The “garbage” song John Lennon wrote for The Beatles inspired by breakfast cereal
John Lennon has never been shy about chastising his own work within The Beatles. Though publicly he is regarded as one of the pivotal figures in pop music, Lennon was a fierce critic of his work inwardly. Seemingly, when he looked back at some of the Fab Four’s songs in 1980 during an infamous interview with Playboy’s David Sheff, he eviscerated some of his and Paul McCartney’s songs with an untethered disdain. One such song, which had been inspired by breakfast cereal, Lennon labelled “garbage” and a “throwaway”.
The truth is, The Beatles had quite a lot of what Lennon would determine as “throwaway” songs. Though most bands would have been proud to call any of The Beatles tunes their own, Lennon was always happy to aim his own writing. Usually, the songs that faced the harshest critique from Lennon were the earlier tunes, the pop ditties that he and McCartney wrote “eyeball to eyeball” in the band’s early days. But this song, ‘Good Morning Good Morning’, was a piece of one of their most celebrated albums, and widely considered one of the best LPs of all time — Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
It’s not unusual to find out that John Lennon hated a song. The bespectacled Beatle was famed for his caustic tongue, after all. But it was unusual that the song came so late in their career. The band’s 1965 album Rubber Soul is largely considered the moment the band ‘got serious’. Rather than concentrating on dancehall potboilers, the kind of toe-tapping joy that needs no real attention paid to it, the band decided to look inward and write more from their own experiences, rather than relying on rock ‘n’ roll tropes. By the time they were writing for Sgt. Pepper, an admittedly Paul McCartney-led affair, The Beatles had been intellectualised beyond reproach.
Their style had drastically changed in a few short years, and the pop idols of old had vanished, leaving behind an experimental rock group who were equal parts enticing and perplexing. That said, they were still expected to create albums and songs at an alarming rate. It will come as a shock then, to fans who don’t know, that the band were just as happy to phone it in when needed to fulfil their quota. ‘Good Morning, Good Morning’ was one such song.
“‘Good Morning’ is mine,” Lennon told Sheff in 1980. “It’s a throwaway, a piece of garbage, I always thought.” During the conversation, Lennon also shared that the original inspiration for the song came from a commercial for a breakfast cereal. “The ‘Good morning, good morning’ was from a Kellogg’s cereal commercial. I always had the TV on very low in the background when I was writing and it came over and then I wrote the song.”
“Good morning, good morning The best to you each morning Sunshine breakfast, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes Crisp and full of sun… Sunshine breakfast, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes Best for everyone”
– Kellogg’s commercial, 1967
The song may have been inspired by breakfast cereal but there was a much deeper undercurrent at work too. The truth is, at the time of writing, Lennon was becomingly increasingly restless. His home life with his first wife Cynthia was becoming untenable for the growing ego of Lennon and he used his work to express his frustrations. Paul McCartney remembers the song: “John was feeling trapped in suburbia and was going through some problems with Cynthia.”
In fact, the song was more about, “His boring life at the time – there’s a reference in the lyrics to ‘nothing to do’ and ‘meet the wife’; there was an afternoon TV soap called Meet The Wife that John watched, he was that bored, but I think he was also starting to get alarm bells.”
What’s more, he also put the idea of escape into the sound too, with a varying degree of animal noises all attempting to flee one another. Geoff Emerick, The Beatles studio engineer, remembers the process: “John said to me during one of the breaks that he wanted to have the sound of animals escaping and that each successive animal should be capable of frightening or devouring its predecessor! So those are not just random effects, there was actually a lot of thought put into all that.”
It may have been considered a piece of “garbage” by its creator but the fact is that he still put all of his expression into it. Even the “throwaway” songs were still drenched in the poetry of the band and, although it’s not quite at the top of the pile in regards to Beatles’ songs, it still has value to this day. Even if that’s being one of the few pop songs inspired by breakfast cereal.