a Project of the Mockingbird Foundation

Performances Song History

I Am the Walrus

Music/Lyrics: Lennon/McCartney

Vocals: Trey (lead), all (backing)

Original Artist: The Beatles

Original Album: Single (1967)

Debut: 2010-06-29

Historian: Chris Bertolet (bertoletdown)

Ask a passing Beatles fan about this track and he’s likely to either (a) misquote the gibberish chorus, or (b) offer up a bunch of apocryphal nonsense about how the Walrus was Paul and Paul is dead and if you play the record backwards blah blah blah. But when it comes to “I Am the Walrus,” the truth trumps fiction.

The Beatles, “I Am the Walrus”

Yes, the lyrics were LSD-inspired, but what really sets “Walrus” apart is the song’s unique harmonic structure. All the major chords are used (A through G) and the only other chords are major sevenths. It gets better. The face-melting outro, notes musicologist Alan W. Pollack, “is a harmonic Möbius strip with scales in bassline and top voice that move in contrary motion.” In other words, the bassline is descending and the string parts (covered by Trey and Page in the debut version) are ascending. All of this adds up to a song that is far more difficult to play – or at least to play well – than it might sound.

Phish’s first crack at “I Am the Walrus” on 6/29/10 in Canandaigua, NY proved to be crowd pleasing and well executed. It emerged from a nitrous oxide fog at the end of “Simple,” sandwiched inside a “Mike’s Groove.”

Phish, “I Am the Walrus” – 6/29/10, Canandaigua, NY

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