Monday, September 4, 2017

Recording "I Am the Walrus" - The Psychological Mindset

Following the death of Brian Epstein in August 1967, The Beatles' scheduled dates in the studio were postponed, though they would return to EMI September 5th to begin the recording of "I Am The Walrus." On the 1st of the month, the band had met at Paul’s London home to discuss their plans to continue work on MMT. The September 5th session began at 7pm, lasting until 1am, The Beatles laying down 16 initial takes. It was the most straightforward of sessions with McCartney on bass and tambourine, Harrison on guitar, Ringo on drums and John laying down the vocals. Track 16 proved the best take.

The song itself was a piecemeal project of John's in which he wove three separate compositions into one. The rhythm came from a shrieking police-car siren Lennon heard in the distance while at his Weybridge country home. It consisted of two oscillating notes. "The first line was written on one acid trip one weekend. The second line was written on the next acid trip the next weekend, and it was filled in after I met Yoko. . . ." Indeed, "I Am the Walrus" is an excellent depiction of an LSD trip. The very first line of lyric dissolves separate identities into a universal interdependence that "heads" used to call "oceanic feeling." The mood swings from laughter to crying in the record are indicators that the singer is being moved beyond words, emblematic of a tripping state. The giddiness of tripping shows up in the goo goo g’joob, which echoes the boop boopy doop of the cartoon character Betty Boop. Lennon went on, "[The walrus] came from 'The Walrus and the Carpenter.' Alice In Wonderland. To me, it was a beautiful poem. . . . [Later I] realized that the walrus was the bad guy in the story, and the carpenter was the good guy. I thought, 'Oh, shit, I picked the wrong guy. I should have said, "I am the carpenter." ' But that wouldn't have been the same, would it?" "He was a big Lewis Carroll fan, which I was too. In my view two of John's great songs, 'Strawberry Fields' and 'I Am The Walrus', both come from 'Jabberwocky'. 'I am he as you are he ...' It's thanks to 'Jabberwocky' that he could do that." In reality, 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."

Recorded only nine days after Brian Epstein's death, John sounds in real pain: "I'm crying!" Far from being light-hearted nonsense verse, John's lyrics are a howl of frustration.
The 'Eggman' in the lyrics is almost certainly Eric Burdon, who was known to his friends as 'Eggs' because he was fond of breaking eggs over naked girls during sex. In Eric's autobiography he describes an orgy in Mayfair, following an evening at the Scotch of St. James, in which John Lennon watches him break amyl nitrate capsules under the noses of two half-naked girls and follow this up with two raw eggs. John is quoted as encouraging him, "Go on, go get it, Eggman. Go for it. I've been there already, it's nice.” Lennon has contended that it was indeed nonsense: "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."

McCartney: "Even now I'm a bit shy to say I was the director of Magical Mystery Tour although it was the fact: it was me that was first up in the morning, me that virtually directed the whole thing. So being the de facto director, I would go and say good night to everyone. Just to check on the team. I was saying good night to John in the hotel in Cornwall and saying thanks for doing the Nat Jackley thing. I was standing at the door and he was in bed, and we were talking about the lyrics of "I Am The Walrus," and I remember feeling he was a little frail at that time, maybe not going through one of the best periods in life, probably breaking up with his wife. He was going through a very fragile period. You've only got to look at his lyrics - 'sitting on a cornflake waiting for the van to come'. They were very disturbed lyrics.”

The recording process was completed the following day with what was called Take 17, a compilation of the previous day's work. It combined the pianet, electric guitar, tambourine and drums. Paul McCartney then recorded a bass guitar part and Ringo Starr added extra snare, both played simultaneously onto track three of the four-track tape, as John overdubbed his lead vocals onto track four. Extensive non-recording overdubs would be incorporated later in the MMT sessions. Rather than call it a rap, The band went on to record the initial instrumental takes for "Fool on the Hill;" the lyrics were not yet completed.