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Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" is a song written mostly by John Lennon (with some material by Paul McCartney) in 1967 and recorded by The Beatles for their album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The song has a complex arrangement typical of later Lennon-McCartney compositions; much of the song is in triple metre or 3/4 time, except in the chorus where it switches to 4/4 time. It is said to have been the first rock song written in two different metres or beats.[citation needed] The song also shifts between musical keys, using the key of A for the verse, B-flat for the pre-chorus or bridge section, and G for the chorus. It consists of a very simple melody (reminiscent of a nursery song), sung by Lennon over an increasingly-complicated underlying arrangement, featuring a Sitar played by George Harrison and a Hammond Organ whose sound was altered by Lennon and producer George Martin.

The lyrics of the song feature image-laden verses which present an overtly psychedelic travelogue describing a boat trip through a fantastical land of "cellophane flowers", "newspaper taxis" and "marshmallow pies" alternating with chorus sections which simply repeat the song's title. This, as well as the initials of the title (Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds) and the dreamlike-quality of the melody, has led many to speculate that the song was written in reference to LSD.

Julian's drawing

According to the Beatles, one day in 1966 Lennon's son Julian came home from nursery school with a drawing he said was of his classmate, a girl named Lucy. Showing the artwork to his father, young Julian described the picture as "Lucy - in the sky with diamonds."

Julian later 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 for a song about Lucy in the sky with diamonds."

Lucy - in the sky with diamonds by a young Julian Lennon
Lucy - in the sky with diamonds by a young Julian Lennon

His son's artwork appears to have inspired Lennon to draw heavily on his own childhood affection for Lewis Carroll's Wool and Water chapter from Through the Looking-Glass. At least one lyric was influenced by both Carroll and skits on a popular British comedy programme (the Goon Show) making references to plasticine ties, which showed up in the song as Plasticine porters with looking glass ties. Carroll's work has also been cited as having influenced Lennon's two books, In His Own Write and A Spaniard in the Works.

Who was Lucy?

The Lucy referred to in the song may have been Lucy O'Donnell, born in Weybridge in 1963 (making her the same age as John's son)[citation needed]. She sat next to Julian at Heath House School[citation needed]. She has met up with him on a few occasions in the last few years, and occasionally appears on daytime shows for the anniversary of the "Sergeant Pepper's" album. She is featured in the book "A Hard Days Write". She now lives in Surbiton in Surrey, and owned a nanny agency for children with special needs until she was taken ill with psoriatic arthritis and lupus some years ago.

There is another candidate for the original Lucy — British comedian Peter Cook's daughter, Lucy. Lennon and Cook were seeing quite a bit of each other at the time (Lennon made a guest appearance on Cook's TV show Not Only... But Also as a doorman). According to Cook's biographer, Harry Thompson, Lennon told Cook's then wife, Wendy, that the song was inspired by Lucy Cook.

Reference to drugs and the title of the song

While Lennon and the Beatles were often frank about their drug use, for decades they denied that "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" had anything to do with LSD. In a 2004 interview, Paul McCartney spoke openly about his Beatles-era drug use, revealing that songs such as "Day Tripper" and "Got To Get You Into My Life" were written directly about LSD and marijuana [1] When questioned about "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," he noted that Julian's painting had inspired the song, but that it was "pretty obvious" that the song was about an acid trip [2]

In a 1971 interview Lennon recalled hearing about how the initials of the title spelled out LSD, then checking if the same thing had happened with other Beatles songs and finding "they didn't spell out anything." In 1980 he confirmed the images were taken from Alice in Wonderland.

In The Beatles Anthology (2000), Ringo claimed he was present when Julian showed his "crazy little painting". Paul recounted the time he and John spent in John's music room, swapping suggestions for lyrics, saying, "We never noticed the LSD initial until it was pointed out later, by which point people didn't believe us."

Although the Beatles say they did not name the song after LSD, it is worth noting that the song was conceived and recorded during a time when the Beatles were experimenting with LSD frequently, and creating much of their music under the influence. It is possible that "Strawberry Fields Forever" was the product of such sessions, which would account for the surreal and dreamlike lyrics.

Cultural echoes

The song has since been covered by many artists, as have dozens of Beatles songs. A 1968 version by actor William Shatner (included on his album The Transformed Man) wasn't successful at the time but became well-known on the Internet decades later. Reportedly, in both informal and more structured polls of music fans, Shatner's rendition is considered one of the worst pop recordings ever, although the notoriety has perhaps only helped his musical career.

The most successful remake was recorded in 1974 by Elton John , which appeared on the 1976 ephemeral musical documentary All This and World War II, with background vocals and guitar by John Lennon (who used the pseudonym Dr. Winston O'Boogie) This version was released as a single and topped the Billboard pop charts for two weeks in January 1975. A very different cover was by pianist John Bayless, as a minuet in the style of Bach.

The song inspired the name of an anthropological find. On November 30, 1974, Donald Johanson and Tom Gray discovered the skeleton of a 3.18 million year old female hominid in the Afar Triangle of Ethiopia. They called it Lucy because the Beatles hit was playing while they were discussing a name.

In 1988 Frank Zappa changed the lyrics of the song to satirize the sex scandal revolving around televangelist Jimmy Swaggart. In this version it was called: "Louisiana Hooker with Herpes". Due to legal reasons, the song is not available on the official Zappa catalogue.

On 13 February 2004 astronomers at Harvard announced the discovery of BPM 37093, a celestial object which appears to be a carbon star. Carbon being the element diamonds are composed of, they whimsically named it Lucy, likely in reference to Arthur C. Clarke's 2061: Odyssey Three (1987), which speculates that the core of Jupiter may be an Earth-sized diamond, formed by carbon sedimenting from the outer layers (and when a mountain-sized chunk of diamond appears on Jupiter's moon Europa, Clarke's characters use the codeword "Lucy" to communicate the discovery).

In an episode of The Simpsons, Lisa is given nitrous oxide by her dentist and hallucinates in a scene inspired by The Beatles' Yellow Submarine movie. In it, she encounters the four Beatles in their yellow submarine, with George Harrison saying, "Look, it's Lisa in the sky!" Followed by Lennon lamenting "No diamonds though."

In January 1968, John Fred and the Playboy Band parodied the song on their hit single "Judy in Disguise (With Glasses)" which purposely sounds like "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds." Interestingly enough, the single knocked another Beatles single, "Hello Goodbye", down the charts.

Katie Melua performed a cover version of the song on the Sharon Osbourne Show in the UK.

The song also plays an important role in the movie I am Sam, starred by Sean Penn, in which he names his daughter (Dakota Fanning) Lucy Diamond because of the song.


  • [1] Paul McCartney's BBC Interview

External links

  • MoreThings Al Barger's Analysis
  • Lucy Richardson at IMDB
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