We all tend to look to music, books, and movies for a deeper meaning. Something woven between the lines, a deeper moral context behind the surface entertainment.
John Lennon decided that he had had enough of people searching for something behind the music. Sure, his music often had a meaning or motive, but not everything he wrote had a subtext. So when a student from his alma mater (Quarry Bank High School) sent Lennon a letter letting him know that his teacher was conducting a class analyzing Beatles songs, it motivated to write a song that made no sense at all.
John also had a chip on his shoulder about fellow musician Bobby Dylan, had been “getting away with murder.” John wanted to show his fans that he “could write that crap too.”
Hence “I am the Walrus” was born.
“The words didn’t mean a lot. People draw so many conclusions, and it’s ridiculous. I’ve had tongue in cheek all along–all of them had tongue in cheek. Just because other people see depths of whatever in it…What does it really mean, ‘I am the Eggman?’ It could have been ‘The pudding Basin’ for all I care. It’s not that serious.”
The song was written in three parts. Part one from an acid trip, part two from a second acid trip, and part three was after he met Yoko. Most likely while on an acid trip.
So let’s go ahead and break out some out some of the lyrical nonsense, because, even though John says it was, it’s not complete nonsense. Maybe the song doesn’t have meaning, but the lines do (kind of).
The song’s basic rhythm was inspired by a police siren, which is a nice start to randomness. John had heard the oscillating siren of a police car and thought it would serve as a good beat for a song. As usual when it came to songwriting, he was right.
The lyrics “waiting for the van to come” was initially written as “waiting for the man to come”, but was modified by Pete Shotton, one of John’s classmates from Quarry Bank. He just liked van better.
The “elementary penguin” was used by John as a knock on “go around chanting Hare Krishna or put all their faith in one idol.” This could have interprted as a knock on some of the things George Harrison was doing, as he was very much into this culture at the time.
For the bridge, John recalled an old school boy’s poem and made some modifications:
“Yellow matter custard, green slop pie,
Dripping from a dead dog’s eye,
Slap it on a butty, ten foot thick,
Then wash it all down with a cup of cold sick.”
The title and the lyric of “I am the Walrus” came from Lewis Carroll’s Though the Looking Glass, which contained the poem The Walrus and the Carpenter.
At the conclusion of the song, there is the fun chorus of men and women singing. It’s kind of tough to decipher what’s being said. They are singing “Oompah Oompah, stick it in your jumper” and “Everybody’s got one” in an overlapping fashion, with both men and switching between lines.
While the lyrics were all derived from something or another, they were basically just jumbled together into some fun stuff. Or at least John would have us believe, right? People still broke down the lyrics and pondered the possibility of a deeper meaning to the song. And hey, maybe they were right. Either way, it gave us another classic, fun Beatles song.