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Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

The history of this classic Beatles song

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Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

The original US sheet music for "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds"

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Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

Written by: John Lennon (100%)
(credited as Lennon-McCartney) Recorded: March 1-2, 1967 (Studio 2, Abbey Road Studios, London, England)
Mixed: March 2-3, April 7, 1967
Length: 3:25
Takes: 8
Musicians:
John Lennon: lead vocals, piano (1905 Steinway Vertegrand "Mrs. Mills")
Paul McCartney: harmony vocals, bass guitar (1964 Rickenbacker 400IS), organ (1965 Lowrey Heritage DSO-1)
George Harrison: rhythm guitars (1962 Gibson J-160E (acoustic), 1961 Sonic Blue Fender Stratocaster), tamboura
Ringo Starr: drums (Ludwig), maracas
Available on: (CDs in bold)
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (UK: Parlophone PMC 7027, PCS 7027; Capitol (S)MAS 2653; Parlophone CDP 7 46442 2)
The Beatles 1967-1970 (UK: Apple PCSP 718; US: Apple SKBO 3404; Apple CDP 7 97039 2)
Yellow Submarine (songtrack) (Capitol/Apple CDP 7243 5 21481 2 7)

History:

  • The "Lucy" in the title of this song refers to Lucy O'Donnell, a student at Heath House Infants' School in Weybridge, Suffolk, Britain, who was a classmate of John's then-four-year-old, Julian. When he returned from school one day in February 1967, Julian showed his father a picture he'd drawn his classmate, with sparkling eyes, flying in the sky. "That's Lucy in the sky with diamonds," he declared, and John was immediately inspired.
  • John drew from his usual inspirations in completing the imaginative lyrics of this, one of the Beatles' most famous psychedelic songs. He himself cited the "Wool And Water" chapter of Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass (And What Alice Found There) as one, not so much for its actual images as for its sudden changes in scenery (although there is a line about river banks "frowning over their heads"). The popular British TV sketch comedy series The Goon Show featured a joke about "plasticine ties." Paul McCartney has claimed a few phrases he contributed to the songwriting process, including "cellophane flowers" and "newspaper taxis." John later explained that the "girl with kaleidoscope eyes" referred to his ideal mate, which would later turn out to be Yoko Ono.
  • Structurally, the song is as complex as the lyrics. It changes its home key three times between the verse, bridge, and chorus (G, Bb, and A), and also features Paul singing a third higher than the double-tracked John vocal on the choruses.
  • The recording itself, however, was a simple affair. On February 28th, 1967, the band rehearsed for eight hours, working out arrangements. The next day, they laid down Paul's organ (with a bell stop that made it sound like a harpsichord or a celesta; it opens the song), as well as John's piano, George's acoustic, and Ringo's drums, along with John's guide vocal (later wiped). After the sixth, keeper take, George added a tambura, an Indian instrument whose droning sound helped ease the transition between chorus and verse. The day after that, on March 2nd, lead and backing vocals were laid down, then George's electric lead (with slide) and Paul's bass.

Trivia:

  • One of the more persistent rumors in Beatles history is the one surrounding this song; namely, that it was a thinly-veiled ode to the wonders of LSD (since Lucy, Sky, and Diamonds together make up the initials). However, though the imagery was certainly inspired by the band's recent experiments with the drug, John continued to insist on the "Julian's painting" origin story for the rest of his life.
  • Though he loved the song, Lennon was quite vocal in later years of both his lead vocal (which required some coaching from Paul) and especially the rushed nature of the production. Lennon went on to claim that friend Elton John's hit 1974 cover was the way the song ought to have sounded; Lennon himself plays "reggae guitars" in a section of the hit, under the pseudonym "Dr. Winston O'Boogie."
  • Although Julian Lennon more or less lost touch with Lucy after attending their primary school, only meeting her once in the intervening years, he did send a note of congratulations to her when she married her childhood sweetheart Russ Vodden in 1996. In 2009, Julian learned Lucy had fallen terminally ill with lupus, and began to send her flowers, notes, and gift cards for her latest passion, gardening. After her death in late September of that year, Julian wrote a tribute song for her entitled simply "Lucy." It was released in December 2009.
  • William Shatner's inexplicable rendition of "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds," done as a spoken-word piece with psychedelic orchestration and available on his 1968 album The Transformed Man, is widely considered one of the worst songs of all time.
  • A three-million-year-old skeleton discovered in 1974, then the earliest specimen of human life, was named "Lucy" after the song, which had been played often in the base camp.
Covered by: William Shatner, Elton John, Stargard, Andrew Gold, Percy Faith, Hugh Montenegro, The Hooters, Bela Fleck, Bill Murray, Natalie Cole, Lost Generation, Marc Anthony, Noel Harrison, Peter O. Knight, Rita Lee, Mercury Rev, Enoch Light, Fee Waybill, Alan Lorber Orchestra, Gabor Szabo, The Black Crowes, Les Bidochons, The Christians, Marilyn Manson, Aimee Mann, Hyde, Katie Melua, Puffy AmiYumi, Bono, Cheap Trick
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