At this point Lennon was on a roll and proceeded directly from overdubs and mixing for “Yer Blues” to another new song, one he had written with the help of Magic Alex and was calling “What a Shame Mary Jane Had a Pain at the Party.”

“Mary Jane” found John in full-on experimental/confrontational mode, determined to try the patience of even the most tolerant listener. One imagines George Martin raising an eyebrow, shrugging, and allowing the tape to roll. This may have been a case of John flexing his newfound muscle within the Beatles sphere — Paul’s influence had been waning and his had been waxing, buttressed by constant reinforcement from Yoko. And so several hours were devoted the recording of “What’s the New Mary Jane,” as it was eventually called, though only George played on it (it seems likely that Paul and Ringo weren’t even in the studio). But you’ll notice that in the end sanity prevailed and it didn’t end up on the White Album, despite John’s wishes.

The four takes recorded today varied greatly in length; the longest one was included on Anthology 3:

“What’s the New Mary Jane” is not without a certain nonsensical charm, but six minutes-plus is an awful lot. Listening to the whole thing is an act of will, though the last few minutes — which are mostly instrumental — are less unpleasant. Other versions are out there in the world and can be heard, should such be your wish; I now wash my hands of the whole thing.