Beatles – Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

My favorite psychedelic song and it was on Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. The “Lucy” who inspired this song was Lucy O’Donnell (later Lucy Vodden), who was a classmate of John’s son Julian Lennon when he was enrolled at the private Heath House School, in Weybridge, Surrey. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds — Lupus Trust UK

It was in a 1975 interview that Lennon said, “Julian came in one day with a picture about a school friend of his named Lucy. He had sketched in some stars in the sky and called it Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.”

Many thought Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds was about LSD because of the initials but John denied it all of his life. I believe John because he was honest about much worse than this…John went to great lengths to deny any drug connotations involved in this song.

John did say he was inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland. He wrote the song with help from Paul. One of the highlights of this song is Paul’s bass playing. His walking bass line builds suspense through the song and then kicks in with the chorus.

This was banned by the BBC for what they thought were drug references. A Day In The Life was also banned off of the same album.

John Lennon: “I didn’t even see it on the label. I didn’t look at the initials. I don’t look – I mean I never play things backwards. I listened to it as I made it. It’s like there will be things on this one, if you fiddle about with it. I don’t know what they are. Every time after that though I would look at the titles to see what it said, and usually they never said anything.”

From Songfacts

The identity of the real Lucy was confirmed by Julian in 2009 when she died of complications from Lupus. Lennon re-connected with her after she appeared on a BBC broadcast where she stated: “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.”

Confusion over who was the real Lucy was fueled by a June 15, 2005 Daily Mail article that claimed the “Lucy” was Lucy Richardson, who grew up to become a successful movie art director on films such as 2000’s Chocolat and 2004’s The Life And Death Of Peter Sellers. Richardson died in June 2005 at the age of 47 of breast cancer.

Lennon affirmed this on the Dick Cavett Show, telling the host, “My son came home with a drawing of a strange-looking woman flying around. He said, ‘It’s Lucy in the sky with diamonds.’ I thought, ‘That’s beautiful.’ I immediately wrote the song about it.”

It’s not just fans that didn’t believe him: Paul McCartney said it was “pretty obvious” that this song was inspired by LSD.

In our interview with Donovan, who was good friends with John Lennon and joined The Beatles on their 1968 retreat to India, he made the point that Lennon often thought in terms of artwork, and like Donovan did on this song “Wear Your Love Like Heaven,” Lennon painted images in his head that became the lyrics for this song. “When we put the painter’s brush down and we picked up the guitar, a lot of the songwriters started ‘painting’ songs,” he said. “You’d just have to think of John’s ‘Picture yourself on a boat on a river’ – you’re actually in a movie or you’re in a painting. ‘Tangerine trees and marmalade skies’ – he’s painting.

The images Lennon used in the song were inspired by the imagery in Through The Looking-Glass, the sequel to the book Alice In Wonderland. “It was Alice in the boat,” Lennon explained in a Playboy interview. “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.”

George Harrison played a tambura on this track. It’s an Indian instrument similar to a sitar that makes a droning noise. He had been studying with Indian musician Ravi Shankar, who is the father of Norah Jones.

Elton John released a cover version of this song in 1974 that hit #1 in the US the first week of 1975. Elton is the only artist to top the tally with a Beatles cover, although Peter & Gordon took “A World Without Love,” which was written by Lennon and McCartney, to #1 in 1964.

John Lennon sang and played guitar on Elton’s “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” but reportedly forgot some of the chords and needed Davey Johnston, Elton John’s guitarist, to help him out. Lennon made a surprise appearance in Elton’s Thanksgiving concert in New York and performed three songs, which proved to be his last public performance.

Actor William Shatner, who played Captain Kirk on Star Trek, covered this in his dramatic, spoken-word style. In at least one poll, this version was voted the worst Beatles cover of all time.

In 1974, Johanson and Gray named the 3 million-year-old Australopithecus fossil skeleton they discovered (the oldest ever found) Lucy, after this song because it was playing on the radio when Johanson and his team were celebrating the discovery back at camp. >>

Lennon said “The girl with kaleidoscope eyes” turned out to be Yoko: “There was also the image of the female who would someday come save me… a ‘girl with kaleidoscope eyes’ who would come out of the sky. It turned out to be Yoko, though I hadn’t met Yoko yet. So maybe it should be ‘Yoko in the Sky with Diamonds.'”

During the media controversy over this song in June of 1967, Paul McCartney admitted to a reporter that the band did experiment with LSD. 

In 2004, McCartney addressed the issue of drugs in an interview with the Daily Mirror newspaper: “‘Day Tripper,’ that’s one about acid. ‘Lucy In The Sky,’ that’s pretty obvious. There are others that make subtle hints about drugs, but it’s easy to overestimate the influence of drugs on The Beatles’ music. Just about everyone was doing drugs in one form or another, and we were no different, but the writing was too important for us to mess it up by getting off our heads all the time.”

A group called John Fred and his Playboy Band had a #1 hit in 1968 with “Judy In Disguise (with Glasses),” a song that is a parody of “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.”

In the Anthology one of the Beatles referred to being on LSD as like seeing through a kaleidoscope. Although Lennon denied this is about drugs, it does refer to “The girl with kaleidoscope eyes.” 

This song is very distinctive musically: It’s in three different keys and uses two different beats. 

Lennon admitted to British journalist Ray Connolly in an interview around the time of the break-up of the Beatles that he didn’t think he sang this song very well. “I was so nervous I couldn’t sing,” he said, “but I like the lyrics.”

In 2004 the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics announced the discovery of the universe’s largest known diamond, white dwarf star BPM 37093. Astronomers gave the star the catchier name of “Lucy” from this song.

Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

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 taxis 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 the 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

Author: badfinger20 (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

38 thoughts on “Beatles – Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”

  1. Elton took his remake to #1- If The Beatles had released it as a single in 1967 I see no reason why it wouldn’t have topped the charts… except of course some stations may have banned it..

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Banning it may have made it more popular lol. I do think it would have been a hit.
      Elton made a good pop record but it lost it’s psychedelic feel.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. What would your Top pick from Sgt. Pepper to be a single? Imagine how many “hits’ they could have had if they had wanted just hits- so many great potential hits not even released as single.

        Like

    1. I’m sure some of it was inspired by it…that I’m almost sure of…but Alice in Wonderland makes sense.
      Something I forgot to add. David Gilmour of Pink Floyd owns the painting by Julian…I think he bought it in an auction.

      Like

  2. Never knew it was about Lennons kids classmate. Man I learn something new here almost everyday. lol
    Like the other 10 million people in the world I thought this tune was about LSD as its friggin trippy!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s genius the way this song captured the exhilarating beauty of a GOOD acid trip. You can almost feel the sunshine running through your veins. It is the quintessential psychedelic song. Itchycoo Park is a close second. Pink Floyd’s Careful with that Axe, Eugene is the other side of the psychedelic experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s so funny, I had not seen that post and literally just mentioned the same tune in a comment on your Joe Walsh post.

    “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” is definitely among my all-time favorite Beatles songs. The entire Sgt. Pepper album is a true masterpiece, and on most days, I would call it my favorite Fab Four record.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A great song no matter what the inspiration. And despite being a huge Elton fan, I’ll give the nod to the original over his cover, though he did a fine job too. I think maybe they were savvy enough to know that calling it that would add to the mystery and help generate publicity… I mean, it was sure psychedelic but Paul said at the time they were just smoking a whole lot of pot. the Julian picture and the ‘Alice in wonderland’ connection make sense, big question is what was Carroll on?? That was one trippy book!!!
    All in all one of the best songs on one of – maybe THE – best albums of that decade.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I always thought that the song gets kinda pushed aside at times when people talk about the Beatles. Personally it’s one of my favorites by them.
      Elton did a great job…it was number 1 for goodness sakes but it did lose it’s psychedelic feeling but that was probably necessary for the time.

      You HAVE to wonder about Carroll don’t you?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. perhaps a bizarre and very wild imagination, but maybe he found some of those odd mushrooms over on the wild British moors or something. The really strange thing was that it was written so far back. But it had great imagery.
        In a pinch I’d put this song right behind a “Day in the Life” for Sgt Pepper tracks and probably around #5 – #7 overall by them.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Even if the song is mostly from John (and Julian), I see the double meaning as intentional and a likely Paul contribution. Paul has always done those song titles and phrases that have double meanings. Still does.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yea like “I’d Like To Turn You On” in A Day in the Life. I can see that. I also can see the song written while on or experience from the drug.

      Like

      1. “In Birmingham they love the Governor, boo, boo, boo
        Now we all did what we could do”

        Like

      2. OH. They were singing “Boo!” 😄 I thought it was “Ooo, ooo, ooo…” I never caught the “B” part.

        Learn something new everyday.

        I have another one to find…Nick Knight 1989.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. LOL… it was governor George Wallace who they were booing.

        TV movies are sketchy at getting them BUT…it found it! I’ll tell you in a few if it’s it.

        Like

  7. One of my faves of the Beatles’ songs.. but I think that both reasons for the title can be true: acid AND a kid’s drawing. Or more likely, he looked at the drawing while tripping… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes I’m sure the two were mixed really well. Paul also…he wasn’t excluded. I don’t doubt John on the title and the Lewis Carroll influence…but yea I’m sure Acid leant to the proceedings.

      Liked by 1 person

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