The Complexity Of The Beatles Song “I Am The Walrus”


Ruben G. Vasquez

Beatles Historian

"I Am The Walrus" By The Beatles

Art has often been subjected to various interpretations, with individuals attempting to decipher hidden meanings behind creative works. The Beatles, one of the most influential bands in music history, were no strangers to this phenomenon. George Harrison and Paul McCartney, members of the iconic band, recognized and addressed the tendency of people to overanalyze their lyrics.

We will explore George Harrison’s comment to Beatles biographer Hunter Davies about the first line of “I Am The Walrus,” and Paul McCartney’s introduction to John Lennon’s book, “In His Own Write.” These statements shed light on the dual nature of artistic expression, where meaning intertwines with playfulness and challenges the audience’s perception.

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Harrison: Striking A Chord By Taking The Beatles Too Seriously

George Harrison had said that “I Am The Walrus” is a song that exemplifies the Beatles’ ability to craft intricate lyrics with layers of meaning. Harrison’s comment suggests that the song’s first line is a prime example of how people may take the band’s work too seriously. While the line holds some truth, Harrison acknowledges that it is also a joke. This statement implies that the Beatles incorporated both seriousness and playfulness into their artistic creations.

McCartney: “In His Own Write”

Harrison’s remark about people searching for hidden meanings in the Beatles’ songs echoes Paul McCartney’s sentiment in the introduction to John Lennon’s book, “In His Own Write.” McCartney anticipates the existence of “thickheads” who fail to comprehend the unconventional aspects of Lennon’s writing.

McCartney’s statement preempts the criticism of those who expect clear-cut meaning in artistic expression. Both Harrison and McCartney address the inclination of some individuals to search for deeper interpretations and hidden messages, highlighting the need to appreciate the inherent ambiguity and creativity within art.

A Lennon Cryptic Masterpiece

The words seemingly defy straightforward interpretation, leading to a myriad of theories and speculation among fans and scholars. The song’s chorus, “I am the walrus, goo goo g’joob,” has become iconic and puzzling in equal measure. While the phrase appears nonsensical at first glance, it serves as a testament to the band’s playful and inventive approach to songwriting. The lyrics also touch upon themes of identity, power, and social commentary, further adding to the song’s complexity.

One of the most intriguing aspects of “I Am The Walrus” is its incorporation of diverse musical styles. The song seamlessly transitions between different sections, encompassing elements of rock, psychedelia, classical, and avant-garde music. This genre-bending approach showcases The Beatles’ willingness to experiment and push the boundaries of what was expected from a popular song at the time. By blending different musical styles, they create a sonic collage that mirrors the fragmented and abstract nature of the lyrics.

Cryptic Wordplay Like: "A Day In The Life" & "Strawberry Fields Forever"

The song contains numerous hidden references and allusions, which contribute to its complexity. The line “Yellow matter custard dripping from a dead dog’s eye” references a surrealist poem by Lewis Carroll, further adding to the song’s dreamlike and nonsensical quality. The use of cryptic wordplay and cultural references throughout the lyrics adds another layer of depth, encouraging listeners to delve deeper into the song’s meaning and uncover its hidden gems.

Beatles Production Techniques

The innovative use of studio effects, such as reverse tape loops, overdubs, and vocal manipulation, creates a sonic landscape that is both mesmerizing and disorienting. These production choices enhance the overall atmosphere of the song, making it a truly immersive listening experience.

“I Am the Walrus” stands as a testament to The Beatles’ artistic and musical genius. Through its layered instrumentation, cryptic lyrics, genre-bending approach, and intricate production techniques, the song embodies a complexity that challenges conventional songwriting norms. It invites listeners to embark on a journey of interpretation and discovery, providing a glimpse into the boundless creativity of one of the greatest bands in history. Whether one seeks to unravel its lyrical mysteries or simply immerse themselves in its mesmerizing soundscape, “I Am The Walrus” remains a timeless and captivating piece that continues to intrigue and inspire generations of music lovers.

A John Lennon Artistic Expression

Lennon encapsulates the dual nature of artistic expression, where seriousness and playfulness coexist. He emphasizes that “I Am the Walrus” possesses both serious and non-serious elements. This duality challenges the audience’s perception and invites them to embrace the multifaceted nature of art. By blurring the line between profound meaning and playful nonsense, the Beatles encourage listeners to engage with their music on various levels.


The band members were not confined by traditional expectations or the demand for clear interpretations. Instead, they embraced experimentation and ambiguity in their work. Their ability to navigate between seriousness and humor allowed them to transcend conventional boundaries and create music that resonated with audiences worldwide.

Author's Summation

“I Am The Walrus,” a Beatles song released in 1967, is hailed as one of the most complex compositions in their extensive catalog. Crafted by John Lennon, this avant-garde piece offers a rich tapestry of musical elements, making it a subject of fascination for music enthusiasts and scholars alike.

At its core, “I Am The Walrus” features a unique chord progression that exemplifies Lennon’s mastery of music theory. The song primarily revolves around the E minor and G major chords, creating a harmonic interplay that gives the composition its distinctive sound. The choice of these chords, especially the E minor, brings a melancholic depth to the piece, contrasting with the more uplifting G major.

Lennon’s lyrical prowess shines through in “I Am The Walrus,” where he draws on influences as diverse as Shakespeare’s “King Lear” and Lewis Carroll’s “The Walrus and the Carpenter.” The enigmatic verses, filled with vivid imagery, invite listeners to interpret their meanings. Lines like “Yellow matter custard / Dripping from a dead dog’s eye” evoke surrealistic landscapes, challenging conventional songwriting norms.

Within “I Am The Walrus,” astute listeners may catch subtle references to other Beatles compositions. Elements from “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Eleanor Rigby,” and “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” are interwoven, showcasing a deep interconnectedness within The Beatles’ body of work.

The song’s complexity is further elevated by George Martin’s orchestral arrangement. His meticulous layering of instruments, from string sections to the incorporation of a police siren, adds depth and texture, transforming the song into a sonic journey.

“I Am The Walrus” is a testament to The Beatles’ daring experimentation in the studio. Engineer Geoff Emerick, known for his innovative techniques, played a crucial role in realizing Lennon’s vision. Elements like the siren and crowd noises lend an avant-garde touch, showcasing the band’s willingness to push the boundaries of conventional recording.

Interestingly, “I Am The Walrus” was released as the B-side to “Hello, Goodbye,” demonstrating The Beatles’ willingness to challenge listeners’ expectations. This decision, while initially surprising, further cemented the band’s reputation for pushing musical boundaries.

“I Am The Walrus” stands as a testament to John Lennon’s creative brilliance. Its complex chord structure, intricate lyrics, and bold musical elements continue to captivate audiences, showcasing The Beatles’ enduring legacy in the realm of popular music. This composition, nestled among their greatest hits, remains a shining example of the band’s willingness to explore new frontiers in music.

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