While he was in The Beatles, John Lennon started getting annoyed by wild interpretations of his songs. And on The White Album, John had something of a response for those he thought were reading too much into his music. It arrived in the form of “Glass Onion.”
On that track, he decided to throw people for a loop by saying “the walrus was Paul [McCartney].” And it worked. “I was having a laugh because there’d been so much gobbledegook about Pepper,” John said in Beatles Anthology. “Play it backwards and you stand on your head and all that.”
With that comment, John referenced various hubbubs, from people pointing out the initials of “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” (LSD) to the sounds at the end of “I Am the Walrus.” (People heard “everybody smoke pot” rather than “everybody has one” on “Walrus.”)
Meanwhile, John also couldn’t help but laugh at how people heard sounds at the end of “Strawberry Fields Forever.” On that early ’67 masterpiece, the final section included some distorted words people took in a way he hadn’t intended.
John Lennon marveled at how people interpreted ‘cranberry sauce’
“Strawberry Fields Forever” went out as a double A-side single in February 1967. With Paul’s “Penny Lane” on the flip side, the two tracks served to tide over fans while the band spent months making Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
On “Strawberry Fields,” the arrangement featured a lengthy outro after the lyrics conclude at 2:58. This section includes a full fade-out at 3:32 and return of the music moments later. At that point, flutes become more prominent in the mix, along with distorted voices.
At 3:59, listeners heard slowed-down speech by John that some interpreted as “I buried Paul.” Once the bizarre “Paul is dead” conspiracy theory caught on a few years later, this interpretation added fuel to the fire.
But John maintained he never said any such thing. In his 1980 Playboy interviews, John responded to a David Sheff question about saying “I buried Paul.” “I said ‘cranberry sauce,’” John replied. “‘Cran-berry sauce.’ That’s all I said.”
“So there was no intent in any of the ‘Paul is dead’ thing?” Sheff asked as a follow-up. “How can there be intent in cranberry sauce?” John replied, in one of the interviews’ funniest moments.
The Beatles’ engineer backed up John with a Thanksgiving story
Geoff Emerick, the longtime Beatles engineer who lived with “Strawberry Fields for the better part of a month, backed up John’s story with a holiday anecdote. In his book Here, There and Everywhere, Emerick pointed to the dates of the sessions (late November ’66).
“I’m sorry to disappoint anyone who ever bought into the [‘Paul is dead’] rubbish,” Emerick wrote. “John was actually saying cranberry sauce for the simple reason that we were recording around the Thanksgiving holiday.” Emerick said everyone had been chatting about Americans’ celebration of the holiday.
In those conversations, someone mentioned cranberry sauce as one of the preferred trimmings. Then John added it to his song. “That’s the way John was,” Emerick wrote. “He’d often work little phrases and snatches of conversation about something into music he was recording.”
Also see: John Lennon and Paul McCartney Had Very Different Memories of Writing ‘Ticket to Ride’