[This is an essay written recently for an English class. It is on the song "I Am The Walrus" by The Beatles. The purpose of the essay was to generate a thesis paper to evaluate a certain topic. In this case, it was choosing from a list of songs. This was the one I decided to write on since, apparently, very few people ever have. Enjoy.]
Some forty years ago, this country was in a state of rebellion; not the rebellion of the Revolution that forged our country, but the rebellion of a generation against corrupt politics. It was a time of a drastic shift in governmental policy, where corruption and conspiracies were the name of the game and a certain war was getting more and more unpopular. I speak, of course, of the U.S. government's policies towards the American public and the commitment to a small nation on the cusp of civil war: Vietnam. This was the sixties and the average norm of the happy nuclear family was no longer as desirable as in the decade before. As a result, drug usage was on the rise, protests became the new norm, and the Beatles hit the scene in a big way.
The Beatles were a rock group hailing from Britain and imported to the United States in a frenzied orgasm of popular culture meets teen idol. Overnight, seemingly, the Beatles became a huge phenomenon stateside. Over their successful years, before their breakup over a lack of new material and the introduction of one deranged Japanese woman into the heart of Mr. Lennon, the Beatles wrote a wide variety of international superhits. Included in this arsenal of number ones, was the unique and generally debated song I Am the Walrus.
With a ton of interpretations possible, I have determined that there seems to be three main points, or causes, to the creation of this song and the underlying meaning resultant. I therefore submit these three focal derivatives: "Anti-authority" sentiments, their antipathy towards any governing body, its law enforcement, and its incessant meddling into the individual life; Drug induced considerations; and the ever present anti-war stance, which was a trademark, of sorts, of the Beatles varied musical numbers throughout their career.
An anti-authority stance throughout the sixties wasn't uncommon amongst the many bands competing for the consumer dollar and wasn't necessarily a stance against organized government but their involvement in private affairs, to which the term "the Man" can probably be attributed. The Beatles were very adept at exploiting this stance within their music and I Am the Walrus took it to a whole new level. Lyrical phrases such as "See how they run like pigs from a gun / See how they fly" can suggest, though isn't limited to, that the government likes to manipulate events, yet when the situation gets completely out of control, they run away. And one cannot escape the fact that "pigs" is slang for any law-enforcement official; "here come the 'pigs'", "can you smell the bacon?", and various phrases of the like have been used by the criminal and average citizen alike.
Reasonings for the Beatles' dislike of governing bodies, or rather the organization of governing bodies, could stem from their varied encounters with law enforcement officials and the judicial system. Of course, one would have to follow Beatles history to adequately infer this consideration from the lyrics themselves. In fact, individuals seeking to find legitimacy to these claims may wish to head over to the website "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Am_the_Walrus" where you can find a historical overview and interview excerpts for the Beatles. Regardless, support for their dislikes can be found in lyrics such as "Mr. City policeman sitting / Pretty little policemen in a row / See how they fly like Lucy in the sky / See how they run", "Man you've been a naughty boy / You let your face grow long", and even the chorus lyrics of "I am the eggman / They are the eggmen" which derives from the Lewis Carroll novel Alice in Wonderland; the eggmen were the hapless victims of the Walrus who was the "bad guy", which is perfect for this consideration given that Lennon and McCartney call themselves "The Walrus" and given the Walrus's status then, the eggmen can be considered to be law enforcement.
The lyrics just before hand, referring to "naughty boy" and "let your face grow long" could draw the inference of politicians taking themselves too seriously, since the expression "long in the face" refers to a sorrowful or deadly serious visage; perhaps even indicating a two-faced personality. However it is taken, it is certain that the Beatles weren't only critical of governmental and law enforcement bodies, but the educational and corporate institutions as well.
Railing against organized institutions is nothing new to the musical world, especially during the Vietnam Era. With I Am the Walrus, I found it fairly simple to pinpoint where such occurrences arise. The lines: "Waiting for the van to come / Corporation T-shirt, stupid bloody / Tuesday" seem or could infer a tiresome allegiance to some company or simply imply that the artist or person alluded to is trying to evade the "normal" life government and institutions preach. The individual just keeps looking over their shoulder waiting for that norm to catch up to them in trepidation.
Another line, "Sitting on a cornflake", can be taken as a rebellion against the institution by just being a nonsense phrase that has no real meaning. In fact, Lennon himself made this claim in an interview once (for further details see the website referred to previously). He was asked what it meant and he replied that he had heard of a professor trying to interpret Beatles lyrics. Lennon was then heard to say, "Let the fuckers figure this one out." Therefore, said line becomes that rebellious statement.
It seems fairly poignant that one cannot discuss a Beatles song without taking into account those drug induced considerations. Certainly, the evidence for this assertion is overwhelming; that and the fact that John Lennon himself once gave an interview stating that he and McCartney had written at least two of the verses on two separate acid trips. Of course, for those not inclined to take Lennon's word for it, let's review the instances apparent within I Am the Walrus.
The choral lyrics themselves could stand as an indication of drug usage. Though "I am the eggman / They are the eggmen / I Am the Walrus" has a solid anti-authoritarian meaning, the phrasing can allude to a little less than logical thought; or more, depending on your line of reasoning. I can easily imagine the boys of the group sitting around the smoke circle contemplating a viewing or even a reading, it can happen, of Alice in Wonderland and then, in a moment of high enlightenment, comparing the characters to real life organizations. They are the Walrus (the outlaw) chasing down the eggmen (the law) and serving them up for a corporate dinner. But why refer to themselves as "the eggman" initially? Well, an instant high may dictate that they "take the law into their own hands."
The opening line was probably written during a "high" while listening to another song called "Marching to Pretoria" by The Weavers: "I am he as you are he as you are me / And we are all together" compared to the Weavers' line: "I'm with you and you're with me and we are all together." Note how similar the verses from the two bands are. The tie-in is quite evident, or so I think.
Though "Goo goo g'joob" is a possible variant of "Koo koo ka choo", "lyrics" from Paul Simon's "Mrs. Robinson", the phrase as well as some others were more than likely drug induced. Of course, a non-high individual could just as likely write such words, lines like, "Expert texpert choking smokers / Don't you think the joker laughs at you", suggests otherwise. Even using the word "joker", slang for one who does drugs, is highly indicative of this possibility.
Finally, whereas not as forthright as many of their other songs, their anti-war activities stance is quite obvious in this piece. If not by sheer criticism of government and law enforcement abilities, then by lines: "Sitting in an English garden / Waiting for the sun", which can be taken to imply waiting in a pleasant place for better times to arrive, and "If the sun don't come you get a tan / From standing in the English rain", implying the fear of a nuclear holocaust, or so it seems to me. By using the term "English", not only because of their cultural affiliation, it can be said that the Beatles set the tone of a western ideology playing dominance over the rest of the world.
It isn't difficult to come to the conclusion of an anti-war position especially given the nature of the Beatles themselves and the statements they have made in the past. It can also be suggested that the Beatles were a product of the times they matured musically in, which was volatile by its very nature.
Vietnam was a sour note in U.S. history and the Beatles captured the essence of those times and the emotions thereof. Without that war, they might never have been as big as they were or have been able to have created the memorable songs that make up their repertoire. Certainly the lyrics of I Am the Walrus laid out this confluence profoundly and left a notable mark in Beatles history that still resonates in colorful debates to this day. This song gives us insight into the minds of these artists through lyrics representing, or at least feasibly representing, anti-authority feelings, drug induced highs, and negative views on a war that lasted too long. Well before hip hop asked us "Who let the dawgs out?", the Beatles proudly stood up and shouted "I Am the Walrus!" This leaving in their wake a legion of individuals scratching their heads and wondering "Just who is this Walrus fellow, anyhow?" To which one can only answer, "goo goo g'joob."