Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Beatles: I Am the Walrus

Just in one of those moods . . . . goo, goo ga-joob.

A clip of the song as performed in the 1967 film, Magical Mystery Tour.

You know, I've never actually seen Magical Mystery Tour. Originally broadcast on BBC1 on Boxing Day, 1967, the film was considered an unqualified disaster when it came out. And, from watching this clip, I think I can see why.

At least the song was weird enough to keep the visuals interesting. (I'm not sure what animal George Harrison is supposed to be in some of those sequences, but I find him terrifying.)

The song itself, however, has always been one of my favorite Beatles' tunes, even as a kid. Which probably explains why my mind's not quite right.

It was also one of John Lennon's own favorites. From The Beatles Anthology:

"I Am the Walrus" is also one of my favourite tracks - because I did it, of course, but also because it's one of those that has enough little bitties going to keep you interested even a hundred years later.

It'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 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." But that wouldn't have been the same, would it? "I am the carpenter..."
That's what happens, I guess, when you're taking LSD on a constant basis, as Lennon was at the time.

John goes on to talk about Bob Dylan's influence on the song:
In those days, I was writing obscurely, a la Dylan, never saying what you mean but giving the impression of something, where more or less can be read into it. It's a good game. I thought, "They get away with this artsy-fartsy crap." There has been more said about Dylan's wonderful lyrics than was ever in the lyrics at all. Mine, too. But it was intellectuals who read all this into Dylan or The Beatles. Dylan got away with murder. I thought, "I can write this crap, too."
I don't know, do people really over-analyze Dylan and The Beatles?


From Wikipedia's entry on "I Am the Walrus":
The song also contains the unusual exclamation goo goo g'joob. Various unsatisfactory hypotheses exist regarding the origin and meaning of these syllables. One popular, yet impossible, claim is that the phrase was derived from the very similar "koo koo ka choo" in Paul Simon's song Mrs. Robinson, written in 1967. However, the film The Graduate, where "Mrs. Robinson" debuted, was not released until December 1967, a month after the release of "I Am the Walrus", and The Graduate Original Soundtrack (which contained only fragments of the final version of "Mrs. Robinson") was not released until January 1968.

Perhaps due to the close chronological timing of the release of the two songs, the "Walrus" chorus is often misquoted as "Mrs. Robinson"'s "koo koo ka choo", although the lyrics to "Walrus" were published as part of the Magical Mystery Tour EP packaging, so there is no debate to the actual lyric.

It has also been noted that James Joyce's Finnegans Wake contains the words googoo goosth at the top of page *557, where it appears: milk-juggles as if it was the wrake of the hapspurus or old Kong Gander O'Toole of the Mountains or his googoo goosth she seein, sliving off over the sawdust lobby out of the backroom, wan ter, that was everywans in turruns, in his honeymoon trim, holding up his fingerhals...

It is not clear that Joyce is the source, or what it would mean if he were, but it has been a hypothesis put forward by fans of both artists alike.

Well, long live the absurdity and meaninglessness of "I Am the Walrus" anyway!


Liam said...

I just thought "goo goo g'jube" would be the sound a walrus might make, but who knows...

I love "the walrus and the carpenter."

"The time has come, the walrus said
to speak of many things
of ships and sails and sealing wax,
of cabbages and kings,
of why the sea is boiling hot
and whether pigs have wings..."

cowboyangel said...

It is a great poem. And a great song.

I did so enjoy the Wikipedia analysis of goo goo ga-joob: It is not clear that Joyce is the source, or what it would mean if he were.

Jeff said...

"Well here's a clue for you all... The walrus was Paul."
-- Glass Onion

Great track, Walrus... I always liked Magical Mystery Tour, even though it wasn't considered one of their better albums, because it was one album were John's songs really kicked the crap out of Paul's.

Besides, in one of those coming of age moments for me, there was a British girl in a crowd photo, either in the inside cover or in the movie booklet, that I kind of took a shine to.

"See how they snied." Snied is a word that should have been adopted into the lexicon from out of that song. I know exactly what he meant.

cowboyangel said...

I agree with you about the album - I actually find some of my favorite sounds on that one. Besides John's stuff, I also love Flying/Blue Jay Way. Grooooovy.

The TV film, however, looks to be another story. I do need to see it, though. How can I be a Beatles fan and not have seen it?

Did you have the LP that opened up and had the booklet in it?

Jeff said...

Did you have the LP that opened up and had the booklet in it?

I do, even though I bought it sometime in the mid 70's.

That's not a first edition, but I do have a few first-edition Beatle albums. 'With the Beatles', 'A Hard Day's Night'. 'Something New'... One or two others. My brother has an original Sgt. Pepper's with the cardboard cutout insert, and I think he even has a 'Yesterday and Today' with the group shot pasted on the front over the infamous butcher photo.

I don't know if I told you this before or not, but we had a Beatles "Flip Your Wig" game that we threw out years and years ago. I understand that game goes for a fortune now as a collector's item.