Day 159: “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”

When was it recorded?   Feb. 28 and Mar. 1-2, 1967

When was it first released, and on which album?   Jun. 1, 1967 on “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”

Who wrote it?   Lennon (with noteworthy contribution from McCartney)

Have I heard this song before?   Yes

What my research dug up:

“I had no idea it spelt LSD. This is the truth: my son [Julian] came home with a drawing and showed me this strange-looking woman flying around. I said, ‘What is it?’ and he said, ‘It’s Lucy in the sky with diamonds,’ and I thought, ‘That’s beautiful.’ I immediately wrote a song about it.” — John Lennon

Quoth Julian, “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…” The original painting appeared in Steve Turner’s, A Hard Day’s Write: The Stories Behind Every Beatles’ Song. Ta-dah.

"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" by Julian Lennon

On a sadder note, SongFacts tells us, “The identity of the real Lucy was confirmed by Julian in 2009 when she died of complications from Lupus.” Lucy O’Donnell (later Vodden) attended the private nursery school Heath House with Julian and “didn’t realize she had been immortalized in a Beatles song until she was 13, in 1976” (Beatles Bible). She gave a few interviews about the song before her death, which don’t add much to my post here but are worth checking out all the same.

Despite experimenting with lysergic acid diethylamide in the late ‘60s and creating a highly trance-like mood in the song, the Beatles all maintain “Lucy” was not intended to be a drug song.

“The images were from Alice In Wonderland. 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. 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. …It was purely unconscious that it came out to be LSD. Until somebody pointed it out, I never even thought of it.” — John Lennon (David Sheff, All We Are Saying)

John took the drawing to Paul’s house and the two swapped “psychedelic suggestions” in the latter’s music room (McCartney, Anthology). According to Paul, “I remember coming up with ‘cellophane flowers’ and ‘newspaper taxis’ and John answered with things like ‘kaleidoscope eyes’ and ‘looking glass ties’. We never noticed the LSD initial until it was pointed out later – by which point people didn’t believe us.”

“Lucy” switches between a 6/8 tempo in the verses and 4/4 time in the chorus. Richie Unterberger wrote in his “Lucy” song review, “There are few other songs that so successfully evoke a dream world, in both the sonic textures and words.  …The lyrics, whether ingested with the aid of substances or not, are very much like those seen in a dream… The song also unfolds with the lack of linear logic that characterizes dreams.”

The Beatles spent eight hours working on “Lucy” on Feb. 28, 1967. Nothing was recorded during this studio session. They began recording “Lucy” the next day, with seven takes completed. Quoth the Beatles Bible, “A composite of the rhythm track from take six, the tambura from take seven and the overdubbed chorus vocals was released in 1996 on ‘Anthology 2.’”

The Fab Four finished overdubbing vocals, bass, and guitar tracks the following day, making “Lucy” one of the quickest recordings for the “Sgt. Pepper” album.

BBC Radio, of course, banned “Lucy” from airplay for being about drugs.

“Lucy” appears in the film “Yellow Submarine” and its songtrack.

 

Well that’s thoroughly creepy.

I do like “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” but I don’t think it’s as jaw-droppingly ~*amazing*~ as a number of people I know find it.  Maybe I’m not on the right drugs or something.  But it’s well-crafted and fun, which is good enough.

 

Sources

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucy_in_the_Sky_with_Diamonds

http://www.beatlesbible.com/songs/lucy-in-the-sky-with-diamonds/

http://www.allmusic.com/song/lucy-in-the-sky-with-diamonds-mt0030663288

http://www.icce.rug.nl/~soundscapes/DATABASES/AWP/litswd.shtml

http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=120

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