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“i am the walrus,” and the story behind it.

March 15, 2014

Yesterday I wrote about God, pantheism, and the Hindu phrase, “That art thou.”  This phrase means that whatever or whoever you point to, that is you and you are it, etc. Everything is one.

In a comment from a reader, I found the words, “Are you me? The answer BTW (by the way), is yes.”

That sentence got me thinking of a certain song by The Beatles, with lyrics that go, “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.”

Exactly.

I had gotten mixed up, and thought those lyrics were from the song “Come Together,” also by The Beatles. Both songs have lyrics that are meaningful, such as the one I just listed, and lots of nonsense lyrics. That’s why I got confused. I googled the lyrics to make sure which song the lyrics came from.

When I looked up the “I am he..” lyric, I came up with, not “Come Together,” but instead, the song, “I Am the Walrus.”

Here are the lyrics, which I found on rock.rapgenius.com (clicking on the word will.. or should..  bring you to that site. I just found it today. I’m guessing you can find many other song lyrics there):

[Verse 1]
I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together
See how they run like pigs from a gun, see how they fly
I’m crying

[Verse 2]
Sitting on a cornflake, waiting for the van to come
Corporation tee-shirt, stupid bloody Tuesday
Man, you’ve been a naughty boy, you let your face grow long

[Chorus]
I am the egg man, they are the egg men
I am the walrus, goo goo g’joob

[Verse 3]
Mister City, policeman sitting
Pretty little policemen in a row

See how they fly like Lucy in the Sky, see how they run
I’m crying, I’m crying
I’m crying, I’m crying

[Verse 4]
Yellow matter custard, dripping from a dead dog’s eye
Crabalocker fishwife, pornographic priestess
Boy, you’ve been a naughty girl you let your knickers down

[Chorus]

[Verse 5]
Sitting in an English garden waiting for the sun
If the sun don’t come, you get a tan
From standing in the English rain

[Chorus]

[Verse 6]
Expert textpert choking smokers
Don’t you think the joker laughs at you?

See how they smile like pigs in a sty
See how they snide
I’m crying

[Verse 7]
Semolina pilchard, climbing up the Eiffel Tower
Elementary penguin singing Hare Krishna
Man, you should have seen them kicking Edgar Allan Poe

[Outro]
I am the egg man, they are the egg men
I am the walrus, goo goo good job g’goo goo good job
Goo goo g’joob g’goo goo g’joob g’goo

When I googled the lyrics, one of the entries I came up with was from Wikipedia. I love Wikipedia, and was curious about the song, so I decided to read the article. In it, I found the story behind the song.. how John Lennon wrote the song, and why. Here is the story from Wikipedia:

“Lennon received a letter from a pupil at Quarry Bank High School, which he had attended. The writer mentioned that the English master was making his class analyse Beatles’ lyrics (Lennon wrote an answer, dated 1 September 1967, which was auctioned by Christie’s of London in 1992). Lennon, amused that a teacher was putting so much effort into understanding the Beatles’ lyrics, wrote the most confusing lyrics he could.

The genesis of the lyrics is found in three song ideas that Lennon was working on, the first of which was inspired by hearing a police siren at his home in Weybridge; Lennon wrote the lines “Mis-ter cit-y police-man” to the rhythm and melody of the siren. The second idea was a short rhyme about Lennon sitting in his garden, while the third was a nonsense lyric about sitting on a corn flake. Unable to finish the ideas as three different songs, he eventually combined them into one. The lyrics also included the phrase “Lucy in the sky” from “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band earlier in the year.

The walrus is a reference to the walrus in Lewis Carroll‘s poem “The Walrus and the Carpenter” (from the book Through the Looking-Glass). Lennon later expressed dismay upon belatedly realising that the walrus was a villain in the poem.[2]

The final catalyst of the song occurred when Lennon’s friend and former fellow member of The Quarrymen, Peter Shotton, visited and Lennon asked Shotton about a playground nursery rhyme they sang as children. Shotton remembered:

“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.”[3]

Lennon borrowed a couple of words, added the three unfinished ideas and the result was “I Am the Walrus”. The Beatles’ official biographer Hunter Davies was present while the song was being written and wrote an account in his 1968 biography of the Beatles. Lennon remarked to Shotton, “Let the fuckers work that one out.” Shotton was also responsible for suggesting to Lennon to change the lyric “waiting for the man to come” to “waiting for the van to come”.

Lennon claimed he wrote the first two lines on separate acid trips; he explained much of the song to Playboy in 1980:[4]

  • “The first line was written on one acid trip one weekend. The second line was written on the next acid trip the next weekend, and it was filled in after I met Yoko… I’d seen Allen Ginsberg and some other people who liked Dylan and Jesus going on about Hare Krishna. It was Ginsberg, in particular, I was referring to. The words ‘Element’ry penguin’ meant that it’s naïve to just go around chanting Hare Krishna or putting all your faith in one idol. In those days I was writing obscurely, à la Dylan.”
  • “It never dawned on me that Lewis Carroll was commenting on the capitalist system. I never went into that bit about what he really meant, like people are doing with the Beatles’ work. Later, I went back and looked at it and realized that the walrus was the bad guy in the story and the carpenter was the good guy. I thought, Oh, shit, I picked the wrong guy. I should have said, ‘I am the carpenter.’ But that wouldn’t have been the same, would it? [Sings, laughing] ‘I am the carpenter….'”

That is a fun story! G’goo Goo G’joob!! I always wanted to know how to spell that last part. 😉

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