Sunday, February 19, 2006

I Am The Walrus

UNITED KINGDOM: Also released as a single November 24, 1967, as the B side to "Hello Goodbye." The Long and Winding Road: An Intimate Guide to the Beatles

UNITED STATES: Also released as a single November 27, 1967. It did not crack the Top 40, reaching only No. 56; it was in the Top 100 for four weeks. The Long and Winding Road: An Intimate Guide to the Beatles

AUTHORSHIP Lennon (1.00)
The rhythm came from a shrieking police-car siren Lennon heard in the distance while he was at home. It consisted of two repeating notes, up and down. The Beatles: Illustrated and Updated Edition

LENNON: "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. . . .
"[The walrus] came from 'The Walrus and the Carpenter.' Alice In Wonderland. To me, it was a beautiful poem. . . . [Later I] 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?" September 1980, All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono

McCARTNEY: "He [John] was a big Lewis Carroll fan, which I was too. In my view two of John's great songs, 'Strawberry Fields' and 'I Am The Walrus', both come from 'Jabberwocky'. 'I am he as you are he ...' It's thanks to 'Jabberwocky' that he could do that." Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now

Recorded only nine days after Brian Epstein's death, John sounds in real pain: "I'm crying!" Far from being light-hearted nonsense verse, John's lyrics are a desperate howl of frustration.
The 'Eggman' in the lyrics is almost certainly Eric Burdon, who was known to his friends as 'Eggs' because he was fond of breaking eggs over naked girls during sex. In Eric's autobiography he describes an orgy in Mayfair, following an evening at the Scotch of St. James, in which John Lennon watches him break amyl nitrate capsules under the noses of two half-naked girls and follow this up with two raw eggs. John is quoted as encouraging him, "Go on, go get it, Eggman. Go for it. I've been there already, it's nice." Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now

McCARTNEY: "They were big tall concrete structures that we could get people up on the top of, waving their arms. We gave people rubber egg-head skull caps, and we had a walrus. It was all directly from Alice in Wonderland, the walrus, the carpenter and all that surrealist stuff. John had just written "I Am The Walrus" and it was decided therefore it should go in the film. It is one of John's great songs and it is very Lennon.
"Even now I'm a bit shy to say I was the director of Magical Mystery Tour although it was the fact: it was me that was first up in the morning, me that virtually directed the whole thing. So being the de facto director, I would go and say good night to everyone. Just to check on the team. I was saying good night to John in the hotel in Cornwall and saying thanks for doing the Nat Jackley thing. I was standing at the door and he was in bed, and we were talking about the lyrics of "I Am The Walrus", and I remember feeling he was a little frail at that time, maybe not going through one of the best periods in life, probably breaking up with his wife. He was going through a very fragile period. You've only got to look at his lyrics - 'sitting on a cornflake waiting for the van to come'. They were very disturbed lyrics." Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now

September 5, 1967, at Abbey Road, with overdubbing September 6 and 27

They knew from their first two films that they needed to record the songs for the film in order to be able to mime to them. The recording of John's "I Am The Walrus" began on September 5.

McCARTNEY: "John worked with George Martin on the orchestration and did some very exciting things with the Mike Sammes Singers, the likes of which they've never done before or since, like getting them to chant, 'Everybody's got one, everybody's got one ...', which they loved. It was a session to be remembered. Most of the time they got asked to do 'Sing Something Simple' and all the old songs, but John got them doing all sorts of swoops and phonetic noises. It was a fascinating session. That was John's baby, great one, a really good one." Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now

The fragment of a live BBC broadcast of King Lear which appears at the end of this song was the direct result of Paul telling John about John Cage using randomly tuned radios in his compositions. John had a radio set up and began twiddling the knob. Since the BBC had a monopoly over radio broadcasting, it wasn't long before he came upon a reading of Shakespeare that he liked. The mix captures a portion of Act IV, Scene 6 of King Lear. Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now

McCARTNEY: "I had been talking to John about this. Having been turned on myself, naturally I would turn the guys on to it. Not claiming any credit, it's just that I was listening to more of that stuff." Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now

McCARTNEY: bass, backing vocal
LENNON: Mellotron (at beginning), lead vocal
HARRISON: tambourine, backing vocal
STARR: drums
SESSION MUSICIANS: eight violins, four cellos, three horns
CHOIR: six boys singing "Oompah, oompah, stick it up your jumper," six girls singing "Everybody's got one"

LENNON, on what it is everybody has one of: "You name it. One penis, one vagina, one asshole - you name it." September 1980, All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono

A surrealistic performance was included in the Magical Mystery Tour film.
The U.S. and U.K. versions of this song differ. Capitol made the U.S. Rarities version by editing the few extra beats in the middle of the U.S. single version with the U.K. version, which has the introductory riff repeated six times instead of four. The Long and Winding Road: An Intimate Guide to the Beatles

"PAUL IS DEAD" Hysteria: The Shakespearean actors say these ominous lines near the end of the song: "What, is he dead?" "Bury my body," and "O, untimely death."

LENNON: "I like that one. That was the time when I was putting Hare Krishna and all that down. I hadn't taken it up then." Hit Parader (April 1972)

LENNON: "Even Walrus was banned on the BBC at one time, because it said 'Knickers'." December 6, 1980, The Last Lennon Tapes

LENNON: "All of them had tongue in cheek, you know, I don't, just because other people see depths of whatever in it, you know, what doesn it really mean 'I Am the Eggman'? You know, it could have been the pudding basin for all I cared. It was just tongue in cheek, it's not that serious." December 6, 1980, The Last Lennon Tapes

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