I Am the Walrus

"I Am the Walrus"
Single by The Beatles
From the album Magical Mystery Tour
Single Released 24 November 1967
Single Format vinyl record (7")
Recorded ???
Genre Pop
Song Length ???
Record label Parlophone/EMI
Producer George Martin
Chart positions 1 (UK)
The Beatles single chronology
"All You Need Is Love"
"Hello Goodbye/I Am the Walrus"
"Lady Madonna"

"I Am the Walrus" is the title of a 1967 written song by John Lennon and Paul McCartney (though largely the work of Lennon) and recorded by The Beatles. John Lennon wrote the song while he was having an acid trip. The song was released on their Magical Mystery Tour album.

The song was unusual both lyrically and musically.

The history of the lyrics begin with three different song ideas that Lennon was working on. The first of which was inspired by hearing a police siren while at his home in Weybridge. Lennon wrote the lines "Mis-ter c-ity police-man" sang to the rhythm of the siren. The second idea was a short rhyme about Lennon in his Weybridge garden. The third idea was a nonsense lyric about sitting on a corn flake. Lennon was unable to finish the ideas as three different songs and instead chose to combine them into one.

Sometime later, Lennon received a letter from a pupil of the Quarry Bank School. The writer mentioned that their English master was making his class analyze Beatles' song lyrics. (John wrote an answer to the letter, dated September 1, 1967, which was auctioned by Christie's of London in 1992).

Lennon, amused that a teacher was putting that much effort into understanding Beatles lyrics, decided to write the most confusing, unusual lyric he could. Lennon called his childhood friend, Pete Shotton, and asked him about a silly playground nursery rhyme that they used to sing when they were kids.

Shotton reminded Lennon of the words:

"Yellow matter custard, green slop pie,
All mixed together with a dead dog's eye,
Slap it on a butty, ten foot thick,
Then wash it all down with a cup of cold sick".

Lennon borrowed a couple of words from the rhyme, added the three old unfinished ideas and the result was the lyrics to "I Am the Walrus". Upon finishing the lyric, Lennon remarked to Shotton, "Let the fuckers work that one out."

The "elementary penguin" that chanted Hare Krishna mentioned in the song was a little dig at Allen Ginsberg who made a habit of chanting the Hare Krishna mantra at numerous public events.

The "walrus" idea is from Lewis Carroll's poem The Walrus and the Carpenter.

The song's opening line, "I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together" clearly parodies the opening line of the song Marching to Pretoria: "I'm with you and you're with me and we are all together." This is a remarkably little-noted fact.

The song also contains the unusual exclamation, goo goo g'joob. Various unsatisfactory hypotheses exist regarding the origin and meaning of these syllables, though it has been noted that James Joyce's Finnegans Wake contains the words googoo goosth at the top of page *557, where it appears:

downand she went on her knees to blessersef that were knogging together like milk-juggles as if it was the wrake of the hapspurus or old Kong Gander O'Toole of the Mountains or his googoo goosth she seein, sliving off over the sawdust lobby out ofthe backroom, wan ter, that was everywans in turruns, in his honeymoon trim, holding up his fingerhals, with the clookey in his fisstball. ...

It is not clear that Joyce is the source, or what it means if he were the source. [1] (http://www.themodernword.com/joyce/music/beatles.html)

There may also be a connection with the very similar "koo koo ka choo" in Paul Simon's song Mrs. Robinson, written in 1967-1968.

The unusual monologue buried in the mix towards the end of the song is actually a few lines of Shakespeare's King Lear (Act IV, Scene VI), which were added to the song direct from an AM radio receiving the broadcast of the play on the BBC Home Service (or possibly the BBC Third Programme).

The recording of "I Am the Walrus" featured, in addition to the Beatles themselves, violins, cellos, horns, clarinet and a 16-piece choir.

The song has been parodied as "Piggy In The Middle" by The Rutles (the Rutles TV show includes a brilliantly accurate parody of the song's appearance in Magical Mystery Tour), and as "The Mole from the Ministry" by The Dukes of Stratosphear (actually XTC). It was also a major influence on "Sowing the Seeds of Love" by Tears for Fears. It has also been covered by actor/comedian Jim Carrey, whose version was considered among the worst Beatles covers ever.

Who was the Walrus?

The 1968 Beatles song "Glass Onion", written by Lennon, and featured on the White Album, refers to earlier Beatles compositions. Mentioning "I am the Walrus", Lennon sings, "Here's another clue for you all, the walrus was Paul."

In a 1980 Playboy interview, John responded to the confusion:

"I threw the line in — 'the Walrus was Paul' — just to confuse everybody a bit more. And I thought 'Walrus' has now become me, meaning 'I am the one.' Only it didn't mean that in this song."

Lennon also comments in "The Beatles Anthology" that he wrote the song at a point when the band was beginning to fall apart, and hoped by putting this line in combination with "I told you 'bout the walrus and me man, you know that we're as close as can be man", he could begin to patch things up with the band.

Paul also responded to the lyric in an interview broadcast on a Beatles documentary on WYNY 1981:

"[John] happened to have a line go 'the walrus was Paul' and we had a great giggle to say 'yeah, let's do that,' because everybody's gonna read into it and go crackers cause they all thought that John was the walrus."

On Lennon's 1970 solo album "Plastic Ono Band" he sings, "I was the Walrus, but now I'm John."

Thus, definitively, John was the walrus.

Cultural references

Ferris Bueller: "I quote John Lennon: 'I don't believe in Beatles – I just believe in me'. A good point there. After all, he was the Walrus. I could be the Walrus – I'd still have to bum rides off of people."

Manchester rock band Oasis covered the song live on numerous occasions, and released one version on the B-side to their 1994 single "Cigarettes & Alcohol". The track can also be found on The Masterplan album.

Club Dread a movie by Broken Lizard featured the killer taking credit at the end saying "I am the Walrus."

External links

  • Song lyrics (http://frogcircus.org/beatles/magical_mystery_tour/i_am_the_walrus)
  John Lennon Missing image
Paul McCartney

The Beatles George Harrison Ringo Starr  

History of the Beatles | Long-term influence | British Invasion | Classic rock era | Paul is Dead rumours | Apple Records | George Martin | Geoff Emerick | Brian Epstein | Beatlesque | Discography | Bootlegs | Beatlemania

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