Why The Beatles Song ‘I Am the Walrus’ Was Banned by the BBC

The Beatles had several strange and experimental songs in their discography. However, “I Am the Walrus” is arguably the weirdest song The Beatles ever wrote. Mainly because nobody knew what it meant. Still, the song included some provocative lyrics, leading to it being banned by the BBC. This would not be the only Beatles song that the BBC would ban. 

What is ‘I Am the Walrus’ by The Beatles about?

The Beatles attend a press conference in New York
George Harrison, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Released in 1967, “I Am the Walrus” is possibly the weirdest song by The Beatles. It’s hard to blame anyone for listening to the lyrics and not understanding the song — mainly because that was what The Beatles intended. In a 1980 interview with Playboy (via American Songwriter), John Lennon admitted that the song was written while on an acid trip, and a story from Alice in Wonderland inspired him. 

“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, s***, I picked the wrong guy. I should have said, ‘I am the carpenter.’ But that wouldn’t have been the same, would it?“

Lennon also wanted to write a song that fans analyzing The Beatles’ songs would never be able to figure out its meaning. It’s still an entertaining and hilarious song to listen to, and who doesn’t like to shout, “Goo goo g’joob”?

‘I Am the Walrus’ was banned by the BBC for provocative lyrics

“I Am the Walrus” has plenty of intriguing and bizarre lyrics to analyze and interpret. However, one verse got the song banned by the BBC. In the third verse, the lyrics read: “pornographic priestess/Boy, you’ve been a naughty girl, you let your knickers down.” According to filmhounds.com, the words “pornographic” and “knickers” were considered too sexy for the BBC, which banned the song. 

However, this played right into The Beatles’ hands as the song is openly critical of the establishment’s desire to censor and repress any display of sexuality. The line could be seen as a criticism of religious repression and the hypocrisy of some religious figures who acted on the opposite of what they preach. 

‘A Day in the Life’ was another song by The Beatles that got banned

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“I Am the Walrus” was not the only song by The Beatles to be banned by the BBC. According to Rolling Stone, the BBC felt the song “A Day in the Life” went a little bit too far with references to drugs and could encourage a “permissive attitude to drug-taking.” Saying a song by The Beatles references drugs is like saying grass is green, but apparently, this song wasn’t as subtle as their other songs. 

Lennon thought this ban was ridiculous and delivered a response saying, “I’d like to meet the man who banned this song of ours. I’d like to turn him on to what’s happening. Why don’t they charge the Electricity Board with spreading drugs because to get electricity you have to ‘switch on’? Everything depends on the way you read a thing.”