Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (Lennon/McCartney)

Although Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds is thought by many to be about an acid trip (note that the title's initials spell out 'LSD'), John has vehemently denied this. Rather, the song was inspired by a drawing done by son Julian depicting a schoolmate named Lucy Vodden, floating high in the sky surrounded by diamonds. John found it very interesting and thought a lot about it and used several images from The Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. He was also very inspired by the British comedy radio show 'The Goon Show'. Lucy Vodden died on September 28, 2009, after a long battle with lupus.

Julian's drawing

Julian Lennon's drawing of Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
Julian Lennon's drawing of Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

Introducing the audio phase shifter

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds was the first song ever to employ an audio phase shifter. The sound was originally known as "flanging" because of the way it was first implemented, i.e. by laying your finger against the flange of a tape reel. It came about accidentally when engineer Geoff Emerick, while using the automatic double-tracking system (an electronic looping of one track over to another) didn't notice that a box was rubbing against a portion of the flange of the tape reel as it went around, thereby slowing the tape speed down slightly. When played back together with the original track, the audio signals were mixed slightly out-of-phase with each other producing a pitch shifting effect. The original effect was so slight that producer George Martin and the Beatles had to listen to the track several times before they heard it. Once they realized what was happening, Emerick and Martin found out how to make the effect more pronounced and it can be heard in the background when John starts singing "Newspaper taxies appear on the shore" as a rising pitch impressed on music. For those who are unfamiliar with phase-shifting, an easy way to hear it is to bend over at the waist when a jet plane if flying high overhead and listen to the pitch of the jet's engines rise as your head gets closer to the ground, then fall as you straighten up. The phase shift is occurring as you change the timing between when the engine noise reaches your ears directly and the reflections bouncing off the ground. Early songs of note with prominent phase shifters are Itchycoo Park by the Small Faces and the drum solo in In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida by Iron Butterfly. Jimi Hendrix was a big fan of the phase shifter and used one frequently on his guitar. (Thanks to MG)

Quotes

"My son Julian came in one day with a picture he painted 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,' Simple. 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. So maybe it should be 'Yoko in the Sky with Diamonds.'" - John Lennon, Playboy, 1980

"I also happened to be there the day Julian came home from school with a pastel painting of his classmate Lucy's face against a backdrop of exploding, multi-colored stars.  Unusually impressed with his son's handiwork, John asked what the drawing was called.  'It's Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Daddy,' Julian replied. 'Fantastic!' said John - and promptly incorporated that memorable phrase into a new song. Though John was certainly ingesting inordinate amounts of acid around the time he wrote 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,' the pun was indeed sheer coincidence." - Pete Shotten

"This one is amazing.  As I was saying before, when you write a song and you mean it one way, and then 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, very cunningly, 'Right,  I get it. L-S-D,' and it was when all the papers were talking about LSD, but we never thought about it. What happened was that John's son Julian did a drawing at school and brought it home, and he has a schoolmate called Lucy, and John said what's that, and he said, 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds' - so we had a nice title." - Paul McCartney

Release history

Notable covers

  • Elton John (single, later from Greatest Hits Vol. 2)
  • William Shatner (from The Transformed Man)

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