News The Beatles explained: What does ‘goo goo g’joob’ mean?
Of all the great songs by The Beatles, no other track has been mulled over as much as ‘I Am The Walrus’. Although the band may have been known for going in bizarre directions over the past few albums, this was practically the springboard into psychedelia that would coat most of the band’s mid-period. Even though the song is a marvel to behold from a sonic standpoint, what the hell is John Lennon going on about in these lyrics?
Throughout the track, many of the best moments sound like absolute nonsense when put against each other. Even though it was easy to decipher songs like ‘She Loves You’, it was a bit cerebral trying to parse out the deeper meaning that Lennon was getting at when talking about yellow matter custard dripping from a dead dog’s eye.
Whatever the lyrics were really about, this was much more about The Beatles making a statement than finding any hidden meaning. For as much as the ‘Walrus’ may have been a persona, hearing the band playing freeform with the conventional rock structure made for a massive head trip for another who bothered to hear it when it came on the radio.
So, when looking at the song for what might be the first, tenth, or hundredth time, let’s see what the true hidden meaning that drew Lennon to write a song like this. Is it some interesting piece of prose, or is it really that amalgamation of different images that were never supposed to be taken seriously, to begin with?
What is the meaning of ‘I Am The Walrus’?
By the time The Beatles released ‘I Am The Walrus’, fans were already having a field day trying to figure out what every one of their songs was about. From insinuating that ‘Norwegian Wood’ was about a lesbian to believing that Paul McCartney had perished in a car crash and the rest of the band were apologising to their fans in song, some of the most outlandish conspiracy theories in music history are descended from people reading what they wanted to read in the lyrics. For all of the tinfoil-hat crowd that wanted to hear any deeper meaning, Lennon designed his latest smash to deliberately mess with them.
Taking inspiration from the surrealist sounds of avant-garde music, half of the lyrics to the song contain nonsense, with ‘goo goo g’joob’ being a placeholder piece of wordplay taken from James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake. Knowing full well that teachers would be having lessons on what every wonderful utterance came out of Lennon’s mouth, he took great pride in the words to the chorus, with biographer Hunter Davies recalling him saying, “Let the fuckers figure that one out”.
Who inspired ‘I Am The Walrus’?
Although the entire thesis of the song was about having no one in mind, Lennon did have more than a few inspirations behind the track. Compared to the avant-garde music that was becoming the norm, Lennon was starting to become well-versed in his personal library of literature, including various children’s stories that fueled his imagination. One such book was Lewis Carroll’s The Walrus and the Carpenter, for which Lennon pinched the title character.
While the song has little in common with the book, Lennon’s surreal tie-in song is still a great way of looking at Carroll’s work, as if the listener is being transported to some sort of fantasy land. Lennon didn’t claim to be perfect, though, noting that he got the names switched and accidentally went with the antagonist of the story instead of ‘I Am the Carpenter’. The woodworker substitute doesn’t roll off the tongue as well, so we Fab fans have to live with one of the greatest unintentional villain songs of all time.
What album was ‘I Am the Walrus’ on?
The song would eventually be featured on the album Magical Mystery Tour, having already been thrown on the B-side of Paul McCartney’s latest smash, ‘Hello Goodbye’. Although Lennon would be cagey about his song not getting a fair shot, it would become a favourite amongst everyone who heard it, if only for the weirdness behind its construction. Compared to what they did with McCartney’s silly little pop song, Lennon had a surprise for those who saw the Magical Mystery Tour film.
Clad in the signature eggman garb, the unofficial music video for the song is one of the greatest pieces of psychedelia that the band had ever created. As everyone begins performing the song, the use of different lenses, along with the breathtaking music, makes it feel like the listener has been dropped into ‘Lennon’s Wonderland’, where everyone is free to be as outlandish as possible. Before MTV had truly kicked in, never had a music video better encapsulated what a song is really about.