For decades, some fans have wondered what The Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus” is about. John Lennon didn’t even know what the line “I am the walrus” meant. However, he revealed the song took inspiration from a fictional character he called a “f*cking bastard.”
What John Lennon said about the character who inspired The Beatles’ ‘I Am the Walrus’
“I Am the Walrus” is one of The Beatles’ more oblique songs. In the book Lennon Remembers, John said he didn’t really know what the line “I am the walrus” meant, even though he stood by it. He revealed the song was inspired by the “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” a poem from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, the sequel to Alice in Wonderland.
After John and Yoko Ono watched a movie version of Alice in Wonderland, John had a negative reaction to the walrus. It’s not clear which film version of Alice in Wonderland he saw, but Walt Disney’s popular film adaptation of the book includes the walrus from Through the Looking-Glass. In addition, the book 100 Greatest American and British Animated Films says Disney re-released the film in the late 1960s. It was pretty popular within the 1960s drug culture — a culture which John fell into.
“We saw the movie in L.A. and the walrus was a big capitalist that ate all the f*ckin oysters (laugh), if you must know,” John said. “That’s what he was. I always had this image of ‘The Walrus and the Carpenter’ – and I never checked what the walrus was. I’ve been going around and saying, ‘I’m the walrus,’ that it’s something, but he’s a f*cking bastard (laugh). That’s what it turns out to be. The way it’s written everybody presumes that it means something. I mean even I did, so I mean we all just presumed, just cause I said, ‘I am the walrus’ that it must mean I am God or something, but it’s just poetry. But it became symbolic with me.”
How the world responded to The Beatles’ ‘I Am the Walrus’
“I Am the Walrus” was not a tremendous hit, only reaching No. 56 on the Billboard Hot 100. However, as time went on, the track appeared in popular culture numerous times. For example, Bono performed a cover of the song in the Beatles-themed jukebox musical Across the Universe. I Am the Walrus is also the name of a fictional book that appears in Across the Universe.
In addition, the track appeared in an episode of the children’s Netflix show Beat Bugs, where it was performed by an animated walrus. Oasis, a band often compared to The Beatles, performed a live version of “ I Am the Walrus” for a deluxe version of their debut album Definitely Maybe. Even if John wasn’t a fan of Carroll’s walrus, the world seemed to embrace “I Am the Walrus” — even if it took a while to do so.
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