From Mental Floss:
For almost 50 years, the Beatles have been the most popular singers and songwriters in the world. Also, coincidentally, for the past half century one of the major activities of musical “armchair quarterbacks” has been to dissect, analyze, and interpret Beatles songs.
In 1967, a student from Quarry Bank High School (Lennon’s alma mater) sent John Lennon a letter telling him his teacher was conducting a class analyzing the Beatles’ songs. Lennon was wryly amused. This letter served as the initial motivation for John to write a song that was beyond analysis for the simple reason that John didn’t want it to make any sense at all. The whole purpose of the song, according to John, was to confuse, befuddle, and mess with the Beatles experts.
Who is the Walrus?
“Walrus is just saying a dream,” recalled John more than a decade after he composed it. “The words didn’t mean a lot. People draw so many conclusions, and it’s ridiculous. I’ve had tongue in cheek all along–all of them had tongue in cheek. Just because other people see depths of whatever in it…What does it really mean, ‘I am the Eggman?’ It could have been ‘The pudding Basin’ for all I care. It’s not that serious.”
John also wanted to make a point about fellow musical icon Bob Dylan, who, according to John, had been “getting away with murder.” John said he wanted to show his fans that he “could write that crap too.”
“I Am The Walrus,” the song with no rhyme or reason, was written in three parts: part one was written by John during an acid trip, part two was written during another acid trip the next week, and part three was “filled in after [he] met Yoko.”
Meaningless gibberish or not, many of the song’s lyrics did have an inspiration.
The song’s opening verse, “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together,” comes from the song “Marching to Pretoria,” which contains the lyric, “I’m with you as you’re with me and we are all together.”
“See how they run, like pigs from a gun, see how they fly…” came the next week directly from John’s second acid trip.
The song’s basic rhythm was actually inspired by a police siren. John heard an oscillating siren blaring in his neighborhood, and this beat served as the basic beat for the entire tune.
“Sitting in a English garden” refers to John’s garden in his Weybridge home, where he was living, frustrated and increasingly unhappy, with his first wife, Cynthia.
The lyric “Waiting for the man to come” was written by John, but was amended with “waiting for the van to come” by John’s friend from his high school days, Pete Shotton, who was present during the song’s composition.
The “elementary penguin” was used by John as a jab at those who “go around chanting Hare Krishna or put all their faith in one idol.” John admitted he had poet Allen Ginsburg in mind when he wrote the lyric. (Could he also have wanted to get a sly dig in at his bandmate George Harrison, who was enthralled by all things Indian and Hare Krishna?)
Needing a bit for the song’s middle section, John asked his old pal Pete to recall a “sick” schoolboy poem the two used to recite together. Pete dredged up the old lyrics:
“Yellow matter custard, green slop pie,
Dripping from a dead dog’s eye,
Slap it on a butty, ten foot thick,
Then wash it all down with a cup of cold sick.”
The constantly repeated and apparently nonsense lyrics “Goo goo gajoob” come