Music Theory: The lyrics of “I Am the Walrus” do have meaning!

In 1967, the Beatles released their legendary song “I Am the Walrus” with their album The Magical Mystery Tour and the movie of the same name. According to Beatles’ legend, John Lennon wrote the song’s lyrics to be nonsensical and devoid of meaning because he had heard that high school English classes were analyzing the band’s song lyrics. Listening to the song lyrics, that is most likely true. Or is it?

Maybe the song’s lyrics do have meaning, but we as an audience have never been able to figure it out. That all changes now! Today, I, a millennial equipped with all the Beatles’ trivia I’ve been stuffing in my head since I was 16 and my ability to overanalyze anything and everything, will do what scholars and fans have been unable to do in the 51 years since the song’s release. I will find the meaning behind “I am the Walrus!”

After only one listen, I believe I have the answer. The song is about…drum roll please…a sensitive man feeling disgusted with the world around him.

Before older Beatles’ fans roll their eyes in skepticism, hear me out. I have reasons to back up this theory.

Reason number one is that this theory is backed up by who John Lennon was emotionally around this time. Lennon’s teenage years were filled with trouble and angst. From reconnecting with his unstable mother to the parenting of his strict aunt to the death of his uncle, Lennon faced a complicated family life. Not to mention the fact that he was a troublemaker in school who was disrespectful and sarcastic to his teachers and other authority figures. It’s clear that he was a troubled young man who struggled with negative emotions and felt disenfranchised with most forms of authority.

Those feelings extended through adulthood as those close to him could see in his caustic sarcasm and occasional emotional outbursts. The primary way Lennon would express his feelings was through his poetry and his songs he wrote with McCartney. It’s not implausible to think this song was serving the same purpose, especially around this time in the band’s career when their music was progressively more experimental.

Reason number two is in the imagery and lyrics of the song itself. Lennon calls himself an egg-man. An egg is fragile and delicate, so by extension, an egg-man could be a fragile and delicate man. He also calls himself a walrus. A walrus is a strong seal with strong tusks that it can use to grip the ice or its prey. Calling himself a walrus could be an image of how Lennon feels about himself. He could be saying he’s also a big and vicious animal who throws his weight around to survive. In this way, Lennon could have been referring to himself in this song and explaining how he feels about the world around him at the time. That makes sense if one analyzes the lyrics.

“Sitting on a cornflake waiting for the van to come” could be a reference to how Lennon feels like an observer in the world who’s sitting in a fragile position and waiting for the van or society to condemn him to an asylum for being what they consider to be “crazy.”

“I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.” This was how Lennon saw the world. He saw all men as being equal and longed for world peace as is shown in his later song “Imagine.” He wanted men to realize they were equals and stop all their fighting.

This interpretation is further backed up by all the current events which could be being referenced in the lyrics. “See how they run like pigs from a gun” could be a reference to the students being gassed during the Vietnam War protests. “Stupid bloody Tuesday” is a reference to Bloody Sunday. “Mr. City policeman sitting, pretty little policemen in a row, see how they fly like Lucy in the sky” could be a reference to police corruption or to the police who worked to quell the protests. “Crabalocker fishwife” refers to mind the loud, outspoken, and at times, foul-mouthed women who sold their fish in fishing villages, according to Wikipedia. These women were immortalized in poetry as being beautiful, hardy, and industrious. Logically, this could refer to the women behind the women’s liberation movement who were often looked down upon for their extreme outspokenness.

I could go on, but the point is, Lennon knew what was going on in the world and was upset by what he saw. This is further backed up by the fact that after mentioning most of these things he would also say “I’m crying.”

To wrap things up, it seems that “I Am the Walrus” had more meaning than audiences originally thought. Lennon was a poet before he started writing songs, so it’s only logical that he knew how to add in meaning to a song that was supposed to be meaningless. This certainly reshapes how I view the song. Of course, it’s only a theory and I am probably wrong, but it’s a testament to the Beatles’ talent that we are still talking about it.

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