Yes, Rian Johnson’s latest Netflix whodunit was inspired by The Beatles’ most eclectic album.
Daniel Craig has returned as Benoit Blanc in the Knives Out sequel, Glass Onion. Although there are no cozy sweaters like the first film, the sequel delivers the old-school whodunit goods. In the same Agatha Christie-style of the first film, Glass Onion both revels in murder-mystery cliches, while also subverting a few, too. It may not be as perfect as its predecessor, but it’s still a rollicking good time, with several fantastic twists.
But, why is Knives Out 2 called Glass Onion? The short answer is that the concept of a “glass onion” — a transparent structure that nonetheless has layers — is central to the movie. However, what some may not know is that director Rian Johnson lifted this idea from the Beatles song of the same name; “Glass Onion.”
A deep-cut album track, “Glass Onion” appears on the self-titled 1968 album “The Beatles,” more commonly known as The White Album. “Glass Onion,” rarely makes it into anyone’s top Beatles songs ever. In fact, two prominent Beatles books in this author’s home library — The Love You Make and Dreaming the Beatles — don’t even mention the song in their detailed indexes. So, you’ll be forgiven if you forgot that “Glass Onion” was the third track, on the first side of the first record of The White Album.
With that in mind, here are five things you probably don’t know about “Glass Onion,” the slightly underrated Beatles song that inspired Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.
The Beatles in 1967.
John Lennon is credited with the primary authorship of “Glass Onion,” and wrote it as a teasing response to fans who were analyzing Beatles songs for hidden messages. In this sense, “Glass Onion,” is a parody of other Beatles songs. The song begins with the line “I told you about Strawberry Fields,” and then references “I Am the Walrus,” “The Fool on the Hill,” “Lady Madonna,” and “Fixing a Hole.” Lennon had originally intended for the song to reference “Yellow Submarine” as well.
Although written as a joke to debunk various theories fans had about hidden messages in Beatles songs, “Glass Onion,” had the opposite result. When Lennon sang: “Here’s another clue for you all/the Walrus was Paul,” this helped fuel the bizarre “Paul is dead” theory.
Badfinger in 1971.
The rock band Badfinger was, famously, one of the most successful bands that the Beatles signed to their own record label, Apple Records. Breaking Bad fans probably associate Badfinger with the song “Baby Blue,” which plays in the final episode of that TV series.
But, in 1969, John Lennon suggested that Badfinger — previously called “The Iveys” — be named Glass Onion instead. He was overruled.
In 2004, Danger Mouse released the mega-popular DIY mashup album The Grey Album, which combined The Beatles White Album with Jay-Z’s The Black Album. The break-out hit from this mash-up album was “Encore,” which weaves together the Jay-Z song of the same name with, you guessed it, “Glass Onion.”
The coolest thing Danger Mouse did for his version of “Encore” was to sample and loop Lennon’s “Oh yeah” from “Glass Onion.” Basically, Danger Mouse figured out that in the entirety of the Beatles’ discography, the best “Oh yeah” was in a random album track everybody forgot about. Interestingly, because The Grey Album violated all sorts of copyrights, it’s kinda hard to track down.
The majority of The White Album was written while the Beatles were in India, initially on a retreat with the Maharishi. Infamously, the Beatles had mixed opinions about this experience, but at one point, drummer Ringo Starr quit the band. This resignation was not permanent. But, a few tracks on The White Album do not feature Ringo on drums. “Glass Onion” is nestled in between two much more famous tracks: “Dear Prudence,” and “Obla Di Obla Da.” Ringo doesn’t play drums on “Dear Prudence” at all, and most sources indicate Paul played drums on “Obla Di Obla Da.”
The cover of the Oasis single "Don’t Look Back In Anger”; inspired by Ringo’s return to the Beatles on “Glass Onion.”
The other three Beatles eventually convinced Ringo to return to the band, and, apparently, showered his drumkit in flowers to show their appreciation. This story is such a big deal for Beatles fans, that it inspired the single cover art for the Oasis single “Don’t Look Back Anger,” which features a photograph of a drumkit covered in flowers. (Of course, “Don’t Look Back In Anger” also has several Beatles references, and lifts the opening piano chords from Lennon’s “Imagine.”)
The larger point is, Ringo, coming back to the band was a big deal, and “Glass Onion” is the first song on The White Album that features Ringo on drums, as he should be.
The Beatles in animal costumes for Magical Mystery Tour.
Although John sings “the Walrus was Paul,” in “Glass Onion,” he later revealed this wasn’t true. In the film version of Magical Mystery Tour (1967) The Beatles appear in animal costumes. One of them is dressed as a Walrus. But in 1980, John Lennon revealed “It was actually me in the walrus suit.”
This was another bit of misdirection, which Lennon intended as a joke. So, if you’re peeling back the layers of the movie Glass Onion, and you find yourself laughing, that’s kind of the point. The original Beatles’ “Glass Onion,” was intended as a joke. And perhaps, Rian Johnson’s movie is the same way: Something fun that we’re not meant to take too seriously.
Glass Onion is streaming on Netflix.
Snag the 2018 White Album remastered edition on vinyl right here.
The 2018 remastered version of ‘The White Album’