This season, we’re excited to say that our Bard production of As You Like It will include twenty-five songs by The Beatles, performed by the cast. And the list includes one of their most famous and dissected songs: I Am The Walrus.
Included on the critically celebrated album Magical Mystery Tour, I Am The Walrus was initially released on November 24, 1967 as the B-side to the Hello Goodbye A-side single. Apparently this bothered John Lennon, who reportedly felt that “Walrus” was the better song. That said, he also didn’t want anyone to read very much into its lyrics! Or rather, he didn’t want to reward anyone who did read things into it…
“Walrus is just saying a dream,” Lennon recalled over a decade after the song came out. “The words don’t mean a lot. People draw so many conclusions and it’s ridiculous… It’s not that serious.”
Legend has it that Lennon received a letter from a high school student, mentioning that his English teacher was making his class analyze Beatles’ songs. Amused by the fact that so much effort was being put into understanding the meanings of the band’s words, Lennon set out to write the most confusing lyrics that he could.
“Let the f*#kers figure that one out,” Lennon is said to have remarked to his friend Peter Shotton during the writing of the song.
Of note for Shakespeare fans, a dramatic reading from King Lear was incorporated into I Am The Walrus during an episode of the BBC Third Programme; it was added to the song direct from an AM radio Lennon was fiddling with in the studio. Lines 249-262 of Act IV, Scene 6 can be heard starting at the 3:52 mark – click here to listen (carefully!):
Oswald: (3:52) Slave, thou hast slain me. Villain, take my purse.
If ever thou wilt thrive, (4:02) bury my body,
And give the (4:05) letters which thou find’st about me
To (4:08) Edmund, Earl of Gloucester; (4:10) seek him out
Upon the British party. O, (4:14) untimely Death!
Edgar: (4:23) I know thee well: a (4:25) serviceable villain;
As duteous to the (4:27) vices of thy mistress
As badness would desire.
Gloucester: What, is he dead?
Edgar: (4:31) Sit you down father, rest you.
So while I Am The Walrus is historically tied to one of the Bard’s great tragedies, we think you’ll soon be associating it with one of Shakespeare’s most beloved comedies – thanks to our 2018 production of As You Like It!
Check out the blog next week, for Part Two of our 3-part series on Beatles music; we’ll be telling you the story behind “Here Comes the Sun”.
Guest Post Author: Brian Cochrane, Bard Volunteer Coordinator