This article is about The Beatles' song. For the comic book character "Lucy in the Sky", see Karolina Dean. For the Glee television episode, see Tina in the Sky with Diamonds.
"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" is a song written primarily by John Lennon and credited to Lennon-McCartney, for the Beatles' 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Lennon's son Julian inspired the song with a nursery school drawing he called "Lucy--in the sky with diamonds". Shortly after the song's release, speculation arose that the first letter of each of the title nouns intentionally spelled LSD. Lennon consistently denied this, insisting the song was inspired by Lewis Carroll's Alice In Wonderland books, a claim repeatedly confirmed by Paul McCartney.
Despite persistent rumors, the song was never officially banned by the BBC, and aired contemporaneously on BBC Radio at least once, on 20 May 1967.
Most of the song is in simple triple metre (3/4 time), but the chorus is in 4/4 time. The song modulates between musical keys, using the key of A major for verses, B♭ major for the pre-chorus, and G major for the chorus. It is sung by Lennon over an increasingly complicated underlying arrangement which features a tamboura, played by George Harrison, lead electric guitar put through a Leslie speaker, played by Harrison, and a counter melody on Lowrey organ played by McCartney and taped with a special organ stop sounding "not unlike a celeste". Session tapes from the initial 1 March 1967 recording of this song reveal Lennon originally sang the line "Cellophane flowers of yellow and green" as a broken phrase, but McCartney suggested that he sing it more fluidly to improve the song.
Lennon's inspiration for the song came when his son, Julian, showed him a nursery school drawing he called "Lucy--in the Sky with Diamonds", depicting his classmate Lucy O'Donnell (later Lucy Vodden). Julian Lennon 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..." Vodden, in a BBC radio interview in 2007, said, "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." O'Donnell died in 2009 at age 46 after suffering from lupus.
According to both Lennon and Ringo Starr, who witnessed the moment, Julian first uttered the song's title upon returning home from nursery school. Lennon later recalled of the painting and the phrase, "I thought that it was beautiful. I immediately wrote a song about it."
Rumours of the connection between the title of "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" and the initialism "LSD" began circulating shortly after the release of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band LP in the summer of 1967. Lennon said he was surprised at the idea that the song title was a hidden reference to LSD, countering that the song "wasn't about that at all": "It was purely unconscious that it came out to be LSD. Until someone 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."
Paul McCartney confirmed Lennon's claim on several occasions, the earliest in 1968:
When you write a song and you mean it one way, and someone comes up and says something about it that you didn't think of--you can't deny it. Like "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds," people came up and said, cunningly, "Right, I get it. L-S-D," and it was when newspapers were talking about LSD, but we never thought about it.
McCartney further rebuffed the claims in a 1997 BBC Radio interview with Michael Parkinson by saying: "It wasn't about LSD. Because otherwise it would have been called 'LITSWD.' Because the initials aren't 'LSD.' Lucy in the sky with diamonds is more like that."
However, in a 2004 interview with Uncut magazine, McCartney confirmed that drugs did influence some of the group's compositions at that time, including "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds", though he tempered this analysis by adding: "It's easy to overestimate the influence of drugs on the Beatles' music."
Alice In Wonderland:
According to both Lennon and McCartney, the lyrics were largely derived from the literary style of Alice In Wonderland. Lennon had read and admired the works of Lewis Carroll, and the title of Julian's drawing reminded him of the Wool and Water chapter of Through the Looking Glass in which Alice floats in a "boat beneath a sunny sky":
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.
McCartney remembered of the song's composition, "We did the whole thing like an Alice In Wonderland idea, being in a boat on the river...Every so often it broke off and you saw Lucy in the sky with diamonds all over the sky. This Lucy was God, the Big Figure, the White Rabbit." He later recalled helping Lennon finish the song at Lennon's Kenwood home, specifically claiming he contributed the "newspaper taxis" and "cellophane flowers" lyrics.
Lennon's original handwritten lyrics sold at auction in 2011 for $230,000.
Rolling Stone magazine described the song as "Lennon's lavish daydream" and music critic Richie Unterberger said "'Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds' was one of the best songs on the Beatles' famous Sgt. Pepper album, and one of the classic songs of psychedelia as a whole. There are few other songs that so successfully evoke a dream world, in both the sonic textures and words." In a review for the BBC, Chris Jones described the song as "nursery rhyme surrealism" that contributed to Sgt. Pepper's "revolutionary ... sonic carpet that enveloped the ears and sent the listener spinning into other realms."
In later interviews, Lennon expressed disappointment with the Beatles' arrangement of the recording, complaining that inadequate time was taken to fully develop his initial idea for the song. He also said that he had not sung it very well. "I was so nervous I couldn't sing," he told journalist Ray Connolly, "but I like the lyrics."
John Lennon - double-tracked vocal, maracas, acoustic guitar, piano,
Paul McCartney - harmony vocal, bass guitar, Lowrey organ,
George Harrison - lead guitar, tamboura,
Ringo Starr - drums,
Personnel per Ryan Kehew.
Elton John version:
In 1974, Elton John released a cover version as a single. Recorded at the Caribou Ranch, it featured backing vocals and guitar by John Lennon under the pseudonym Dr. Winston O'Boogie (Winston being Lennon's middle name). The single topped the US Billboard pop charts for two weeks in January 1975 as well as the Canadian RPM national singles chart for four weeks spanning January and February, eventually. The B-side of the single was also a John Lennon composition, "One Day (At a Time)", from Lennon's 1973 album Mind Games. As with the A-side, Lennon appears on the B-side, playing guitar. In the US it was certified Gold on 29 January 1975 by the RIAA. With this release Elton John became the second of only two artists to have a Beatles' cover reach #1. (Joe Cocker was the first to do so when his cover of "With a Little Help From My Friends" reached #1 on the UK singles chart in 1969.)
During their collaboration, Elton John appeared on John Lennon's song "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night". Lennon promised to appear live with Elton at Madison Square Garden if "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night" became a #1 single. It did, and on Thanksgiving Night, 28 November 1974, Lennon kept his promise. They performed "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night", and "I Saw Her Standing There".
In introducing "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", Elton John said he believed it to be "one of the best songs ever written." The Lennon-sung "I Saw Her Standing There" (credited to the Elton John Band featuring John Lennon) was originally released in 1975 on the B-side of Elton John's "Philadelphia Freedom" single. In 1981, all three live songs were issued on 28th November 1974, an Elton John EP. In 1990, the three songs were made available on the Lennon box set. In 1996, they were also included on the remastered edition of Elton John's Here and There album. Elton John once stated that "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds is a song that I never do in a set at a concert simply because it reminds me too much of John Lennon. This is the same with Empty Garden." It was a part of his standard repertoire from 1974 until 1976, and sporadically until 1998.
It also appeared in the 1976 musical documentary All This and World War II.
Canadian RPM Top Singles
Germany (Official German Charts)
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)
UK (Official Charts Company)
U.S. Billboard Hot 100
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,
In 1968, William Shatner on The Transformed Man,
In 1977, the London Symphony Orchestra on Classic Rock,
In 1978, Natalie Cole on the album Natalie Live!,
In 1978, Stargard in the movie Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band,
In 1987, the Hooters as a B-side to "Johnny B.",
In 1987, Pianist/composer John Bayless on his Bach on Abbey Road album (entire song in 3/4 time, including choruses, as a Bachian minuet),
In 1988, The Christians on the charity compilation album Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father,
In 1988, Frank Zappa parodied the song in live concerts as "Louisiana Hooker with Herpes", with lyrics about Jimmy Swaggart and his sex scandal,
In 1992, Marilyn Manson & the Spooky Kids parodied the song as "Luci in the Sky with Demons" on the cassette tape The Family Jams,
In 2001, the Black Crowes on the soundtrack of the movie I Am Sam,
In 2003, Hyde on the single "Horizon",
In 2005, Katie Melua on Piece by Piece,
In 2006, PUFFY on the Hataraku Otoko single, for the anime series Hataraki Man,
In 2007, Bono and The Edge performed the song on the Across the Universe soundtrack,
In 2009, Easy Star's Lonely Hearts Dub Band,
In 2009, Cheap Trick released Sgt. Pepper Live, which included the song,
In 2009, Cobra Starship released Living in The Sky With Diamonds, a reference to the song,
In 2011, Veronica Maggio released single "Jag kommer", which includes a reference to the song,
In 2012, Mac Miller released "Desperado", which samples the song in its outro,
In 2012, Tyler Carter released a song titled "Lucy At Midnight," which was based on The Beatles' song.,
In 2014, The Flaming Lips released a cover of the song, featuring Miley Cyrus and Moby on vocals.,
In 2014, the Brazilian telenovela Império featured a cover of the song by Dan Torres as the series' opening credits theme.,
The song has the distinction of being the first Beatles recording to be referenced by the group themselves: the second verse of Lennon's "I Am the Walrus", released on Magical Mystery Tour at the end of 1967, contains the lyric "see how they fly, like Lucy in the sky, see how they run..."
In November 1967 John Fred and his Playboy Band released a parody/tribute song called "Judy in Disguise (With Glasses)" which topped the US Billboard Hot 100 chart for two weeks and reached the number one spot in a number of other countries around the world.
The Dream Theater song "Octavarium" contains three song names:
Sailing on the seven seize the day tripper diem's ready
Jack the ripper Owens Wilson Phillips and my supper's ready
Lucy in the sky with diamond Dave's not here I come to save the
Pink Floyd namechecks "Lucy in the sky" on "Let There Be More Light", the opening song on A Saucerful of Secrets (1968). The lyrics are by Roger Waters.
The name of the German band Tangerine Dream was inspired by the line "tangerine trees and marmalade skies".
It was played by the Grateful Dead from 1993, and subsequently played by The Dead.
Porcupine Tree's debut album On the Sunday of Life released in 1991 features the song "Footprints" directly referring to the song. Its chorus contains the lyrics: "tangerine trees and marmalade skies! And plasticine porters with looking-glass ties!"
A 3.2-million-year-old, 40% complete fossil skeleton of an Australopithecus afarensis specimen discovered in 1974 was named "Lucy" because the Beatles song was being played loudly and repeatedly on a tape recorder in the camp. The phrase "Lucy in the skies" became "Lucy in disguise" to the anthropologists, because they initially did not understand the impact of their discovery.
The White dwarf star BPM 37093, which contains a core of crystallised carbon roughly 4000 km in diameter, is informally named "Lucy" as a tribute to the Beatles song.
One of the main characters of Hiro Mashima's manga Fairy Tail, Lucy Heartfilia, takes her name from the song.
Jim Carrey's character in the film Mr. Popper's Penguins uses the first two lines of the song as a sales pitch to describe the establishment that his company plans on building to take the place of an old restaurant.
In the 2001 film I Am Sam, Sam (Sean Penn) names his daughter (Dakota Fanning) "Lucy Diamond Dawson" after the song. Beatles song covers and references are prominent throughout the film.
In Angela Robinson's short movie D.E.B.S., one of the main characters is named Lucy in the Sky. In the feature film, D.E.B.S., based on the short, the character is named Lucy Diamond.
The song "La Fee Verte" by British rock band Kasabian contains the lyric "I see Lucy in the sky, Telling me I'm high."
The Swedish rock band Royal Republic mentioned "Lucy in the sky" in their song "Full Steam Spacemachine": "I love to lie with Lucy in the sky, no one can ever know".
In Veronica Maggio's song "Jag kommer", the second line of the song says "I'm Lucy in the Sky, I'm high above the clouds."
The lyrics of the song often become a mondegreen; for example, the line "The girl with kaleidoscope eyes" becomes "A girl with colitis goes by."
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license