Song facts: I Am the Walrus
In 1967 John Lennon received a letter from a pupil at Quarrybank High School, where John had previously attended. He told John that their English teacher was making them analyse Beatles' lyrics; this spurred John on to write the whacky lyrics in I Am the Walrus.
Lennon wrote the song, which was a mishmash of three song ideas he'd been playing with. Unable to finish each piece separately he combined them together.
I Am the Walrus was included in the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour film and on the album of the same name. It was also released as the B-side to Hello, Goodbye. The song remains one of John Lennon's most diverse and wonderful musical accomplishments and is celebrated by critics and fans alike.
"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...."
On September 5th 1967, the Beatles recorded I Am the Walrus at Abbey Road Studios, London. Producer George Martin arranged the orchestral pieces for the track which included: clarinet, violins, horns, cello and a 16-piece choir. The basic backing track was released on Anthology 2 in 1996.
This was the first song the Beatles recorded after the death of their manager and good friend Brian Epstein. It was decided that they needed to work on something together to stop the band from falling apart.
- John Lennon – lead vocal, backing vocal, Hohner Pianet electric piano, Mellotron
- Paul McCartney – bass guitar, tambourine, backing vocals
- George Harrison – electric guitar, backing vocals
- Ringo Starr – drums
- Orchestrated, directed and produced by George Martin