I am the Walrus…

…was Lennon inspired by James Joyce and Finnegans Wake? I don’t much care, as the theories of obscurity for the two works are similar in effect.  But I like the idea that Lennon was inspired by my favorite book.

Originally released as the B-side of “Hello Goodbye” and as a track on the Magical Mystery Tour album in November 1967, “I Am the Walrus” has been an endless source of lyrical debate. And that’s just how Lennon wanted it: he reputedly constructed the song to be as confusing as possible, in order to keep the Beatle-ologists busy. The chorus of the song goes, “I am the eggman, They are the eggmen, I am the walrus, Goo goo goo joob.” The “walrus,” Lennon later confirmed, was an allusion to the Lewis Carroll verse, “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” from the children’s classic Through the Looking-Glass. It’s believed that the “eggman” is a nod to the character of Humpty Dumpty in the same book. But what of “goo goo goo joob” (also transcribed as “goo goo ga joob” or “goo goo g’joob”)?

One widely circulated tidbit is that Lennon was inspired by James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake while writing the song. This would fit nicely with the Lewis Carroll homage, since Humpty Dumpty figures in Joyce’s stream-of-consciousness masterpiece as well. (Finnegan’s fall from a ladder resonates with the fall of Humpty Dumpty and the Fall of Man.) According to Beatles lore, “goo goo goo joob” are “the last words uttered by Humpty Dumpty before his fall.” This was a popular notion among the conspiracy theorists who were convinced that Paul McCartney had died in a mysterious accident and looked for clues to his demise in Beatles lyrics.

The only problem with the Joycean theory is that “goo goo goo joob” does not actually appear in Finnegans Wake. The closest approximation in Joyce is “googoo goosth,” which doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. There’s also no evidence that Lennon was actually reading Finnegans Wake at the time, so the imprint of Joyce is not nearly as clear-cut as that of Lewis Carroll.

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