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Intro

What did John Lennon do when he found out that teachers at his old school were assigning his song lyrics to students for formal literary analysis? He wrote "I Am the Walrus," a wildly experimental song cobbled together from multiple acid trips, snippets of Lewis Carroll poems, run-ins with the police, misheard children's rhymes, and, well, plain old-fashioned gibberish. And then, satisfied that no student could ever make sense of what he'd done, he said, "let [them] puzzle that out."

The funny thing is, the rest of us just won't let it rest. Unable to accept fun, meaningless nonsense for fun, meaningless nonsense, we really are still trying to puzzle it out, to find some kind of deeper meaning here. It seems like there ought to be something profound in between the "goo goo gajoobs" and the "oompa oompa stick it up your jumpers." Some people hear obscenity; the song was banned from many radio stations for "offensive" lyrics. Others hear secret messages in the background of the mix ("Paul is dead"). Still others hear things in the lyrics that aren't there at all ("Everybody smoke pot, everybody smoke pot"). 

So what's it really mean? We'll have to leave it up to you to puzzle that one out.

About the Song

ArtistThe Beatles Musician(s)John Lennon (lead vocals, electric piano, mellotron, tambourine), Paul McCartney (bass, backing vocals), George Harrison (electric guitar, backing vocals), Ringo Starr (drums), orchestral accompaniment (violins, cellos, horns, clarinet), the Mike Sammes Singers (background vocals).
AlbumMagical Mystery Tour
Year1967
LabelParlophone (UK), Capitol Records (US)
Writer(s)John Lennon and Paul McCartney
Producer(s)George Martin
Learn to play: Guitar chords
Buy this song: iTunes
Try Listen and Learn (BETA)

Shmoop Connections

Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
"Goo goo gajoob." It's probably not the most profound lyric John Lennon ever wrote, but that hasn't stopped some literary-minded Beatles scholars from suggested that he drew his inspiration for the line from… James Joyce. (Not sure we buy that one.) But Lennon's creative debts to another literary figure—Lewis Carroll—are more clear. A huge Carroll fan, Lennon penned "I Am the Walrus" as a kind of homage to the surrealist poet and children's author. The entire song is infused with the spirit of Jabberwocky, and the Walrus was a specific character in Carroll's Through the Looking Glass… although Lennon later realized he'd mixed him up with the "other guy," the Carpenter. And you don't even want to know who the Eggman was. (Actually you do… especially if you're into scandalous rock star gossip.)

On the Charts

After its initial failure, The Magical Mystery Tour album went on to sell a million copies in America and 500,000 in Britain.

"I Am the Walrus" peaked at #58 on the US Billboard chart on December 2, 1967.
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