The Beatles

I Am the Walrus

The Beatles
The Beatles. You may have heard of them. So....I'm not even going to bother talking about their music or their importance in music history; but what about a connection to Joyce?

"I Am the Walrus" from Magical Mystery Tour

Call it an "urban legend" of the literary community; or perhaps just a bit of musical apocrypha, but there has been a persistent belief that John Lennon was influenced by Finnegans Wake when he penned the lyrics for "I Am the Walrus," one of the Beatles' more linguistically surreal tunes. The evidence is scanty -- it is known that Lennon was aware of Joyce, and had professed to having read a bit of the Wake after someone had remarked that his own writing was "Joycean." It is also known that Lennon was influenced by literature in general, particularly by Lewis Carroll. But the only "hard evidence" is the "goo goo g'joob" phrase from "Walrus," which is often -- and most likely mistakenly -- connected to a line from the Wake (FW 557.7: "goo goo goosth"). Is that enough to establish a real connection? Was Lennon influenced by Joyce when he wrote "I Am the Walrus"?
Well, personally I find it very doubtful; but for the sake of completion I will provide some speculation recently made on the Finnegans Wake List. If anyone has anything else to add, just email me. But first, the lyrics.

Lyrics

"I Am the Walrus"

I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.
See how they run like pigs from a gun, see how they fly.
I'm crying.

Sitting on a cornflake, waiting for the van to come.
Corporation tee-shirt, stupid bloody Tuesday.
Man, you been a naughty boy, you let your face grow long.
I am the eggman, they are the eggmen.
I am the walrus, goo goo g'joob.

Mister City Policeman sitting
Pretty little policemen in a row.
See how they fly like Lucy in the Sky, see how they run.
I'm crying, I'm crying.
I'm crying, I'm crying.

Yellow matter custard, dripping from a dead dog's eye.
Crabalocker fishwife, pornographic priestess,
Boy, you been a naughty girl you let your knickers down.
I am the eggman, they are the eggmen.
I am the walrus, goo goo g'joob.

Sitting in an English garden waiting for the sun.
If the sun don't come, you get a tan
From standing in the English rain.
I am the eggman, they are the eggmen.
I am the walrus, goo goo g'joob g'goo goo g'joob.

Expert textpert choking smokers,
Don't you thing the joker laughs at you?
See how they smile like pigs in a sty,
See how they snied.
I'm crying.

Semolina pilchard, climbing up the Eiffel Tower.
Elementary penguin singing Hari Krishna.
Man, you should have seen them kicking Edgar Alan Poe.
I am the eggman, they are the eggmen.
I am the walrus, goo goo g'joob g'goo goo g'joob.
Goo goo g'joob g'goo goo g'joob g'goo.

Notes

The passage most often quoted by proponents of the Lennon/Joyce connection theory comes from a line in FW 557.7:

FW 557.1-12
cramp for Hemself and Co, Esquara, or them four hoarsemen on
their apolkaloops, Norreys, Soothbys, Yates and Welks, and,
galorybit of the sanes in hevel, there was a crick up the stirkiss
and when she ruz the cankle to see, galohery, downand she went
on her knees to blessersef that were knogging together like 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 ofthe backroom, wan
ter, that was everywans in turruns, in his honeymoon trim, holding
up his fingerhals, with the clookey in his fisstball, tocher of davy's,
tocher of ivileagh, for her to whisht, you sowbelly, and the
whites of his pious eyebulbs swering her to silence and coort;

Here is some recent speculation on the Finnegans Wake List, reprinted with permission of the speculators in question:

Thomas Boyce:
I think Lewis Carroll is the man for Lennon. Not sure when Lennon checked out the Wake -- know for sure it was after publication of Lennon's first book when he was told many times that it was "Joycean," so he read a chapter or two of the Wake. I heard an interview on the radio where Lennon said he read some of the Wake. How much of it, or when, he didn't say. He concluded by saying that in Joyce he saw "a brother" (in weirdness, I guess).

Steve Diedrich:
I remember reading an interview with Lennon (sorry, don't remember where, perhaps Rolling Stone) in which Lennon is asked if he was familiar with FW, or in which the interviewer pointed out the similarity between the punning in Lennon's writings (not songs such as "I Am the Walrus," but his prose pieces in In His Own Write and Spaniard in the Works) and Lennon replied that he had read a little FW and understood some of the puns. So there's definitely "evidence that he touched FW" but he didn't claim to know it well or to have read all of it.

Neil Hickson:
It's rumoured he did a word search for his surname and came up with FW (179.2) "hic sunt lennones." :-)

Immediately following this, of course, we have "at point blank range blinking down the barrel of an irregular revolver." Now, this train of thought in the mind of your more opportunistic idler might be cause for alarm. The Finnegan Code hits the stalls.

Now, let me see, there must be a Chapman in here somewhere...

Jonathan Warren Pickett:
As has been noted HCE is both the Eggman AND the Walrus, both "Haroun Childeric Eggeberth" [4.32] and someone whom "They [H]ailed ... [C]heeringly, their [E]ncient, the murrainer, and wallruse ..." [324.08]. But as FW 179 attests the connection is more immediate than a mere theory of influence would suggest. As HCE confronts his maleficent doppelganger at the top of that page, "he got the charm of his optical life when he found himself (hic sunt lennones!) at pointblank range ..." [179.02].

The reference to the singer, we note, is immediately pursuant (indeed is a gloss) on our hero's cognition of essence. Now we know the identity of the writer whose travels back through time are commemorated and anticipated in Book III. Note that the author has coyly assumed the Hibernicized equivalent of his given name -- the work, as Sean is at pains to insist, is still in his own write. In fact the motif of the antithetidentical twins itself is merely a development based on the biographical reconciliation of opposites so seminal to the success of the author's first career (the references to a musical vocation in "Joyce's" works, it develops, is not a longing for what might have been but nostalgia). After all, as (t)he(y) parodoxically point(s) out, the Walrus was Paul.
Links/CDs/Sound Samples

Here is the Beatles card over at the Ultimate Band List.

Here's a John Lennon Homepage created by Barry, a very devoted fan.

Magical Mystery Tour is put out by Capitol.

You can purchase Beatles CDs, browse other discs, or listen to sound samples at Amazon.com below:

Magical Mystery Tour
The Beatles / Audio CD / Released 1987

--A. Ruch
15 December 2000
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