Latest posts by Michael Gerber (see all)
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This morning while listening to “Fame,” the David Bowie song guest-starring our pal John Lennon, I realized something.
At a certain point, John ad-libs “What’s your name?” Why does he do that?
Because, when you’re famous and someone comes up to you for an autograph, you ask…
“What’s your name?”
Resurfacing this Bowie anecdote from an old HD post (I wish my memory worked as powerfully with everything as it does with Beatles trivia!):
‘Towards the end of the 70s, a group of us went off to Hong Kong on a holiday and John was in, sort of, house-husband mode and wanted to show Sean the world. And during one of our expeditions on the back streets a kid comes running up to him and says, “Are you John Lennon?” And he said, “No but I wish I had his money.” Which I promptly stole for myself.
[imitating a fan] “Are you David Bowie?”
No, but I wish I had his money.
It’s brilliant. It was such a wonderful thing to say. The kid said, “Oh, sorry. Of course you aren’t,” and ran off. I thought, “This is the most effective device I’ve heard.”
I was back in New York a couple of months later in Soho, downtown, and a voice pipes up in my ear, “Are you David Bowie?” And I said, “No, but I wish I had his money.”
“You lying bastard. You wish you had my money.” It was John Lennon.’
I LOVE this story.
Or as Ringo always puts it, “What’s my name?”
“What’s your name?” I’ve heard the song for decades, and that never occurred to me. The line always seemed like a non sequitur, but now it makes perfect sense.
And Lennon repeats the question, like he’s surrounded by autographic hounds.
“Write what you know” is always the first piece of advice. And so early, pre-fame Lennon’s compositions are songs of yearning and desire, while his mid-70s lyric is the voice of someone who got what he wanted and is frankly irritated by it.
More than irritated. Alienated by it. It has become a psychic pain…which is why he retreated later that year.
That’s really well put, Sam. Thanks to you and Michael, I’m never again going to listen to this song without noticing that line!
Somewhat related: years ago a friend of mine told me that sometimes he would go to a bar, and if it had a jukebox, he would punch up “You Know My Name, Look Up the Number” (it’s the B-side of Let It Be). Then he would sit back and wait for the reactions. Oftentimes, someone would get up from their seat with a puzzled look and amble over to the jukebox to see what artist was responsible for this bizarre song. My friend would enjoy their looks of surprise when they discovered who it was.
His theory was that this was the true purpose of the song’s title–to get people to “look up the number” on the jukebox and see who was singing this weird creation.
Oh I like this friend.
Though I hated you know my name song at the time and found it better suited to Beatles goofy fan club Christmas songs, which I had as a fan club member at the time, but I love you know my name song now. I have read it is their only recorded Jazz song and is a parody of supper club jazz popular in the sixties. Solo Paul did several jazz style songs before did kisses on bottom album. I also read ringo first liked jazz before country then rock n roll. You know my name is great Beatles jazz spoof. I now find the song a riot and only the Beatles would have done it in late sixties. It is yet another example of how they stretched musical genres and boundaries.
Another bolt; something I saw on Twitter:
There were 3 types of song men wrote in the 60’s.
1) I’m in love with an under-age girl.
2) If my girlfriend even looks at another man I’ll kill her.
3) Peace, please.
@Beasty, as to your you know my name song reference above and my identification of it as a jazz supper club sixties style parody, I have identified Macca’s seventies supper club style song, Single Pigeon on Red Rose Speedway album. I have a hobby of looking for various genre musical styles in Beatles and solo Beatles songs and this Wings song kept eluding me, but it is indeed supper club style.
I may have had my own bolt of insight today. Does “for all we know, our love will grow, that’s what the man said/ won’t you listen to what the man said” refer to John’s astrologer?