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"I Am the Walrus" is a 1967 song by The Beatles, written by John Lennon and credited to Lennon/McCartney. Lennon claimed he wrote the first two lines on separate acid trips. The song was in The Beatles' 1967 television film and album Magical Mystery Tour, and was the B-side to the #1 hit "Hello, Goodbye".

Lennon composed the avant-garde song by combining three songs he had been working on. When he learned that a teacher at his old primary school was having his students analyse Beatles' lyrics, he added a verse of nonsense words.

The walrus is a reference to the walrus in Lewis Carroll's "The Walrus and the Carpenter" (from the book Through the Looking-Glass). Lennon expressed dismay upon learning that the walrus was a villain in the poem.

Origins

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 Weybridgemarker; Lennon wrote the lines "Mis-ter cit-y police-man" to the rhythm 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 combined them into one.

Lennon received a letter from a pupil at Quarry Bank Grammar Schoolmarker, 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 Londonmarker in 1992.) Lennon, amused that a teacher was putting so much effort into understanding The Beatles' lyrics, wrote the most confusing lyrics he could. Lennon's friend and former fellow member of The Quarrymen, Peter Shotton, was visiting, 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".


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".

All the chords are major chords or seventh chords, and all the musical letters of the alphabet (A, B, C, D, E, F and G) are used. The song ends with a chord progression built on ascending and descending lines in the bass and strings, repeated over and over as the song fades. Musicologist Alan W. Pollack analyses: "The chord progression of the outro itself is a harmonic Mobius strip with scales in bassline and top voice that move in contrary motion." The bassline descends stepwise A, G, F, E, D, C, and B, while the strings' part rises A, B, C, D, E, F#, G: this sequence repeats as the song fades, with the strings rising higher on each iteration. Pollack also notes that the repeated cell is seven bars long, which means that a different chord begins each four-bar phrase.

Lennon explained much of the song to Playboy in 1980:

  • "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 Ginsburg, 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, a 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....'"


Some have speculated that the opening line, "I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together", is a parody of the opening line of "Marching to Pretoria", a folk song: "I'm with you and you're with me and we are all together."

Recording

"I Am the Walrus" was the first studio recording made after the death of The Beatles' manager Brian Epstein in August 1967. The basic backing track featuring The Beatles was released in 1996 on Anthology 2. George Martin arranged and added orchestral accompaniment that included violins, cellos, horn, clarinet and a 16-piece choir. Paul McCartney said that Lennon gave instructions to Martin as to how he wished the orchestration to be scored, including singing most of the parts as a guide. A large group of professional studio vocalists named "The Mike Sammes Singers", took part in the recording as well, variously singing "Ho-ho-ho, hee-hee-hee, ha-ha-ha", "oompah, oompah, stick it up your jumper!", "got one, got one, everybody's got one" and making a series of shrill whooping noises.

The dramatic reading in the mix towards the end of the song is 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). Lennon said in a 29 September 1974 radio interview with disc jockey Dennis Elsas that he "didn't even know it was Lear" until someone brought it up to him much later.

The bulk of the audible dialogue, heard in the fade, is the death scene of the character Oswald (including the words, "O untimely Death! Death!"); this is a piece of the "Paul is dead" urban legend. Two other lines from the play are at the beginning of the third chorus, 2:25 into the song. They are taken from the two lines: "Glou. Now, good sir, what are you? Edg. A most poor man, made tame to fortune's blows, Who, by the art of known and feeling sorrows, Am pregnant to good pity." These lines are faded in and out in the recording, so that we hear only: "Now, good sir;" "man, made tame to fortune's;" and "good pity."

Different versions

In the original (1967) stereo release,at around two minutes through the song,the mix changes from true stereo to "fake stereo".This came about because the radio broadcast had been added 'live', off-air, into the mono mix-down and so was unavailable for inclusion in the stereo mix; hence, fake stereo from the mono mix was created for this portion of the song.

The mono version opens with a four-beat chord while the stereo mix features six beats on the initial chord. The four-beat-only-intro is also included on an alternate stereo mix (overseen by George Martin) for the most recent home video version of Magical Mystery Tour. The U.S. mono single mix includes an extra bar of music before the words "yellow matter custard"; an early, overdub-free mix of the song released on The Beatles Anthology 2 reveals John singing the lyrics "Yellow mat -" too early—this was edited out. A hybrid version prepared for the 1980 U.S. Rarities LP combines the six-beat opening with the extra bar of music that precedes the words "yellow matter custard" (from the aforementioned U.S. mono single mix).

In 2003, the first-ever completely true stereo mix of the song (albeit with the introduction covered by narration voice-over), including the formerly "fake stereo" second half, was included on The Beatles Anthology release to DVD (a change from the VHS edition); and in 2006, the first-ever stereo mix of the complete song (from beginning to end) was issued on The Beatles' album Love (with a shorter running time, see "Surround version" below).The true stereo mix had been made possible when a separate recording of the same King Lear radio performance used in the original mix was located.

Personnel





Reception

Critical reception at the time of the track's release was positive:

  • "John growls the nonsense (and sometimes suggestive) lyric, backed by a complex scoring incorporating violins and cellos. You need to hear it a few times before you can absorb it." - Derek Johnson


  • "Into the world of Alice in Wonderland now and you can almost visualise John crouching on a deserted shore singing "I am the Walrus" to some beautiful strings from far away on the horizon and a whole bagful of Beatle sounds, like a ringing doorbell and someone sawing a plank of wood. A fantastic track which you will need to live with for a while to fully appreciate." - Nick Logan


Interpretation

Despite the fact that Lennon wrote this song as a response to his alma mater interpreting Beatles songs, "I am the Walrus" is often interpreted by the public[22068][22069].

Who was the Walrus?

Ostensibly Lennon is the walrus as he appears in the Magical Mystery Tour film singing the song.On the track-list of the accompanying soundtrack EP/LP,underneath "I Am the Walrus" are printed the words ' "No you're not!" said Little Nicola'(in the film, Nicola is a little girl who keeps contradicting everything the other characters say).Lennon returned to the subject in the lyrics of two of his subsequent songs:in the 1968 Beatles song "Glass Onion" he sings "the walrus was Paul",and in his 1970 solo song "God", "I was the walrus, but now I'm John."

Who was the Eggman?

Eric Burdon, lead singer of The Animals, is claimed by some to be the 'Eggman'. The reason for this is that Burdon was known as 'Eggs' to his friends, originating from his fondness for breaking eggs over naked girls. Burdon's biography mentions such an affair taking place in the presence of John Lennon, who shouted "Go on, go get it, Eggman..."

Cultural references

Television references

  • Comedian Chris Farley referenced the song during a skit on Saturday Night Live in 1993. Acting as motivational speaker Matt Foley, Farley speaks to a group of teenagers who had just thrown eggs onto a house. At one point in his speech, Foley exclaims "Hey man, look at me go, I'm throwing eggs! I'm the eggman, GOO... GOO... GOO JOOB!"
  • Chevy Chase and Bill Murray sing the chorus during Chase's opening monologue when he hosted Saturday Night Live on February 9 1980.
  • On the children's show, Histeria!, the character Lucky Bob says "I am the walrus" into a microphone after Toast finishes blasting his guitar music in Benjamin Franklin's house.
  • In the short-lived Weird Al Show, there was a cartoon segment called "FatMan" where Al played a superhero of the same name who, due to a glandular problem, would become obese and have superhero-like powers. In one episode, an enemy by the name of "The Eggman" introduced himself, then following the barking of a Walrus in his helicopter commented, "and that's the Walrus", to which a nearby police officer exclaimed "Goo goo goo joob!"
  • In the BBC comedy show The Office, Tim Canterbury references the song: "It's like an alarm clock's gone off, and I've just got to get away. I think it was John Lennon who said, 'Life is what happens when you're making other plans,' and that's how I feel. Although he also said, 'I am the Walrus, I am the eggman,' so I don't know what to believe."
  • In Six Feet Under, a reference to the song is made in one of the characters' dreams. David sees his boyfriend Keith with a bucket of eggs; the latter then declares: "I am the eggman", to which David replies, "Goo goo goo joob?".
  • The Simpsons has referenced the song multiple times:
    • In "El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer ", Homer eats too many hot peppers at a local chili fair and experiences what resembles a bad acid trip. He stumbles around the fairgrounds, and at one point has a vision of Jasper saying "Goo goo goo joob?".
    • In Bart of War, Bart gets trippy from an old novelty Beatles soda, and begins hallucinating. He remarks, "Yellow matter custard, dripping from a dead dog's eye", as Milhouse morphs through the different phases of John Lennon's career.
  • A SpongeBob SquarePants episode called "Sing a Song of Patrick" originally had the title "I am the Starfish". It was changed because EMI didn't allow the producers to parody it.
  • In an episode of the sketch comedy series All That, Ed, the employee at Good Burger sings a variation of the song that goes, "I am the Edman, I am the Edman, I am the Walrus!"
  • In an episode of Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi, the title characters eat bad sushi and envision themselves underwater. Ami exclaims, "I see a walrus and we are heading straight for its mouth!" to which Yumi replies, "We're goning to be ku-ku-ka-chewed!"
  • The Doctor Who serial The Three Doctors references the song. It happens when one of the Doctors tries to explain that he and the other two Doctors are all the same person. His explanation follows closely to the lyrics when he says, "I am he, and he is me..." Jo Grant, his main companion at the time, breaks in and finishes the line, "and we are all together, goo goo goo joob?" This confuses the Doctors until the assistant explains, "It's a song by the Beatles."
  • Stephen Colbert has opened his show, The Colbert Report, with the line, "I am the walrus, koo koo ka-truth."
  • In one episode of Yvon of the Yukon, Harland kills Yvon's pet walrus. Yvon is convinced that the walrus is still alive, and finds a man that looks like one. After he hugs the man for a long time, the man climbs onto a truck, and complains to Yvon, "I am not a walrus. I am the egg man!" as he throws eggs at Yvon.
  • The X-Files has referenced the song multiple times:
    • In the episode "Eve", Dana Scully asks Eve 8, "Are you Sally Kendrick?" to which she replies, "No. But she is me... and I am her... and we are all together!"
    • In "Hollywood A.D.", a speech purportedly by Jesus Christ recorded on the surface of a piece of pottery is translated as saying "I am the bearded cow-like sea beast." The original Aramaic is heard as "Goo goo goo joob."
  • In episode 2.10 of the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "What's My Line, Part Two", Xander says, "I am the bugman, coo coo ka choo", when looking for information on an assassin made entirely of bugs.
  • In the "Asses To Ashes" episode of The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air, when Philip Banks is congratulating Carl Robertson on his election victory, a forgetful Carl mistakens Philip's name. When Philip corrects him, Carl replies, "And I am the walrus, coo coo ka choo!"
  • In "Match of the Day" they showed a close-up of West Ham United chairman Eggert Magnusson. Commentator Jonathan Pearce said 'He is the eggman, goo goo goo joob!'
  • In episode 9 of The Chaser's War on Everything, the song was parodied as "I am Thesaurus" for the 150th anniversary of Roget's Thesaurus, and had a faux Dr. Roget singing synonyms to the tune of the song.
  • The song was occasionally referenced on Goodnight Sweetheart when Gary was in the 1940s.
  • In the improv comedy show Whose Line Is It Anyway? the title is often used in the game "Song Titles", due to its bizarre title, as an attempt to mess the other players up.
  • When he guested Never Mind The Buzzcocks in 2007, Donny Tourette from Towers of London continued the line "I am an antichrist, I am an anarchist", from the Sex Pistols' song Anarchy in the UK, with "I am the walrus".


  • In Zoey 101 When Micheal and Logan Try to get Vince Blake back they use the codenames Eggman, Walrus and Cornflake.
  • An episode of the TV show Due South is entitled "We are the Eggmen".
  • In comedian Christopher Titus' "The 5th Annual End Of The World Tour" special, Titus speaks of his visit with soldiers in Germany. When a soldier asks Titus to come meet their Sergeant, "Sgt. Pepper". Titus replies with "Fine, let's go meet Sgt. Pepper.....because I am the walrus...".


Movie references

The Dude: "It's like what Lenin said... you look for the person who will benefit, and, uh, uh..."
Donny: "I am the walrus."
The Dude: "You know what I'm trying to say..."
Walter Sobchak: "That fucking bitch..."
Donny: "I am the walrus."
Walter Sobchak: "Shut the fuck up, Donny! V.I. Lenin! Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov!"
  • Club Dread (2004), when the killer unmasks himself, he says "Set you guys up listening to that stupid Naughty Cal song. Who's the orca? Who's the octopus? I am the walrus! I am the walrus!"
  • In The Million Dollar Hotel (2000), one of the residents of the hotel (played by Peter Stormare) claims that he is the Walrus and complains that he never received "royalties" for all the songs he wrote for the Beatles. He plays "I Am the Walrus" during the film's climax.
  • In The Breakfast Club, Brian mutters over his essay "Who am I? Who am I? I am the Walrus."
  • In Antitrust (2001), when Milo gets introduced to his new workmates, they call themselves "the eggmen", and shout "Whoo", lifting their arms like in the song's videoclip.
  • In Finding Nemo (2003), when Crush wakes up Marlin and talks about baby turtles growing up fast "Oh, it's awesome, Jellyman. The little dudes are just eggs, we leave 'em on a beach to hatch, and then, coo-coo-cachoo, they find their way back to the big ol' blue. "
  • In Bee Movie (2007), a flight attendant in the control tower of the airport says "Am I going koo-koo-kachoo, or..." as he sees the colony of bees carrying the falling airplane to safety.
  • In Across the Universe Bono, as Dr. Robert, sings this song.
  • In Yellow Submarine, when the Beatles meet their alter egos, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the two John Lennons introduce themselves to one another "I am the ego man." "And I am the alter-ego man, goo-goo-ga-joob."


Other

  • In the Coheed and Cambria song "The Velorium Camper I: Faint of Hearts", "Coo coo ca choo" is said several times in the song.


  • There is a musical reference in Veruca Salt's song "Volcano Girls" (explaining who the Seether was, an earlier Veruca Salt song):
"I told you about the Seether before.

You know the one that's neither or nor.

Well here's another clue if you please,

The Seether's Louise."
which is similar in lyrics and sound to "Glass Onion" (explaining who the Walrus was):
"I told you 'bout the walrus and me man,

You know that we're as close as can be man.

Here's another clue for you all,

The walrus was Paul." 






  • In Strong Bad's 151st email, Strong Bad (as he often does with postal abbreviations) confuses Matt M. WA for "Matt M., Walrus Association". An easter egg found by clicking "WA" brings up a mock business card for "Walrus Association", and the quote at the bottom reads "Koo koo ka-choo or summat [something]", an obvious reference to the famous chorus.




  • In the spin-off Sonic the Hedgehog American comic book series published by Archie Comics, the story in Sonic the Hedgehog #75 is titled "I Am the Eggman" in reference to Doctor Eggman (see above). In a strange coincidence, the British Sonic Comic, Sonic the comic, Sonic often compares Robotnik(Eggman) to a walrus.


  • In Stephen King's Dreamcatcher, one of the main characters, Henry, continually quotes the song and calls himself the "eggman" or the "walrus."




  • In the Ricky Nelson song "Garden Party", Nelson refers to John Lennon's attendance at a concert at Madison Square Garden with the words, "Yoko brought her walrus".




  • In the MMORPG RuneScape, while doing a treasure trail, the player may come across a man named Uri who makes cryptic-like remarks. One of his remarks is: "I am the eggman. Are you one of the eggmen?".


  • In a Ren & Stimpy comic, (in the back there was an ask Stimpy, who goes by Dr. Stupid, page) a child asked Stimpy "Who Am I?", Stimpy replies, "I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together. I am the egg man. They are the egg men. I am the walrus. Koo koo ka-joob!"


  • In the May 2007 issue of the Nintendo Power magazine, The "Mii of the Month" is a walrus saying "Coo coo ca choo" and the article title is "I Am the Walrus."


  • The Christian hip hop group Furthermore created a song entitled "Are You The Walrus." The music video followed a similar pretense to the song "I am the Walrus."


  • In the third episode of the Sam & Max episodic game series, entitled The Mole, the Mob, and the Meatball, there is a scene where the player must use a password to get into a door. The player can choose in a dialogue box to guess a password, which will make Max say something random. One of the possible passwords is "I am the Walrus."


  • The sheet of stickers that shipped with Iomega Zip Drives used to label Zip disks with phrases like "i am Confidential Stuff" or "I am offsite Backup" always included one sticker with the phrase "i am the walrus" (the "i" in all of the phrases was shown as the Iomega logo).




  • In the play Avenue Q, the character Princeton gives Kate Monster a mix tape with this song on it. It confuses her, because all of the other songs on the tape are about love.


  • In the Zits comic strip for November 13 2007, Jeremy asks his Dad, "Have you ever heard the Beatles' song "I Am The Walrus"? Jeremy's Dad replies that he has had the song playing continuously in his head since November 27 1967, the release of "Magical Mystery Tour", and has only been able to get it to stop in the last few years. Jeremy says,"Goo Goo G'Joob" and Jeremy's Dad shouts "NO! NO! NO! NO!"


  • In the British prog band Caravan 1968 song Policeman, the composition has a definite similarity with that of I Am The Walrus. The policeman in the song lyrics is snooping around people smoking "weed the green". One line says "hey man, don't put me in your van".


  • The song's title has even inspired an oldies radio station in San Diegomarker, Californiamarker, entitled "105.7 The Walrus." Their first song under that format was "I Am the Walrus" and after their website was created, they featured an online poll asking "Who is The Walrus?", with the choices being John, Paul, Ringo, or George.


Cover versions

Year Artist Release Notes
1970 Spooky Tooth The Last Puff
1976 Leo Sayer All This and World War II
1980 Klaus Lage Die Musikmaschine Translated to German
1985 Gray Matter Food for Thought
1991 Freddie Wadling and Fleshquartet The Dice Man
1991 Men Without Hats Sideways
1992 Arcwelder (single)
1993 Marc Bonilla American Matador Instrumental
1994 Oasis "Cigarettes & Alcohol" Later released on their compilation album The Masterplan.
1994 Oingo Boingo Boingo
1994 The Punkles Pistol
1997 Jackyl Choice Cuts
1998 Jim Carrey In My Life
1999 Die Toten Hosen Crash Landing
2004 Styx (single) They performed the song at Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival and released the live version a single. It reached #10 on the Mediabase Classic Rock charts.
2006 Jeff Martin The Fool
2007 Bono Across the Universe (soundtrack)
2007 Boris and Merzbow Walrus / Groon (EP)
2007 Les Fradkin Guitar Revolution Instrumental


Notes

References




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