Song facts: Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds was written mostly by John Lennon with some help from Paul McCartney, and released on Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band on June 1st 1967.

The song was inspired by Julian Lennon after he brought home a painting he drew at school that he called Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Julian made the painting for his nursery school classmate Lucy O'Donnell.

It was alleged that each of the first letters in the title's nouns formed the acronym LSD, and thus a drug reference. This was repeatedly denied by both John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Lennon claimed he drew inspiration for the lyrics from Lewis Carroll's Alice In Wonderland books.

"I had no idea it spelt LSD. This is the truth: my son 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
"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 visualising 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. So maybe it should be Yoko In The Sky With Diamonds.

It was purely unconscious that it came out to be LSD. Until somebody 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. The imagery was Alice in the boat. And also the image of this female who would come and save me - this secret love that was going to come one day. So it turned out to be Yoko, though, and I hadn't met Yoko then. But she was my imaginary girl that we all have." - John Lennon

"I showed up at John's house and he had a drawing Julian had done at school with the title 'Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds' above it. Then we went up to his music room and wrote the song, swapping psychedelic suggestions as we went. 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." - Paul McCartney

John and Julian Lennon, 1967. 

John and Julian Lennon, 1967. 

Recording

On February 28th, 1967 The Beatles spent eight hours rehearsing the song without any recording.; then the following day on March 1st they began recording; which consisted of taping the rhythm track in seven takes: piano, acoustic guitar, organ, drums and maracas. 

The following day on March 2nd Lennon added his lead vocals with McCartney providing backing vocals; bass and guitar where then added to the track, and recording was completed in full.

A combination of take six and seven was later released on Anthology 2 in 1996. 

Personnel

  • John Lennon – double-tracked vocal, maracas, acoustic guitar, piano
  • Paul McCartney – harmony vocal, bass guitar, Lowrey organ
  • George Harrison – lead guitar, tambura
  • Ringo Starr – drums
The Beatles recording Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, March 1967. 

The Beatles recording Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, March 1967. 

George Harrison recording Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, March 1967. 

George Harrison recording Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, March 1967. 

George Harrison recording Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, March 1967. 

George Harrison recording Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, March 1967. 

Elton John, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds single, 1974.

Elton John, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds single, 1974.

Elton John version

Elton John recorded a version of the song in the summer of 1974, with John Lennon providing backing vocals and guitar. Lennon appears credited under the pseudonym Dr Winston O'Boogie.

Elton released Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds as a single on November 18th, 1974, with another Lennon composition included as the B-side - One Day (At a Time)from Lennon's 1973 album Mind Games.

On January 4th 1975, Elton John scored his third US number one hit with his cover of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. It stayed at number one for two weeks, before being displaced by Barry Manilow. It was also certified Gold by the RIAA on January 29th, 1975.

Personnel

  • Elton John - lead and backing vocals, piano, mellotron, harpsichord
  • John Lennon - backing vocals, guitars
  • Davey Johnstone - backing vocals, electric guitar, sitar
  • Dee Murray - bass guitar, backing vocals
  • Nigel Olsson - drums, backing vocals
  • Ray Cooper - tambourine, tubular bells, gong, maracas, mark tree, congas
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