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Picture yourself in a boat on a river

With tangerine trees and marmalade skies

Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly

A girl with kaleidoscope eyes

-Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, Lennon/McCartney

There are mysterious connections between George Harrison and the Cheshire Cat, and also with Ringo Starr and The Mock Turtle. But let’s now first investigate the Beatle with the most powerful connection to Alice In Wonderland.

John Lennon was a huge fan of Lewis Carroll and Alice. If you’d like cold, hard proof of his Wonderland and Looking-Glass leanings, you need only listen to two of his grooviest compositions, Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds and I Am The Walrus.


Most Beatles fans are familiar with the story of John’s son Julian coming home with some nursery school artwork, thus inspiring his dad to write Lucy. John confirmed the tale in an interview with Playboy published soon after his death:

PLAYBOY: “Where did ‘Lucy in the Sky’ come from?”

LENNON: “My son Julian came in one day with a picture he painted about a school friend of his named Lucy. He had sketched in some stars in the sky and called it ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,’ Simple.”

Even diehard John Lennon fans may be surprised at what comes next:

PLAYBOY: “The other images in the song weren’t drug-inspired?”

LENNON: “The images were from ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ It was Alice in the boat. She is buying an egg and it turns into Humpty Dumpty. The woman serving in the shop turns into a sheep and the next minute they are rowing in a rowing boat somewhere and I was visualizing that. There was also the image of the female who would someday come save me… a ‘girl with kaleidoscope eyes’ who would come out of the sky. It turned out to be Yoko, though I hadn’t met Yoko yet. So maybe it should be ‘Yoko in the Sky with Diamonds.'”

“Yoko in the Sky with Diamonds” wouldn’t actually have quite the same ring to it. But once you know that Lucy was inspired by Alice In Wonderland (or really, Through The Looking-Glass), it’s fun to pick apart the other lyrics to try to find Alice connections.

Were “rocking horse people” inspired by rocking horse flies? Are the “flowers that grow so incredibly high” the scented rushes Alice and The Sheep floated by?

“Looking-glass ties” certainly isn’t much of a stretch. Nor is “picture yourself on a train in a station” since that is where Alice found herself a mere two chapters earlier than her encounter with The Sheep.

Picture yourself in a boat on a river

With tangerine trees and marmalade skies

Somebody calls you, you answer quite ___________

A girl with kaleidoscope eyes

1Cellophane flowers of ________ ________ _________

Towering over your head

Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes

And she's gone

Lucy in the sky with diamonds (x 3)

Follow her down to a _________ by a ____________

Where rocking horse people eat ______________pies

Everyone smiles as you drift past the flowers

That grow so incredibly high

Newspaper __________appear on the shore

Waiting to take you away

Climb in the back with your head in the clouds

And you're gone

Lucy in the sky with diamonds (x 3)

Picture yourself on a train in a station

With plasticine ____________ with __________ _____________ ties

Suddenly someone is there at the turnstile

The girl with the kaleidoscope eyes

Lucy in the sky with diamonds (x 3)


John explains the I Am The Walrus/Looking-Glass connection in the same Playboy


LENNON: “It’s from ‘The Walrus and the Carpenter.’ ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ To me, it was a beautiful poem. It never dawned on me that Lewis Carroll was commenting on the capitalist and social system. I never went into that bit about what he really meant, like people are doing with the Beatles’ work. Later, I went back and looked at it and 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? (singing) ‘I am the


Now, we can’t really say that The Carpenter is really a good guy. Much like Alice who remarks, “Well! They were BOTH unpleasant characters!”

We may assume that The Walrus and The Carpenter were equally big jerkfaces. His capitalist/social system interpretation might also be discussed came from, but heaven knows, John Lennon has a much more creative mind that I ever will.

You’re probably expecting to hear that Humpty Dumpty was the Eggman next. Contrariwise, there simply isn’t any evidence straight from the Beatle’s mouth suggesting that. It’s natural for us to assume there is a connection between Humpty Dumpty and The Eggman, as we know John loved Looking-Glass.

There are still other John Lennon/Alice In Wonderland connections. Young John was a particular fan of Jabberwocky (a nonsense poem written by Carroll about the killing of a creature named "the Jabberwock” and included in the novel).

Scholars state that “marmalade skies” was inspired by Alice grabbing a marmalade jar on her way down the rabbit-hole and that the working lyrics for Love Me Do were “Alice, stop daydreaming, do!” One has to assume there are other links to Alice hidden in John’s songs.

The Walrus and the Carpenter (poem, 1871)

"The sun was shining on the sea,

      Shining with all his might:

He did his very best to make

      The billows smooth and bright —

And this was odd, because it was

      The middle of the night.

The moon was shining sulkily,

      Because she thought the sun

Had got no business to be there

      After the day was done —

"It's very rude of him," she said,

      "To come and spoil the fun."

The sea was wet as wet could be,

      The sands were dry as dry.

You could not see a cloud, because

      No cloud was in the sky:

No birds were flying overhead —

      There were no birds to fly.

The Walrus and the Carpenter

      Were walking close at hand;

They wept like anything to see

      Such quantities of sand:

If this were only cleared away,'

      They said, it would be grand!'

If seven maids with seven mops

      Swept it for half a year,

Do you suppose,' the Walrus said,

      That they could get it clear?'

I doubt it,' said the Carpenter,

      And shed a bitter tear.

O Oysters, come and walk with us!'

      The Walrus did beseech.

A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,

      Along the briny beach:

We cannot do with more than four,

      To give a hand to each.'

The eldest Oyster looked at him,

      But never a word he said:

The eldest Oyster winked his eye,

      And shook his heavy head —

Meaning to say he did not choose

      To leave the oyster-bed.

But four young Oysters hurried up,

      All eager for the treat:

Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,

      Their shoes were clean and neat —

And this was odd, because, you know,

      They hadn't any feet.

Four other Oysters followed them,

      And yet another four;

And thick and fast they came at last,

      And more, and more, and more —

All hopping through the frothy waves,

      And scrambling to the shore.

The Walrus and the Carpenter

      Walked on a mile or so,

And then they rested on a rock

      Conveniently low:

And all the little Oysters stood

      And waited in a row.

The time has come,' the Walrus said,

      To talk of many things:

Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —

      Of cabbages — and kings —

And why the sea is boiling hot —

      And whether pigs have wings.'

But wait a bit,' the Oysters cried,

      Before we have our chat;

For some of us are out of breath,

      And all of us are fat!'

No hurry!' said the Carpenter.

      They thanked him much for that.

A loaf of bread,' the Walrus said,

      Is what we chiefly need:

Pepper and vinegar besides

      Are very good indeed —

Now if you're ready, Oysters dear,

      We can begin to feed.'

But not on us!' the Oysters cried,

      Turning a little blue.

After such kindness, that would be

      A dismal thing to do!'

The night is fine,' the Walrus said.

      Do you admire the view?

It was so kind of you to come!

      And you are very nice!'

The Carpenter said nothing but

      Cut us another slice:

I wish you were not quite so deaf —

      I've had to ask you twice!'

It seems a shame,' the Walrus said,

      To play them such a trick,

After we've brought them out so far,

      And made them trot so quick!'

The Carpenter said nothing but

      The butter's spread too thick!'

I weep for you,' the Walrus said:

      I deeply sympathize.'

With sobs and tears he sorted out

      Those of the largest size,

Holding his pocket-handkerchief

      Before his streaming eyes.

O Oysters,' said the Carpenter,

      You've had a pleasant run!

Shall we be trotting home again?'

      But answer came there none —

And this was scarcely odd, because

      They'd eaten every one."

I AM THE WALRUS (song, 1967)

I am he as you are he as you are me

And we are all together

See how they run like pigs from a gun

See how they fly

I'm crying

Sitting on a corn flake

Waiting for the van to come

Corporation T-shirt, stupid bloody Tuesday

Man you've been a naughty boy

You let your face grow long

I am the egg man

They are the egg men

I am the walrus

Goo goo g'joob

Mister City policeman sitting

Pretty little policemen in a row

See how they fly like Lucy in the sky, see how they run

I'm crying, I'm crying

I'm crying, I'm crying

Yellow matter custard

Dripping from a dead dog's eye

Crabalocker fishwife, pornographic priestess

Boy, you've been a naughty girl, you let your knickers down

I am the egg man

They are the egg men

I am the walrus

Goo goo g'joob

Sitting in an English garden

Waiting for the sun

If the sun don't come you get a tan

From standing in the English rain

I am the egg man (now good sir)

They are the egg men (a poor man, made tame to fortune's blows)

I am the walrus

Goo goo g'joob, goo goo goo g'joob (good pity)

Expert, texpert choking smokers

Don't you think the joker laughs at you (ho ho ho, hee hee hee, hah hah hah)

See how they smile like pigs in a sty, see how they snide

I'm crying

Semolina Pilchard

Climbing up the Eiffel tower

Elementary penguin singing Hare Krishna

Man, you should have seen them kicking Edgar Allen Poe

I am the egg man

They are the egg men

I am the walrus

Goo goo g'joob, goo goo goo g'joob

Umpa, umpa, stick it up your jumper

Everybody's got one (umpa, umpa)

Everybody's got one (stick it up your jumper)


Thou hast slain me

Villain, take my purse

If I ever

Bury my body

The letters which though find'st about me

To Edmund Earl of Gloucester

Seek him out upon the British Party

O untimely death

I know thee well

A serviceable villain, as duteous to the vices of thy mistress

As badness would desire

What, is is he dead?

Sit you down, Father, rest you

Long story short, “I Am The Walrus” is considered nonsense. But it was designed to be so, and craftily at that. John Lennon wrote the majority of the song, and it was then officially credited to the Lennon-McCartney songwriting partnership.

In several interviews after the fact, Lennon explained that “I Am The Walrus” was written in response to learning that fans were analyzing the lyrics of The Beatles’ songs. More specifically, Lennon had read a letter from a student from his alma mater, Quarry Bank High School for Boys,

that said the literature classes were studying the meaning of The Beatles lyrics.

The song's opening line, "I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together" is based on the song "Marching To Pretoria", a song that became popular on both sides of the Boer War in South Africa (1880-1902). It was originally written in Afrikaans. The Boers were settlers who had moved north to pursue farming and lived in harmony with the English of South Africa until diamonds and gold were discovered in the Boer region. Then there were two wars to commandeer the riches of the north. Eventually the English prevailed.

MARCHING TO PRETORIA (end of the XIX century)

Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream

Merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream

Sing with me, I'll sing with you, and

So we will sing together

Sing with me, I'll sing with you

and so we will sing together

As we march along.

We are marching to Pretoria, Pretoria, Pretoria

We are marching to Pretoria, Pretoria, Hooorah!

After singing this song for about 20 years, we began to wonder...

We are marching to Pretoria, Pretoria, Pretoria

We are marching to Pretoria, Pretoria, Hooorah!

Walk with me, I'll walk with you, and

So we will walk together

Walk with me, I'll walk with you, and

so we will walk together

As we march along.

We are marching to Pretoria, Pretoria, Pretoria

We are marching to Pretoria, Pretoria, Hooorah!

Dance with me, I'll dance with you, and

So we will dance together

Dance with me, I'll dance with you, and

so we will dance together

As we march along.

We are marching to Pretoria, Pretoria, Pretoria

We are marching to Pretoria, Pretoria, Hooorah!

Drink with me, I'll drink with you, and

So we will drink together

Drink with me, I'll drink with you, and so we will drink together

As we march along.

We are marching to Pretoria, Pretoria, Pretoria

We are marching to Pretoria, Pretoria, Hooorah!

When Lennon decided to write confusing lyrics, he asked his friend Pete Shotton for a nursery rhyme they used to sing. Shotton gave them this rhyme, which Lennon incorporated into the song:

"Yellow matter custard, green slop pie,

all mixed together with 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 choir at the end sings "Umpa, Umpa, stick it in your jumper" and "Everybody's got one, everybody's got one.” In British and Australian English, the imperative phrase stick it up your jumper jocularly expresses indifference towards, or rejection of, a suggestion. The phrase stick it up your jumper originated in Umpa, Umpa, Stick It Up Your Jumper, a song recorded on Wednesday 28th August 1935 by The Two Leslies, i.e., the British singer-songwriters Leslie Sarony (Leslie Legge Frye – 1897-1985) and Leslie Holmes (Roy Leslie Holmes – 1901-1960).

The snippets of Shakespeare's King Lear (Act IV Scene VI), come in near the end:


Slave, thou hast slain me: villain, take my purse:

If ever thou wilt thrive, bury my body;

And give the letters which thou find'st about me

To Edmund earl of Gloucester; seek him out

Upon the British party: O, untimely death!



I know thee well: a serviceable villain;

As duteous to the vices of thy mistress

As badness would desire.


What, is he dead?


Sit you down, father; rest you

Back to the 1980 interview with Playboy and Yoko Ono, Lennon explained his thought process for the song in more depth.

“The first line was written on one acid trip one weekend,” he began. “The second line was written on the next acid trip the next weekend, and it was filled in after I met Yoko. Part of it was putting down Hare Krishna. All these people were going on about Hare Krishna, Allen Ginsberg in particular. The reference to ‘Element’ry penguin’ is the elementary, naive attitude of going around chanting, ‘Hare Krishna,’ or putting all your faith in any one idol. I was writing obscurely, à la Dylan, in those days.”

And what about that goo goo g’joob refrain at the end of each verse?

"It's just psychedelic nonsense," you might say. And you would probably be right. Some fearless lexicographers however, have refused to settle for that answer, instead launching a formal investigation into the etymological origins of the phrase "goo goo g'joob". Some of the related phrases they've unearthed include:

- "googoo goosth" (from James Joyce's Finnegans Wake),

- "coo coo ca-choo" (from Simon and Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson"), and

- "boop-oop-a-doop" (from Betty Boop).

You can find out more on the connection between Lennon, Carroll and Joyce reading the essay available on this link.

After all, can “I am the Walrus” still be considered a nonsense?

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