Beatles – She’s Leaving Home

I got this album when I was 10 years old and they even included the cutouts 10 years after it was released.

This song was on the Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band album. The album was probably the most influential rock album ever released. Other bands followed with psychedelic albums with varying results. The Zombie’s Odessey and Oracle was a great one but the Stones’ Their Satanic Majesties Request disappointed many fans. Sgt Pepper worked well but The Beatles would completely move on after their next EP – Album Magical Mystery Tour.

Not only were the songs different but the sound was different than their last albums. The two that stood out were Ringo’s drums and his use of toms on songs like A Day In The Life. Paul’s bass playing was brilliant. His bass on the album and especially Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds stands up to anything today…the sound of the bass also was crystal clear.

She’s Leaving Home took me a while to appreciate but when I got older I was blown away. This song was inspired by a real runaway named Melonie Coe. She had been on the television show, Ready, Steady Go, and won a prize for a miming and dancing contest. The Beatles were performing on the program and it was Paul who presented her with her prize.

Fast forward a couple of years and Melanie ran away from home in the afternoon leaving a note for her mother to find when she returned.  Melanie was running away with her boyfriend because she was in the early stages of pregnancy. She ended up breaking up with the guy.

The story of her disappearance was reported in the British newspaper, The Daily Mirror, and when Paul McCartney read it, he began to write the song She’s Leaving Home. The headline read: A-Level Girl Dumps Car and Vanishes.

It’s doubtful if Paul remembered Melanie from their brief encounter.

In the article, her father said “I cannot imagine why she should run away, she has everything here … even her fur coat.” And Lennon and McCartney turned that into “We gave her everything money could buy.”
Melanie moved to Los Angeles, having decided to become an actress. She didn’t make it and her only claim to fame was that she dated Burt Ward…a.k.a Robin in the television series Batman. She moved back to England and then on to Southern Spain where she became a real estate agent.

Melanie Coe 3

Paul was excited about this song and rang George Martin up to do it NOW. George couldn’t record when Paul wanted to so Paul recruited  Mike Leander…another producer. That didn’t sit well with Martin and he was hurt but there wasn’t much he could do.

George Martin: “It was the song that got away, It was the song I wanted to do…It was just one of those silly things. He was so damned impatient and I was up to my eyes with other work and I just couldn’t cope. But Paul realizes now, though he was surprised that I was upset.”

Melanie Coe: “The amazing thing about the song was how much it got right about my life, It quoted the parents as saying ‘we gave her everything money could buy’ which was true in my case. I had two diamond rings, a mink coat, hand-made clothes in silk and cashmere and even my own car. Then there was the line ‘after living alone for so many years,’ which really struck home to me because I was an only child and I always felt alone…I heard the song when it came out and thought it was about someone like me but never dreamed it was actually about me…I must have been in my twenties when my mother said she’d seen Paul on television and he’d said that the song was based on a story in a newspaper. That’s when I started telling my friends it was about me.”

Melanie Coe: “I first heard the song when it came out and I didn’t realize it was about me, but I remember thinking it could have been about me….I found the song to be extremely sad. It obviously struck a chord somewhere. It wasn’t until later, when I was in my twenties, that my mother said, ‘You know, that song was about you!’ She had seen an interview with Paul [McCartney] on television and he said he’d based the song on this newspaper article. She put two and two together.”

Paul McCartney: “We’d seen a story in the newspaper about a young girl who had left home and not been found. There were a lot of those at the time, That was enough to give us a story line. So I started to get the lyrics: she slips out and leaves a note and then the parents wake up and then…It was rather poignant. I like it as a song, and when I showed it to John, he added the Greek chorus, long sustained notes, and one of the nice things about the structure of the song is that it stays on those chords endlessly. Before that period in our songwriting we would have changed chords but it stays on the C chord. It really holds you. It’s a really nice little trick and I think it worked very well.”

“Greek chorus” entails by adding: “While I was showing that to John, he was doing the Greek chorus, the parents’ view: ‘We gave her most of our lives, we gave her everything money could buy.’ I think that may have been in the runaway story, it might have been a quote from the parents.”

John Lennon: “Paul had the basic theme for this song, but all those lines like ‘We sacrificed most of our life…we gave her everything money could buy,’ those were the things Mimi used to say to me. It was easy to write.”

She’s Leaving Home

Wednesday morning at five o’clock as the day begins
Silently closing her bedroom door
Leaving the note that she hoped would say more
She goes downstairs to the kitchen clutching her handkerchief
Quietly turning the backdoor key
Stepping outside she is free

She (We gave her most of our lives)
Is leaving (Sacrificed most of our lives)
Home (We gave her everything money could buy)
She’s leaving home after living alone
For so many years (Bye bye)

Father snores as his wife gets into her dressing gown
Picks up the letter that’s lying there
Standing alone at the top of the stairs
She breaks down and cries to her husband “Daddy our baby’s gone
Why would she treat us so thoughtlessly?
How could she do this to me?”

She (We never thought of ourselves)
Is leaving (Never a thought for ourselves)
Home (We struggled hard all our lives to get by)
She’s leaving home after living alone
For so many years (Bye bye)

Friday morning at nine o’clock she is far away
Waiting to keep the appointment she made
Meeting a man from the motor trade

She (What did we do that was wrong)
Is having (We didn’t know it was wrong)
Fun (Fun is the one thing that money can’t buy)
Something inside that was always denied
For so many years (Bye bye)

She’s leaving home
Bye bye

Beatles – Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band

This is a great opening track to this famous album. What a way to introduce probably the most famous album ever.

The slicing guitar stands out and the drum sound that Ringo got. Paul McCartney wrote this and sang lead. After recording it, he had the idea of doing the whole album as if Sgt. Pepper was a real band. It became the title track of what was considered a “concept” album, with the songs running seamlessly together on the record.

The title is a parody of American bands who were choosing long names for their bands.

Three days after the album came out, Jimi Hendrix opened a concert with this. McCartney and Harrison were both there, and were very impressed that Hendrix learned it so quickly.

Jimi Hendrix cover The Beatles' 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band'

The reprise of the song is right before A Day In The Life.

This song was produced in a rush when The Beatles decided to bring back the theme song to introduce the last track on the album, “A Day In The Life.” The idea to reprise the song came from Neil Aspinall, The Beatles’ friend and road manager.

George Harrison, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr played this on May 19, 1979 at Eric Clapton’s wedding. Clapton married Harrison’s ex-wife, Pattie. Pattie didn’t think John Lennon would fly over from America so she never sent an invititation. John Lennon said later he would have come.

From Songfacts

The album was heavily produced and took 129 days and about 700 hours to complete. The Beatles first album, Please Please Me, was recorded in less than 10 hours.

The crowd noise was dubbed in. The Beatles had stopped touring by then.

There really is an apostrophe in this song’s title, although on the album cover, it is rendered without. Since the Lonely Hearts Club Band belongs to Sgt. Pepper, it is possessive, thus “Sgt. Pepper’s.”

This is reprised at the end of the album before the final track, “A Day In The Life.”

This was recorded as one song with “With A Little Help From My Friends.” They flow seamlessly on the album, creating a problem for radio stations that want to play just one of the songs. 

Artist Peter Blake designed the album cover as if Sgt. Pepper’s band had just performed a concert. He asked The Beatles who they wanted at the concert, and put them in the cover design.

All living people depicted on the cover were asked permission. Mae West refused at first – she didn’t want to be part of a “Lonely Hearts Club Band” – but The Beatles wrote her a letter and she agreed. Other characters depicted on the album cover include comedic duos Laurel & Hardy and Abbott & Costello, Marilyn Monroe, Shirley Temple and W.C. Field. 

Lennon wanted Jesus, Gandhi, and Hitler on the cover. He had recently taken a lot of heat for saying The Beatles were “Bigger than Jesus,” so they decided not to.

It was rumored that the hand that is sticking out above Paul is that of Adolph Hitler. A Hitler cut out was on the set, but if you look at some side shots of the photo session, you can clearly see that the hand belongs to comic Issy Bonn, whose face is seen in between Paul McCartney and George Harrison. 

On the cover of this album McCartney is taller than the other Beatles. This added to rumors of his death, since there is also a hand above Paul’s head which is an omen of death. Also, if you take a mirror and put the edge on the center of the Lonely Hearts Club Band drum an arrow will point directly to McCartney.

Sgt. Pepper was the first pop album to come with printed lyrics on the cover.

Twelve years after “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “With a Little Help from My Friends” appeared on the Sgt. Pepper album, they were released together as a two-song medley and reached US #71 and UK #63. 

In 2005, Bob Geldof helped organize Live 8, a set of concerts held in eight countries with the goal of promoting activism. The concerts coincided with the G-8 summit, and Geldof was hoping to send a message to world leaders that they should increase aid to Africa and institute fair trade practices. On the London stage, U2 played this with McCartney to kick off the concert. The opening line, “It was 20 years ago today,” was a reference to Live Aid, which Geldof organized for famine relief in 1985.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was the first rock album to win a Grammy for Album of the Year. 

On the album cover, Paul McCartney is wearing an Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) badge on his right sleeve. You can see this better on the inside artwork. 

The hand-painted drum skin used on the cover of the Sgt Pepper album was sold at Christie’s House in London on 10th July 2008 for £541,250 ($1,071,000) – setting a record for non-lyrics Beatles memorabilia.

In 2007, the Beatles Story museum in Liverpool went on a search for real Sgt. Peppers and found seven police or army officers in the UK that were sergeants with the last name Pepper. “Being Sgt. Pepper is awesome but sometimes people think I am bogus when I call them on the phone or introduce myself,” Sgt. Sean Pepper of Highfields said.

Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

It was twenty years ago today
Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play,
They’ve been going in and out of style,
But they’re guaranteed to raise the smile,
So may I introduce to you,
The act you’ve known for all these years,
Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

We’re Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
We hope you will enjoy the show
Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Sit back and let the evening go
Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely
Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely
Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

It’s wonderful to be here,
It’s certainly a thrill
You’re such a lovely audience,
We’d like to take you home with us, we’d love to take you home

I don’t really want to stop the show,
But I thought you might like to know,
That the singer’s going to sing a song
And he wants you all to sing along,
So let me introduce to you
The one and only Billy Shears
And Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Oh ha ha
Yeah, dress down
I feel it, I feel it, I feel it
Oh baby now, I feel it, I feel it, I feel it
Baby, free now
Gotta be free now, gotta be free now, gotta be free
Don’t like that
I think it’ll probably be another day singing it
Yeah so just edit that then, it’s nice
Yeah, and what you can do with the bits where you can’t get it ’cause you haven’t got enough breath
Just take over, yeah

Beatles – A Day In The Life…Epic Rock Songs Week

There is one thing I can say about every song this week… I can safely use the word masterpiece to describe all of them.

I posted this song a while back but I had to include it in this week’s group of songs… When John Lennon starts to sing with that echo on his voice… Chills go down my spine. It’s like a voice out of the fog and it’s haunting. It is without a doubt my favorite vocal of all time.

When asked what my favorite Beatles song is…It usually depends on what Beatle mood I’m in…early, middle or late…but this one is always near the top.

A Day In The Life came to life by John and Paul by melding two songs together. It’s working title was  “In The Life Of….”

Parts of this song was based on two stories John Lennon read about in the Daily Mail newspaper. Guinness heir Tara Browne dying when he smashed his Lotus into a parked van. Also an article in the UK Daily Express in early 1967 which told of how the Blackburn Roads Surveyor had counted 4000 holes in the roads of Blackburn and commented that the volume of material needed to fill them in was enough to fill the Albert Hall.

The lyrics I saw a film today oh boy, the English army had just won the war was about a film that John had appeared in called How I Won The War.

The middle “woke up got out of bed…” was a song Paul was writing and it fit perfectly in this puzzle. McCartney contributed the line “I’d love to turn you on.” This was considered a drug reference and the BBC quickly banned it…that guaranteed the song would be huge.

The still had 24 bars at the end of song they needed to be filled. Producer George Martin asked John Lennon what he wanted… John answered that question with this:

“I want it to be like a musical orgasm…What I’d like to hear is a tremendous build-up, from nothing up to something absolutely like the end of the world. I’d like it to be from extreme quietness to extreme loudness, not only in volume, but also for the sound to expand as well. I’d like to use a symphony orchestra for it. Tell you what, George, you book a symphony orchestra, and we’ll get them in a studio and tell them what to do.”

An orchestra was needed to achieve that but George Martin could not see charging EMI for a full 90 piece orchestra for just 24 bars of music. So Ringo…Ringo said well why not hire half the orchestra and have them play it twice? Everyone turned around  stunned by the simplicity of it. John then said do it.

Then the orchestra kicks in and it sounds like the end of the earth until a long piano chord shuts the door on the song.

A 41-piece orchestra played on this song. The musicians were told to attend the session dressed formally. When they got there, they were presented with party novelties (false noses, party hats, gorilla-paw glove) to wear, which made it clear this was not going to be a typical session. The orchestra was conducted by Paul McCartney, who told them to start with the lowest note of their instruments and gradually play to the highest. 

After that they all played the last piano chord at the same time. Engineers turned the faders up so high that you can hear the Abbey Road air conditioner.

In 2005 Q magazine ranked A Day In The Life as the number 1 British song of all time.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/4235010.stm

1. A Day In The Life – The Beatles
2. Waterloo Sunset – The Kinks
3. Wonderwall – Oasis
4. God Save The Queen – Sex Pistols
5. Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
6. My Generation – The Who
7. Angels – Robbie Williams
8. Life on Mars? – David Bowie
9. Sympathy For The Devil – Rolling Stones
10. Unfinished Sympathy – Massive Attack
 

Paul McCartney: “‘A Day In The Life’ was a song that John had started. He had the first verse, and this often happened: one of us would have a little bit of an idea and instead of sitting down and sweating it, we’d just bring it to the other one and kind of finish it together, because you could ping-pong – you’d get an idea. So he had the first verse: ‘I read the news today oh boy,’ and we sat in my music room in London and just started playing around with it, got a second verse, and then we got to what was going to lead into the middle. We kind of looked at each other and knew we were being a little bit edgy where we ‘I’d love to turn you on.’ We knew that would have an effect.

It worked. And then we put on another section I had: ‘Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head.’ Then we finished the song up and did a big sort of epic recording of it with a big full orchestra and everything. And then did that crescendo thing in the middle of it with the orchestra, which was an idea I’d had because I’d been talking to people and reading about avant-garde music, tonal stuff and crazy ideas. I came up with this idea. I said to the orchestra, ‘You should start, all of you.’ And they sat all looking at me puzzled. We’ve got a real symphony orchestra in London who are used to playing Beethoven, and here’s me, this crazy guy out of a group and I’m saying, ‘Everyone start on the lowest note your instrument can play and work your way up to the highest at your own pace.’ That was too puzzling for them, and orchestras don’t like that kind of thing. They like it written down and they like to know exactly what they’re supposed to do. So George Martin, the producer, said to the people, ‘You should leave this note and this point in the song, and then you should go to this note and this note,’ and he left the random thing, so that’s why it sounds like a chaotic sort of swirl. That was an idea based on the avant-garde stuff I was into at the time.”

 

From Songfacts

This was recorded in three sessions: First the basic track, then the orchestra, then the last note was dubbed in.

Regarding the article about Tara Browne, John Lennon stated: “I didn’t copy the accident. Tara didn’t blow his mind out. But it was in my mind when I was writing that verse.” At the time, Paul didn’t realize the reference was to Tara. He thought it was about a “stoned politician.” The article regarding the “4000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire” was taken from the UK Daily Express, January 17, 1967 in a column called “Far And Near.”

John’s friend Terry Doran was the one who completed John’s line, “Now they know how many holes it takes to fill…” Terry told him “fill the Albert Hall, John.”

The ban was finally lifted when author David Storey picked it as one of his Desert Island Discs.

The final chord was produced by all four Beatles and George Martin banging on three pianos simultaneously. As the sound diminished, the engineer boosted to faders. The resulting note lasts 42 seconds; the studio air conditioners can be heard toward the end as the faders were pushed to the limit to record it.

The rising orchestra-glissando and the thundering sound are reminiscent of “Entry of the Gods into Valhalla” from Richard Wagner’s opera “Das Rheingold,” where after the rising glissando, Thor beats with his hammer. George Martin said in his 1979 book All You Need is Ears that the glissando was Lennon’s idea. After Lennon’s death, Martin seems to have changed his mind. In his 1995 book Summer of Love: The Making of Sgt. Pepper, he states that the rising orchestra-glissando was McCartney’s idea. 

This being the last song on the album, The Beatles found an interesting way to close it out. After the final note, Lennon had producer George Martin dub in a high pitched tone, which most humans can’t hear, but drives dogs crazy. This was followed by a loop of incomprehensible studio noise, along with Paul McCartney saying, “Never could see any other way,” all spliced together. It was put there so vinyl copies would play this continuously in the run-out groove, sounding like something went horribly wrong with the record. Another good reason to own vinyl.

In 2004, McCartney did an interview with the Daily Mirror newspaper where he said he was doing cocaine around this time along with marijuana. “I’d been introduced to it, and at first it seemed OK, like anything that’s new and stimulating,” he said. “When you start working your way through it, you start thinking, ‘This is not so cool and idea,’ especially when you start getting those terrible comedowns.”

The movie reference in the lyrics (“I saw a film today, oh boy. The English Army had just won the war”) is to a film John Lennon acted in called How I Won The War.

McCartney’s middle section (woke up, got out of bed…) was intended for another song.

The Beatles started this with the working title “In The Life of…”

This is a rare Beatles song with a title that is not part of the lyrics. Another one is “Yer Blues.” 

That’s Mal Evans doing the counting during the first transition from John to Paul. He set the alarm clock (heard on the recording) to go off at the end of his 24-bar count. Evans also helped with the composition of a couple of songs on the Sgt. Pepper album. Although he never received composer’s credit, the Beatles did pay his estate a lump sum in the 1990s for his contributions. Evans died January 5, 1976 after a misunderstanding with the police. 

George Martin (from Q Magazine, July 2007): “John’s voice – which he hated – was the kind of thing that would send shivers down your spine. If you hear those opening chords with the guitar and piano, and then his voice comes in, ‘I heard the news today, oh boy’ It’s just so evocative of that time. He always played his songs to me on the guitar and I would sit on a stool as he strummed. The orchestral section was Paul’s idea. We put two pieces of songs together that weren’t connected in any way. Then we had that 24-bars-of-nothing in between. I had to write a score, but in the climax, I gave each instrument different little waypoints at each bar, so they would know roughly where they should be when they were sliding up. Just so they didn’t reach the climax too quickly. With ‘A Day In The Life,’ I wondered whether we were losing our audience and I was scared. But I stopped being scared when I played it to the head of Capitol Records in America and he was gob smacked. He said, That’s fantastic. And of course, it was.” 

David Crosby was at Abbey Road studios when The Beatles were recording this. In an interview with Filter magazine, he said: “I was, as near as I know, the first human being besides them and George Martin and the engineers to hear ‘A Day In The Life.’ I was high as a kite – so high I was hunting geese with a rake. They sat me down; they had huge speakers like coffins with wheels on that they rolled up on either side of the stool. By the time it got the end of that piano chord, man my brains were on the floor.” 

When asked by Rolling Stone magazine what songs of his dad’s constantly surprise him, Sean Lennon said: “I’ve listened so much to that stuff that there are very few surprises. But I do think ‘A Day In The Life’ is always inspiring.”

On June 18, 2010 John Lennon’s handwritten lyric sheet for this song featuring corrections and alternate crossed-out lines was auctioned at New York Sotheby’s. It was sold for $1.2 million to an anonymous American buyer.

This was rated the greatest ever Beatles song in a special collector’s edition issue by The Beatles: 100 Greatest Songs. The list was compiled to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the Fab Four’s final studio album, Let It Be.

There is term for the techniques The Beatles used in arranging the final chords of this song: Deceptive Cadence. Glen Burtnik, who was a member of Styx and was also in a popular Beatles tribute band, told us: “It’s an instance where the listener assumes the next chord, or melody note, will go somewhere it doesn’t. Even though all the indications lead you to expecting a certain outcome, the writer/arranger intentionally surprises you by going someplace else musically. Not sure it’s simple to understand, as you’re conditioned to being used to the outcome.”

Peter Asher, who worked for The Beatles at Apple Records and produced the biggest hits of James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt, considers this the greatest Beatles song from a production standpoint. “‘A Day In The Life’ certainly combined Beatle ideas and George Martin ideas very effectively,” he told Songfacts.

Keith Richards named his second son Tara after Tara Brown, the Guinness heir who smashes his car in Lennon’s first verse. Richard’s son was premature and died soon after birth.

I read the news today oh boy
About a lucky man who made the grade
And though the news was rather sad
Well I just had to laugh

I saw the photograph
He blew his mind out in a car
He didn’t notice that the lights had changed
A crowd of people stood and stared
They’d seen his face before
Nobody was really sure
If he was from the House of Lords

I saw a film today oh boy
The English army had just won the war
A crowd of people turned away
But I just had to look
Having read the book
I’d love to turn you on

Woke up, fell out of bed
Dragged a comb across my head
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup
And looking up I noticed I was late
Found my coat and grabbed my hat
Made the bus in seconds flat
Found my way upstairs and had a smoke
Somebody spoke and I went into a dream

I read the news today oh boy
Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire
And though the holes were rather small
They had to count them all
Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall
I’d love to turn you on

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