Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
|"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"|
The 1996 US jukebox single release of the song, backed with "When I'm Sixty-Four"
|Song by the Beatles|
|from the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band|
|Released||26 May 1967|
|Recorded||1 March 1967|
|Genre||Psychedelic rock, psychedelic pop|
"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" is a song credited to Lennon–McCartney that appears on the Beatles' 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. John Lennon started production of the song, and then Paul McCartney contributed to it in a songwriting session. Lennon's son Julian inspired the song with a nursery school drawing he called "Lucy—in the sky with diamonds". Shortly after the song's release, speculation arose that the first letter of each of the title nouns intentionally spelled "LSD". Lennon consistently denied this, insisting the song's fantastical imagery was inspired by Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland books, a claim repeatedly confirmed by Paul McCartney.
- 1 Composition
- 2 Recording
- 3 Origin
- 4 Reception
- 5 Personnel
- 6 Legacy
- 7 Elton John version
- 8 Chart history
- 9 The Flaming Lips version
- 10 Other versions
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Most of the song is in simple triple metre (3
4 time), but the chorus is in 4
4 time. The song modulates between musical keys, using the key of A major for verses, B♭ major for the pre-chorus, and G major for the chorus. It is sung by Lennon over an increasingly complicated underlying arrangement which features a tamboura, played by George Harrison, lead electric guitar put through a Leslie speaker, played by Harrison, and a counter melody on Lowrey organ played by McCartney and taped with a special organ stop sounding "not unlike a celeste". Session tapes from the initial 1 March 1967 recording of this song reveal Lennon originally sang the line "Cellophane flowers of yellow and green" as a broken phrase, but McCartney suggested that he sing it more fluidly to improve the song.
The recording of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" began with rehearsals in Studio 2 at Abbey Road on 28 February 1967. The instrumental backing was finished the following evening. On the first take, track one of the four-track tape contained acoustic guitar and piano, track two McCartney's Lowrey organ, track three Starr's drums, and track four a guide vocal by Lennon during the verses. Take eight replaced the guide vocal with Harrison's tamboura. The four tracks of this take were then mixed together and recorded on the first track of a second four-track tape. On 2 March, Lennon's double-tracked vocals, accompanied by McCartney on the choruses, were recorded to tracks two and three. McCartney's bass and Harrison's lead guitar occupied track four. Eleven mono mixes of the song were made at the 2 March session, but they were rejected in favour of the final mono mix created on 3 March. A stereo mix was made on 7 April.
Outtakes from the recording sessions have been officially released. The Beatles' Anthology 2, released in 1996, contained a composite remix, with ingredients from takes six, seven, and eight, while the first take of the song was featured on the two-disc and six-disc versions of the 50th-anniversary edition of Sgt. Pepper in 2017. The six-disc collection also included take five and the last of the eleven mono mixes made on 2 March 1967.
Julian Lennon's drawing
Lennon's inspiration for the song came when his son, Julian, showed him a nursery school drawing he called "Lucy—in the Sky with Diamonds", depicting his classmate Lucy O'Donnell (later Lucy Vodden). Julian Lennon said, "I don't know why I called it that or why it stood out from all my other drawings, but I obviously had an affection for Lucy at that age. I used to show Dad everything I'd built or painted at school, and this one sparked off the idea ..."
According to both Lennon and Ringo Starr, who witnessed the moment, Julian first uttered the song's title upon returning home from nursery school. Lennon later recalled of the painting and the phrase, "I thought that [it was] beautiful. I immediately wrote a song about it."
Rumours of the connection between the title of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and the initialism "LSD" began circulating shortly after the release of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band LP in June 1967. Paul McCartney gave two interviews that same month admitting to having taken the drug. Lennon later said he was surprised at the idea the song title was a hidden reference to LSD, countering the song "wasn't about that at all", and it "was purely unconscious that it came out to be LSD. Until someone pointed it out, I never even thought of it. I mean, who would ever bother to look at initials of a title? ... It's not an acid song."
When you write a song and you mean it one way, and someone comes up and says something about it that you didn't think of—you can't deny it. Like "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," people came up and said, cunningly, "Right, I get it. L-S-D," and it was when [news]papers were talking about LSD, but we never thought about it.
McCartney further rebuffed the claims in a 1997 BBC Radio interview with Michael Parkinson by saying, "It wasn't about LSD. Because otherwise it would have been called 'LITSWD.' Because the initials aren't 'LSD.' Lucy in the sky with diamonds is more like that."
In a 2004 interview with Uncut magazine, McCartney confirmed it was "pretty obvious" drugs did influence some of the group's compositions at that time, including "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", though he tempered this analysis by adding, "[I]t's easy to overestimate the influence of drugs on the Beatles' music."
In 2017, the first take of the song was issued leading up to the release of the 50th anniversary special edition of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band; the story about Julian's painting was confirmed as the inspiration of the song, as opposed to the LSD reference.
Alice In Wonderland
According to both Lennon and McCartney, the lyrics were largely derived from the literary style of Alice In Wonderland. Lennon had read and admired the works of Lewis Carroll, and the title of Julian's drawing reminded him of the "Which Dreamed it?" chapter of Through the Looking Glass in which Alice floats in a "boat beneath a sunny sky":
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.
McCartney remembered of the song's composition, "We did the whole thing like an Alice In Wonderland idea, being in a boat on the river ... Every so often it broke off and you saw Lucy in the sky with diamonds all over the sky. This Lucy was God, the Big Figure, the White Rabbit." He later recalled helping Lennon finish the song at Lennon's Kenwood home, specifically claiming he contributed the "newspaper taxis" and "cellophane flowers" lyrics; Lennon's 1968 interview with Rolling Stone magazine confirmed McCartney's contribution.
Lennon's original handwritten lyrics sold at auction in 2011 for $230,000.
Rolling Stone magazine described the song as "Lennon's lavish daydream" and music critic Richie Unterberger said "'Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds' was one of the best songs on the Beatles' famous Sgt. Pepper album, and one of the classic songs of psychedelia as a whole. There are few other songs that so successfully evoke a dream world, in both the sonic textures and words." In a review for the BBC, Chris Jones described the track as "nursery rhyme surrealism" that contributed to Sgt. Pepper's "revolutionary ... sonic carpet that enveloped the ears and sent the listener spinning into other realms." Hilary Saunders of Paste called the song "a perfectly indulgent introduction to psych-rock".
In later interviews, Lennon expressed disappointment with the Beatles' arrangement of the recording, complaining inadequate time was taken to fully develop his initial idea for the song. He also said he had not sung it very well. "I was so nervous I couldn't sing," he told journalist Ray Connolly, "but I like the lyrics."
- John Lennon – double-tracked lead vocals, maracas
- Paul McCartney – harmony vocals, Lowrey organ, bass
- George Harrison – acoustic guitar, tambura, lead guitar
- Ringo Starr – drums
- George Martin – piano
Lennon mentioned "Lucy in the Sky" in the Beatles' song "I Am the Walrus".
A 3.2-million-year-old, 40% complete fossil skeleton of an Australopithecus afarensis specimen discovered in 1974 was named "Lucy" because the Beatles song was being played loudly and repeatedly on a tape recorder in the camp. The phrase "Lucy in the sky" became "Lucy in disguise" to the anthropologists, because they initially did not understand the impact of their discovery.
Elton John version
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|"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"|
|Single by Elton John|
|from the album Elton John's Greatest Hits Volume II|
|B-side||"One Day (At a Time)"|
|Released||18 November 1974|
|Elton John singles chronology|
In 1974, Elton John released a cover version as a single. Recorded at the Caribou Ranch, it featured backing vocals and guitar by John Lennon under the pseudonym Dr. Winston O'Boogie (Winston being Lennon's middle name). The single topped the US Billboard pop charts for two weeks in January 1975 as well as the Canadian RPM national singles chart for four weeks spanning January and February, eventually. The B-side of the single was also a John Lennon composition, "One Day (At a Time)", from Lennon's 1973 album Mind Games. As with the A-side, Lennon appears on the B-side, playing guitar.
Development and release
In the US it was certified Gold on 29 January 1975 by the RIAA. During their collaboration, Elton John appeared on John Lennon's song "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night". Lennon promised to appear live with Elton at Madison Square Garden if "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night" became a #1 single. It did, and on Thanksgiving Night, 28 November 1974, Lennon kept his promise. They performed "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", "Whatever Gets You thru the Night", and "I Saw Her Standing There".
In introducing "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", Elton John said he believed it to be "one of the best songs ever written." The Lennon-sung "I Saw Her Standing There" (credited to the Elton John Band featuring John Lennon) was originally released in 1975 on the B-side of Elton John's "Philadelphia Freedom" single. In 1981, all three live songs were issued on 28th November 1974, an Elton John EP. In 1990, the three songs were made available on the Lennon box set. In 1996, they were also included on the remastered edition of Elton John's Here and There album. Elton John once stated that "'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds' is a song that I never do in a set at a concert simply because it reminds me too much of John Lennon. This is the same with 'Empty Garden'." It was a part of his standard repertoire from 1974 until 1976, and sporadically until 1998. It also appeared in the 1976 musical documentary All This and World War II.
- Elton John – lead and backing vocals, piano, mellotron, harpsichord
- John Lennon (as Dr. Winston O'Boogie) – backing vocals, guitars
- Davey Johnstone – backing vocals, electric guitar, sitar
- Dee Murray – bass guitar, backing vocals
- Nigel Olsson – drums, backing vocals
- Ray Cooper – tambourine, tubular bells, gong, maracas, mark tree, congas
The Flaming Lips version
|"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"|
|Single by The Flaming Lips featuring Miley Cyrus and Moby|
|from the album With a Little Help from My Fwends|
|Released||18 May 2014|
|The Flaming Lips singles chronology|
|Miley Cyrus singles chronology|
|Moby singles chronology|
A cover version by the Flaming Lips was included on their album With a Little Help from My Fwends, released on Warner Bros. The song, featuring vocals from Miley Cyrus and Moby, was released as official single on 18 May 2014. All proceeds from record sales go to the Bella Foundation, an organisation in Oklahoma City that helps provide veterinary care to needy pet owners.
- In 1968, William Shatner on The Transformed Man
- In 1977, the London Symphony Orchestra on Classic Rock
- In 1978, Natalie Cole on the album Natalie Live!
- In 1978, Stargard in the movie Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
- In 1987, the Hooters as a B-side to "Johnny B."
- In 1987, Pianist/composer John Bayless on his Bach on Abbey Road album (entire song in 3/4 time, including choruses, as a Bachian minuet)
- In 1988, The Christians on the charity compilation album Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father
- In 1988, Frank Zappa parodied the song in live concerts as "Louisiana Hooker with Herpes", with lyrics about Jimmy Swaggart and his sex scandal
- In 1992, Marilyn Manson & the Spooky Kids parodied the song as "Luci in the Sky with Demons" on the cassette tape The Family Jams
- In 1996, American-born Mexican singer Betsy Pecanins on the album Solo Beatles
- In 2001, the Black Crowes on the soundtrack of the movie I Am Sam
- In 2001, Brazilian singer Rita Lee on Aqui, Ali, Em Qualquer Lugar album
- In 2003, Hyde on the single "Horizon"
- In 2004, Jan Linton (as Dr Jan Guru) on the album "Planet Japan" 
- In 2005, Katie Melua on Piece by Piece
- In 2006, PUFFY on the Hataraku Otoko single, for the anime series Hataraki Man
- In 2007, Bono and The Edge performed the song on the Across the Universe soundtrack
- In 2007, Athlete (band) recorded the song for BBC Radio 2's Sergeant Pepper 40th anniversary show at Abbey Road Studios. It was broadcast 2 June 2007. It was produced and mixed by Geoff Emerick with Richard Lush.
- In 2009, Easy Star's Lonely Hearts Dub Band
- In 2009, Cheap Trick released Sgt. Pepper Live, which included the song
- In 2012, Mac Miller released "Desperado", which samples the song in its outro
- In 2013, British-Brazilian artist Dan Torres released a version from theme of the telenovela Império.
- In 2016, Pink performs the song for the Netflix animated series Beat Bugs.
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