"I am the Eggman!" Eric Burdon was the character referred to in The Beatles classic I Am The Walrus – and the story behind it is kinda filthy

English singer Eric Burdon of The Animals posed in London in October 1968. (Photo by Ivan Keeman/Redferns)
(Image credit: Ivan Keeman/ Getty)

The excessive lifestyle of The Animals’ frontman Eric Burdon is legendary. He hung out with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix. He gobbled LSD and threw himself into the free love scene of the 60s (although he was particular about the drugs he used: “I wouldn't put anything into my body that would stop me from having sex").

Friends with Beatles manager Brian Epstein, Burdon was around the Fab Four on a regular basis. Epstein died on 27 August 1967 and just two weeks later, The Beatles recorded I Am the Walrus, one of the weirdest and most original pieces of music they ever captured. 

Credited to Lennon/McCartney but 100% written by John Lennon, with huge input from producer George Martin, I Am The Walrus is a psychedelic masterpiece. The Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr commented that it was “like Hieronymous Bosch set to music”: dark, surreal, unique, playful, it’s a classic example of The Beatles’ “using the studio as an instrument”, cutting and pasting, multi-tracking, juxtaposing queasy strings with nightmarish and sometimes jokey lyrical imagery. 

Unpicking John Lennon’s lyrics is almost impossible. Theories run that I Am The Walrus was inspired by Bob Dylan’s nonsense Beat poetry, by Lennon’s experiments with LSD, that it was a reaction to the radical left’s criticism of All You Need Is Love’s lyrical simplicity – and by a letter from his old secondary school explaining that the students were analysing his lyrics. Lennon – who suffered from dyslexia and had an unhappy schooling – set about writing something they would never make sense of: “Let the fuckers try and work that out!” he said.

And there, in the middle of it all, is The Egg Man:

I am the egg man
They are the egg men
I am the walrus
Goo goo g'joob

Appropriately, it was Eric Burdon who played I Am The Walrus to the Grateful Dead in San Francisco:  "I put The Beatles' I Am The Walrus on and they went: ‘That's the most psychedelic thing we've ever heard!'” It was appropriate because Burdon WAS the Egg Man.

Over the years, stories surfaced that The Egg Man was a nickname Burdon earned after Lennon and Burdon joined an orgy that included Burdon breaking eggs over women’s bodies. 

In fact, the orgy came afterwards. In his autobiography, Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood (2002), Burdon told the whole crazy story: 

“I was the Eggman,” he wrote, “or, as some of my pals called me, ‘Eggs’.

“The nickname stuck after a wild experience I’d had at the time with a Jamaican girlfriend called Sylvia. I was up early one morning cooking breakfast, naked except for my socks, and she slid up beside me and slipped an amyl nitrate capsule under my nose. As the fumes set my brain alight and I slid to the kitchen floor, she reached to the counter and grabbed an egg, which she cracked into the pit of my belly. The white and yellow of the egg ran down my naked front and Sylvia slipped my egg-bathed cock into her mouth and began to show me one Jamaican trick after another. 

“I shared the story with John at a party at a Mayfair flat one night with a handful of blondes and a little Asian girl. ‘Go on, go get it, Eggman,’ Lennon laughed over the little round glasses perched on the end of his hook-like nose as we tried the all-too-willing girls on for size.”

He shortened the story a little bit during an interview with Classic Rock: "I just remember being at a party and eyeing up this girl. John Lennon was standing next to me and saying. “Go for it, egg-man!' And it kind of stuck."   

Tom Poak

Tom Poak has written for the Hull Daily Mail, Esquire, The Big Issue, Total Guitar, Classic Rock, Metal Hammer and more. In a writing career that has spanned decades, he has interviewed Brian May, Brian Cant, and cadged a light off Brian Molko. He has stood on a glacier with Thunder, in a forest by a fjord with Ozzy and Slash, and on the roof of the Houses of Parliament with Thin Lizzy's Scott Gorham (until some nice men with guns came and told them to get down). He has drank with Shane MacGowan, mortally offended Lightning Seed Ian Broudie and been asked if he was homeless by Echo & The Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch.