The Paul McCartney Project

Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Album This song officially appears on the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Mono) Official album.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1967
Sessions This song has been recorded during the following sessions

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Song facts

From Wikipedia:

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” is a song written primarily by John Lennon and credited to Lennon–McCartney, for the Beatles’ 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. 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.

Despite persistent rumours, the song was never officially banned by the BBC, and aired contemporaneously on BBC Radio at least once, on 20 May 1967.

Composition

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 sang it more fluidly to improve the song.

Origin

Julian’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 …” Vodden, in a BBC radio interview in 2007, said, “I remember Julian and I both doing pictures on a double-sided easel, throwing paint at each other, much to the horror of the classroom attendant … Julian had painted a picture and on that particular day his father turned up with the chauffeur to pick him up from school.” O’Donnell died in 2009 at age 46 after suffering from lupus.

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.

LSD rumours

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 that the song title was a hidden reference to LSD, countering that the song “wasn’t about that at all“, and that 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.

Paul McCartney confirmed Lennon’s claim on several occasions, the earliest in 1968:

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.

Nevertheless, James E. Perone claimed in 2012 that the “song made direct reference to LSD in its title and through the psychedelic images that its lyrics evoke.” In a 2004 interview with Uncut magazine, McCartney confirmed that 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.

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.

Reception

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 that inadequate time was taken to fully develop his initial idea for the song. He also said that 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.” […]

From The Usenet Guide to Beatles Recording Variations:

  • [a] mono 3 Mar 1967.
    UK: Parlophone PMC 7026 Sgt Pepper 1967.
    US: Capitol MAS 2653 Sgt Pepper 1967.
  • [b] stereo 7 Apr 1967.
    UK: Parlophone PCS 7026 Sgt Pepper 1967, Apple PCSP 718 The Beatles 1967-1970 1973.
    US: Capitol SMAS 2653 Sgt Pepper 1967, Apple SKBO-3404 The Beatles 1967-1970 1973.
    CD: EMI CDP 7 46442 2 Sgt Pepper 1987, EMI CDP 7 97039 2 The Beatles 1967-1970 1993.
  • [c] stereo 1995. edited.
    CD: Apple CDP 8 34448 2 Anthology 2 1996.

Mono [a] has quite a bit of “phasing” not in [b]– phasing is ADT with deliberate tape speed manipulation (“flanging”) for a classic pyschedelic effect. Note especially the third “Lucy” line in the first refrain, but it continues, notable again in second refrain and in instrumental part leading to third refrain. Stereo [b] sounds more natural but [a] is evidently what was desired.

A new mono mix was made 1 November 1967 for the original Yellow Submarine film print with no vocal in the first part of the first verse, so an actor for the film could be dubbed in, and this also has less phasing.

The Anthology mix [c] is deliberately different and sychronizes parts of an outtake with the standard take. It is take 6 (standard version is 7) with a tamboura from take 7 with harmony vocals in the chorus from the standard version take 8. There is no bass.

Last updated on April 27, 2017

Lyrics

Picture yourself in a boat on a river
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly
A girl with kaleidoscope eyes

Cellophane flowers of yellow and green
Towering over your head
Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes
And she's gone

Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds, ah

Follow her down to a bridge by a fountain
Where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies
Everyone smiles as you drift past the flowers
That grow so incredibly high

Newspaper taxies appear on the shore
Waiting to take you away
Climb in the back with your head in the clouds
And you're gone

Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds, ah

Picture yourself on a train in a station
With plasticine porters with looking glass ties
Suddenly someone is there at the turnstile
The girl with kaleidoscope eyes

Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds, ah

Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds, ah

Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds

Officially appears on


Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Mono)

Official album • Released in 1967

3:29 • Studio versionA • Mono

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass, Lowrey organ
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Maracas
John Lennon:
Lead guitar, Vocals
George Harrison:
Acoustic guitar, Backing vocals, Lead guitar, Tambura
George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Mar 01, 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Recording:
Mar 02, 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Mar 03, 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Stereo)

Official album • Released in 1967

3:29 • Studio versionB • Stereo

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass, Lowrey organ
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Maracas
John Lennon:
Lead guitar, Vocals
George Harrison:
Acoustic guitar, Backing vocals, Lead guitar, Tambura
George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Mar 01, 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Recording:
Mar 02, 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Apr 07, 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Anthology 2

Official album • Released in 1996

3:06 • OuttakeC • Takes 6, 7 and 8. This is a unique combination of some different takes and sounds that comprised the original master of Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, broke down to their constituent parts and newly remixed. The basic track is Take 6, taped on 1 March, in which John sang a guide vocal, not yet attempting the finished model. The sound of a tamboura has been added from Take 7, also 1 March, and the chorus vocals have been flown in from Take 8, a "reduction" of Take 7 that received vocal overdubs the next day.

George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Mar 01, 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Recording:
Mar 02, 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Yellow Submarine Songtrack

Official album • Released in 1999

3:28 • Studio version


Love

Official album • Released in 2006

4:10 • Studio versionD • This track contains the drum roll from "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!", the clavioline from "Baby, You're a Rich Man," horns, guitars, bass and drums from "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", and sound effects from "Tomorrow Never Knows".

George Martin:
Producer
Giles Martin:
Producer
Paul Hicks:
Remix engineer
Sam Okell:
Remix engineer assistant
Chris Bolster:
Remix engineer assistant
Mirek Stiles:
Remix engineer assistant

Session Mixing:
Circa 2004-2006
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road


Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (2017)

Official album • Released in 2017

3:28 • Studio version


Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (2017)

Official album • Released in 2017

Studio version • Take 1 and speech at the end


Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (2017)

Official album • Released in 2017

Studio version • Speech, false start and Take 5


Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (2017)

Official album • Released in 2017

3:28 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass, Lowrey organ
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Maracas
John Lennon:
Lead guitar, Vocals
George Harrison:
Acoustic guitar, Backing vocals, Lead guitar, Tambura
George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Mar 01, 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Recording:
Mar 02, 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Mar 03, 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (2017)

Official album • Released in 2017

3:50 • Studio versionE • Original mono mix - No.11. From "The Daily Beatles": New- "RM 11" announcement from Emerick, it has also some pre-take sounds. The ‘lost’ version for many years.

Session Mixing:
Mar 02, 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Bootlegs


Take It Off!

Unofficial album

3:28 • Outtake


Sgt. Pepper's Sessions

Unofficial album

1:03 • Alternate take • Take 6 stereo


Sgt. Pepper's Sessions

Unofficial album

0:38 • Alternate take • Unknown Take i stereo


Sgt. Pepper's Sessions

Unofficial album

0:13 • Alternate take • Unknown Take ii stereo


Sgt. Pepper's Sessions

Unofficial album

3:32 • Alternate take • RM20 From Take 8 mono


Live performances

Paul McCartney has never played this song in concert.


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