prince Jammy and Lee Perry.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Dubchek have released two albums. The first, “Walking Down Memory Gap Lane” was recorded at the legendary Record Factory Recording Studio in Kingston Jamaica
Their second, “The Far East End” was recorded in the no-man’s land between The Thai and Burmese border near Laos. Mixing Luk Thung, Thai folk music and dub they created a new genre called "Dub Thung".
During the recording of the album David Barratt wrote an epic poem in the style of an Icelandic Saga about the glories of "Vietnamese Herbal-Medicinal Rice Wine" while Papa Dee taught Jamaican patois to The Karen National Liberation Army as they continued their struggle against the oppressive Burmese Junta.
They are currently planning their next project “Nashville In-Dub” which they will be recording dub versions of songs by Toby Keith, Brad Paisley and other modern country classics in their mobile studio in Tennessee.
Dubchek featured in The Robert Downey Jr / Heather Graham movie "Two Girls and a Guy".
You can listen to the first two albums at: