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Songs > I Am The Walrus

I Am The Walrus

(Lennon/McCartney)

Song background
"I Am the Walrus" was made up of three distinctly different songs--the first is the beginning of the song, which John was given the idea of by hearing a distant police siren. The second song was about John sitting in his garden at home ("sitting in an English garden..."). The third was a song which was invented after John learned that a teacher was having his students study Beatles songs for meaning. John created the song with nonsense lines such as "elementary penguins", "sitting on a cornflake", and "crabalocker". John later said "Let (the students) work that one out." "I Am the Walrus" is notorious for being one of the first rock songs to use an orchestra. ELO leader and "Free As A Bird" producer Jeff Lynne said that the arrangement of "I Am the Walrus" heavily influenced the sound of his band.

Recording dates

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Release dates

Recording notes

  • The backing vocals were sung by a singing group called The Mike Sammes Singers.
  • In the original (1967) stereo release, at around two minutes through the song, the mix changes from true stereo to "fake stereo" (with most of the bass on one channel, and most of the treble on the other). 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. In 2003, the first-ever true stereo mix of the song (excepting the introduction) was included on The Beatles Anthology soundtrack DVD, and in 2006, the first-ever stereo mix of the complete song (from beginning to end, including the formerly "fake stereo" second half) was issued on The Beatles' album Love. 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.
  • The mono version opens with a four-beat chord while stereo mix features six beats on the initial chord. The U.S. mono single mix also 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.

Chart performance

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Quotes

  • "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. Part of it was putting down Hare Krishna. All these people were going on about Hare Krishna, Allen Ginsberg in particular. The reference to "Element'ry penguin" is the elementary, naive attitude of going around chanting, "Hare Krishna," or putting all your faith in any one idol. I was writing obscurely, a la Dylan, in those days.It actually was fantastic in stereo, but you never hear it all. There was too much to get on. It was too messy a mix. One track was live BBC Radio - Shakespeare or something - I just fed in whatever lines came in. (The Walrus itself)'s from "The Walrus and the Carpenter." "Alice in Wonderland." To me, it was a beautiful poem. It never dawned on me that Lewis Carroll was commenting on the capitalist and social 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, sh-t, I picked the wrong guy. I should have said, "I am the carpenter." But that wouldn't have been the same, would it? [Singing] "I am the carpenter...."" - John Lennon, Playboy, 1980
  • "Let the (expletive)s work that one out." -- John Lennon, referring to groups of students who were analyzing Beatles songs for school

Awards

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Other notes

  • Eric Burdon of The Animals has claimed in his biography to be "the Eggman". In the biography, Burdon noted that he was famous for breaking eggs over nude women and that, once, John Lennon was present for such an event, saying, "Go on, go get it, Eggman."
  • During the "Got one/got one/everybody's got one" chant at the end of the song, John had a live BBC broadcast of Shakespere's "King Lear" fed into the tape. The excerpt (from act four, scene six, lines 249-259) is as follows:

    Oswald: Slave, thou hast slain me. Villain, take my purse. If ever thou wilt thrive, bury my body And give the letters which you find'st about me To Edmund, Earl of Gloucester. Seek him out Upon the English party. O, untimely death! Death!
    Edgar: I know thee well: a serviceable villain, As duteous to the vices of thy mistress As badness would desire.
    Gloucester: What, is he dead?
    Edgar: Sit you down, father. Rest you.

    John Lennon later told Dennis Elsas that, at the time, he "didn't even know it was Lear" and someone told him years later.
  • Former Quarrymen member Pete Shotton helped with some of the lyric by helping John Lennon recall a nursery rhyme from their youth:
    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

Notable covers

  • Oasis (from the "Wonderwall" single and The Masterplan)
  • Men Without Hats (from Sideways)
  • Oingo Boingo (from Boingo)
  • L.A. Guns (from Greatest Hits & Black Beauties)
  • Jackyl (from Choice Cuts)
  • Styx (from Big Bang Theory)

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