Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album artworkWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 28 February; 1, 2 March 1967
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Geoff Emerick

Released: 1 June 1967 (UK), 2 June 1967 (US)

John Lennon: vocals, lead guitar
Paul McCartney: backing vocals, Lowrey organ, bass
George Harrison: backing vocals, lead guitar, acoustic guitar, tambura
Ringo Starr: drums, maracas

Available on:
Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Anthology 2
Yellow Submarine Songtrack
Love

Although the title was widely perceived to be a coded reference to LSD, Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds in fact took its name from a drawing of a schoolfriend by the four-year-old Julian Lennon.

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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

There can be little doubt, however, that the song was directly influenced by John Lennon’s continual experimentation with LSD, which hit a peak in 1967. However, in 1980 he claimed the main inspiration came from Alice In Wonderland.

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
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

The song is structured in two distinct parts: the dreamlike verses in 6/8, with their gently psychedelic imagery; and the switch to 4/4 for the chorus.

Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds was mostly written by Lennon, with a little help from Paul McCartney.

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
Anthology

And the Lucy of the title? Her name was Lucy O’Donnell, and she attended Heath House, a private Weybridge nursery school, with Julian Lennon. She didn’t realise she had been immortalised in a Beatles song until she was 13, in 1976.

Julian Lennon's painting of Lucy in the sky with diamonds

In 1980 John Lennon criticised the arrangement and studio production, claiming it didn’t do justice to the song itself.

I heard Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds last night. It’s abysmal, you know? The track is just terrible. I mean, it is a great track, a great song, but it isn’t a great track because it wasn’t made right. You know what I mean? I feel I could remake every fucking one of them better. But that’s the artistic trip, isn’t it? That it why you keep going, always trying to make that next one the best.
John Lennon
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

In the studio

The Beatles spent an eight-hour night time session on 28 February 1967 rehearsing the song, without any recording taking place.

The next day, 1 March, they recorded seven takes. The Beatles taped just the rhythm track: piano, acoustic guitar, organ, drums and maracas. Lennon sang the lead vocals off-microphone to guide the recording. Take seven had a tambura, the Indian drone-like instrument.

On 2 March Lennon recorded his lead vocals, with harmony backing from McCartney. They both manually double-tracked their performances, and then McCartney’s bass and Harrison’s lead guitar were overdubbed.

With that they were finished. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds was one of the fastest recordings made for Sgt Pepper.

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.

39 responses on “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

    1. Joe Post author

      I believe it’s a Lowrey DSO Heritage Deluxe electronic organ played by Paul McCartney. The sound is a combination of the harpsichord, vibraharp, guitar and music box stops on the instrument.

  1. McLerristarr

    I recently read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass because John Lennon liked them. They were weird, but not in the trippy way I was expecting. I was waiting for that river sequence in Looking-Glass and it was probably the most confusing part of the book. Humpty Dumpty isn’t involved however, he comes in later. I guess he remembered it wrong. Being 17, it’s hard for me to imagine things happening so long ago I can’t remember.

  2. EltonJohnLennon

    I don’t think that this song was co-written. Yes, Paul said so but it’s not new that he claims to have worked on various Lennon solo numbers.

    However, I have the booklet of Sgt. Pepper. And there it is written:

    “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”

    writer: John, lead vocal: John.

    1. paulsbass

      Yeah, who’s Paul claiming to have more knowledge about that session than you!

      There’s a reason they their songs as “Lennon/McCartney” (although Paul infamously changed the names on “Wings over America” for his own songs), they were co-writers.
      Sure, in their later period they did more and more solo numbers, but still the other(s) would come up with ideas.

      If Paul specifically names the words he came up with, what gives you reason to doubt it?!

      Most of his “claims” fit John’s opinions.
      Read “Many years from now” and you will learn some REAL stuff, not just some “John was cool, Paul was sappy” clichee.

      1. EltonJohnLennon

        I think this booklet is a more reliable source than an authorized biography by Mr McCartney.

        I will never buy this book. It makes me angry. There are so many songs which are generally seen as solo numbers of John. But in this book Paul claims to have have worked on “Help!”, “Lucy in the Sky”, the first half of “A Day in the Life”, “I Feel Fine”, “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” etc.

        I mean is there a song Paul McCartney doesn’t take credit for? And the source is who? HIMSELF! He is the only one who said so. John never mentioned him when he talked about “Lucy in the Sky”.

        I don’t think that everything what Paul said is wrong. He is the composer of “Eleanor Rigby” and he helped to finish “Norwegian Woods”. But sometimes he gets unreliable.

        And: It’s kind of odd that he is only saying he contributed after Lennon died, but when he was still alive he never said he contributed to any of these songs. And that makes me angry.

        By the way: in the last three years (1967-1970) they worked rarely together. Example: the only co-written song on the “White Album” is “Birthday”. The rest were solo efforts

        1. Joseph Brush

          Although I agree with you about Many Years Ago, I must differ with you on John and Paul co-writing songs in the last three years.
          Along with Birthday, there are two other co-written songs where both partners made a substantial contribution—Baby, You’re A Rich Man and I’ve Got A Feeling.

          1. EltonJohnLennon

            You’re right. But they didn’t really work together on these songs. It’s the same as “A Day in the Life”. They connected two song fragments. And on “I’ve got a feeling” it works really good. But it’s right. They both contributed something.

        2. paulsbass

          LOL!
          Of COURSE he helped writing “Help”, they did it together in his house during one of their USUAL sessions. Macca would give Lennon high percentage on those songs, sometimes he says he didn’t contribute anything at all, so that answers your question with a big “Yes”.
          And remember: it was PAUL who came up with the fantastic intro to “LitSwD”!

          And of course he NEVER claimed he wrote the first half of “A day in the life”! Ridiculous! Get your facts right before getting angry, dude!

          While most of their “White album” songs were indeed solo efforts, sometimes even without another Beatle on the record, there were most obviously many ideas by the others used in the final song (e.g. John’s great piano intro to “Ob-la-di Ob-la-da”).

          Paul also asked John for lyrical advice for “Hey Jude”. Just another example.

          “Many years from now” is a fantastic book, and Macca sounds very honest and humble to me.

          But some Lennon-fans will never respect him, so no point in discussing here…

          1. EltonJohnLennon

            Yes, I’m a Lennon fan. But I respect Paul and his work. Nevertheless I’m sometimes a bit angry with him. He wrote great songs – Penny Lane, HelloGoodbye, Hey Jude, Let it Be – only a few examples.

            Take a look at the article of “A Day in the Life” on this page. There McCartney says:

            “The verse about the politician blowing his mind out in a car we wrote together.”

            So I wasn’t wrong. I have read a lot about this song. I know the facts. But Pauls statements are ambivalent. Elsewhere he said it was mainly Johns song (which is true in my opinion) and he just had the middle section. And makes him a bit unreliable.

            John played the piano on “Obladi-Oblada”. But what is your source concering the composer. What makes you think John wrote it. I think Paul showed him what he wanted to have.

            It’s always the same. Only because Paul played the Mellotron intro of “Strawberry Fields” it doesn’t mean that he wrote it. The same is true of “Lucy in the Sky”. Paul played the organ but who said that he composed what he played. Maybe he said but I don’t believe him.

            And what you said about “Hey Jude”. Are you serious? Of course John helped with the arrangement of the song. But that’s normal. They were partners and in the studio they worked a lot together. But would you mention him as a composer of the song (although all songs are credited to Lennon/McCartney)?

            Another example: Lady Madonna. John contributed the line “See how they run”. But would you mention him as a composer because of one single line. Then we could say all of their songs were co-written.

            1. Deadman

              ‘…because Paul played the Mellotron intro of “Strawberry Fields” it doesn’t mean that he wrote it.’

              There were, oftentimes, other people around when the Beatles worked out their parts. For example, people witnessed Paul inventing the mellotron part in SFF:
              “It was Paul, as usual, who discovered the musical potential instead of just the novelty value. Dialing up the flute sound, he began experimenting with the chords to John’s new song. Within a remarkably short time he’d worked out an arrangement that beautifully complemented Lennon’s haunting vocal line.”–Geoff Emerick and Howard Massey, Here, There and Everywhere (London, 2007), pp. 135-36.

              According to Emerick, John was particularly complacent during those sessions wherein LitSwD was completed:
              “Instead of being opinionated about everything, he was becoming complacent; in fact, he seemed quite content to have someone else do his thinking for him, even when we were working on one of his own songs. … he was becoming increasingly disengaged …”–Emerick and Massey, p. 174.
              It is quite believable, therefore, that Paul did mainly develop those parts which he played on LitSwD.

              1. julio

                Geoff Emmerick is completely unreliable. Any historian would tell you that. The amount of bias in his book is ridiculous. He throws John, Ringo and both Georges under the bus. While making himself look as the most important artist at the session besides Paul.

            2. paulsbass

              Ok, I didn’t know that article.
              If he says so, I have no reason to doubt it. Why do you?
              Why are you angry about that? Does that make John a less great composer?
              It is still “mainly John’s song” obviously, although Macca contributed greatly with his middlepart.

              George Martin says that Paul improvised the intro for “Lucy”.
              And of course that does NOT make him the writer of the song. That’s why your statement about that booklet looks so ridiculous to me.
              John improvised the intro to “Obladi”, but what makes you think that makes me think he was the main composer?! It doesn’t matter at all what you think, it was still like that:
              John came to the session in a good mood and hammered that intro like never before and thus kick-started “Obladi” which was kind of stuck before.

              In fact we totally agree:
              Apart from many songs in their early phase which they wrote 50:50 together there is always one MAIN songwriter, which is also the lead singer.
              But the other one(s) would almost always contribute something, sometimes more, sometimes just a single line (“You know, what I mean”!). I can only repeat, that is excactly why it’s ALWAYS “Lennon/McCartney”.

              It was YOU who implied, that “writer: John” meant NOBODY else contributed ANYTHING to the song, ESPACIALLY not Paul McCartney, ESPECIALLY not because he said he did.

              Apart from that: I think that Paul always suffered from being considered just the “nice” one, while he was the main force behind almost everything up from Sgt. Peppers.
              So he had the feeling that John got all the praise, so sometimes he thought it important to point out his own contributions.
              What’s so hard to get and understand about that?

              1. EltonJohnLennon

                Concerning your last part: I think Paul was very ambitious. Perhaps a bit too ambitious. I think he wanted to surpass John. That makes him – in my view – a bit uncool. He was energetic. John was more relaxed. But I know you have a different opinion.

                I have another argument. Paul didn’t like the “White Album” because everybody worked solely. If it would have been more a group thing he would have had more influence on the songs of the others. So he was upset because of that. On the other hand he recorded songs without integrating the other members. Especially John was hurt because of that. But this discussion is too generally.

                Obladi-Oblada: OK, John was responsible for that intro. But nevertheless he hated that song. And I would not use the word “compose”. It’s just a very simple chord change. I’ve tried it on the piano.

                A Day in the Life: I’ve said it before. Pauls statements are ambivalent. Sometimes he said this and sometimes he said that. John said the only contribution from Paul to his part was the line “I’d love to turn you on”. And George Martin said they wrote their parts separately. I’ve read this so often. Paul is the only one who has a different opinion.

                Lucy in the Sky: I think you underrate the significance of this booklet. It was made by the people who made Sgt. Pepper. Would you say the recording dates are also wrong? They are written in this book. Another example:

                “She’s Leaving Home”

                writers: Paul, with John. lead vocals: Paul, with John.

                That makes sense. It’s mainly Pauls song but John contributed the countermelody in chorus. This is a significant contribution.

                Back to Lucy. Of course the other members contributed something. But in form of arrangements. The intro repeats during the verses. So it’s a very important part. It is the base for Lennons vocals. So it’s hard for me to believe that another one wrote it. I think John wrote this song on the piano. He wrote most of his songs on the piano. And if Paul would have been responsible for that intro he would have been mentioned in this booklet.

                But it’s your choice. If you want to believe Pauls book do so.

            3. 2much4mymirror

              As is often the case, Paul’s comments leave it open as to whether he contributed only to the lyrics or to the melody also. LiSwD is a perfect example. The way Paul tells it seems to leave open the possibility that all John had was the title and Julian’s picture! “Then we went upstairs and wrote the song,” sounds like he might have been in on the writing of both lyrics and melody from the beginning. Its only when he says “swapping lines like ‘newspaper taxi’ etc.” that it becomes ambiguous and you think “Oh maybe he just added some lines.” Ironically, Wikipeida’s article on LiSwD says, “composed mainly by John Lennon” and cites the Barry Miles McCartney autobiography as its source!My impression has been that John had most of the words and the basic melody and if Paul did contribute musically, it might have been that instrumental opening and possibly the melody on the connecting passage “cellphane flowers…” Anybody have any information on the extent of Paul’s contribution to the melody?

              1. embrasure

                I read that too and immediately thought bulldust. Another version of events is in George Martin’s book “Summer of Love:The Making of Sgt Pepper” from 1994. George writes,”Paul has told me of the genesis of this marvellous song [LitSwD]“. He then quotes Paul: “…………We then went up to the music room at the top of the house and he played me the idea he had for it, starting with ‘Picture yourself….’” So importantly he said “played” meaning John had already begun setting his words to music using that chord sequence – also used for the intro – and that he would later use for “Dear Prudence”. And that intro which some want to gush about was no big deal. Just arpeggios based on John’s chords whoever played it. Strum those chords on the guitar and sing those words – the song is already there regardless.
                Interesting too that George Martin in his book rates Lennon’s songs as the standouts: Day in the Life, Lucy and Mr Kite inasmuch as he gave them plum positions on the album.
                That is all I want to say.

        3. AlbertCunning

          “I mean is there a song Paul McCartney doesn’t take credit for? And the source is who? HIMSELF! He is the only one who said so. John never mentioned him when he talked about “Lucy in the Sky”.”

          Jann Wenner: What do you think of your album?
          Lennon: I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I think it’s realistic and it’s true to the me that has been developing over the years from my life. “I’m a Loser,” “Help,” “Strawberry Fields,” they are all personal records. I always wrote about me when I could. I didn’t really enjoy writing third person songs about people who lived in concrete flats and things like that. I like first person music. But because of my hang-ups and many other things; I would only now and then specifically write about me. Now I wrote all about me and that’s why I like it. It’s me! And nobody else. That’s why I like it. It’s real, that’s all.
          I don’t know about anything else, really, and the few true songs I ever wrote were like “Help” and “Strawberry Fields.” I can’t think of them all offhand. They were the ones I always considered my best songs. They were the ones I really wrote from experience and not projecting myself into a situation and writing a nice story about it. I always found that phony, but I’d find occasion to do it because I’d be so hung up, I couldn’t even think about myself.
          On this album, there is practically no imagery at all.
          Lennon: Because there was none in my head. There were no hallucinations in my head.

          Wenner: There are no “newspaper taxis.”
          Lennon: Actually, that’s Paul’s line. I was consciously writing poetry, and that’s self-conscious poetry. But the poetry on this album is superior to anything I’ve done because it’s not self-conscious, in that way. I had the least trouble writing the songs of all time.
          Ono: There’s no bullshit.
          Lennon: There’s no bullshit.

        4. dale linhart

          Its been common knowledge forever that Paul wrote the middle of Day in the Life.I’ve seen numerous quotes from John saying he was stuck & Paul had an unfinished song which was the part he sings in the song starting with,woke up,fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head.I mean thats beyond common knowledge.As for the other songs, I mean c’mon!its Paul McCartney,he really doesn’t have to or would want to ride on Lennon’s coat tails.You sound absurd suggesting that.

          1. G_malo

            Eltonjohnlennon: I whole-heartedly agree with your comment (“…I think this booklet is a more reliable source than an authorized biography by Mr McCartney….” etc). Truly the proper thing for McCartmey to do would have been to remain silent on all Lennon-McCartmey songwriting, since John is gone. Seems a wee bit tacky, albeit ruthless, to start claiming specific lyric fragments and sections of melodies as your own. My 2 cents.

            1. Richard Boene

              Well it’s not like there aren’t other ways of looking at it. Some have argued that McCartney initially did not elaborate on his role in the songwriting partnership because he didn’t want to incite more controversy in the wake of Lennon’s initial claims about their partnership in light of the band’s breakup, and that much of what he has felt compelled to clarify was in response to how people chose to view Lennon in response to his tragic death. If you look around you’ll find plenty of instances where some of Lennon’s recollections have also been challenged by other sources. Everyone interested in this matter can only form their own views, though personal bias generally plays an unavoidable role in shaping those views I know. But, I believe that since McCartney was there as one half of the partnership he shared with Lennon, he has every right to elaborate on his role in it as Lennon did his when he was still living. Believe what you will, but it is so.

  3. robert

    I believe if you read the 1970 Rolling Stone interview with John (Lennon Remembers) when Jann Wenner mentions how John’s solo album (John Lennon – Plastic Ono Band) has very straightforward lyrics, Wenner says, “no newspaper taxis” – Lennon responds by saying, “That was Paul’s line” – my guess is Paul wrote some of the lyrics to Lucy In The Sky

    1. Joe Post author

      Of course. They were collaborating hugely during 1967, contributing ideas freely to each others’ songs. It was only really from 1968, post-India, that they began working alone.

      It was rare that one or the other brought a song fully formed into the studio, right from the early days. Often enought, “written by John” (or, indeed, Paul) meant he had the melody, first verse and the chorus, and the rest was fleshed out as they recorded it. To suggest that Paul didn’t suggest any lyrics to Lucy ITSWD seems pretty unlikely to me.

      1. paulsbass

        The problem is just that some Lennon-fans don’t get over the fact that Macca was more important then they’d like to make him.
        To them John was the leader and Paul the sappy happy douchebag.

        And to rate a single word in a BOOKLET over a whole biography by McCartney himself is more than funny.

  4. Hmmm

    Quoting: “There can be little doubt, however, that the song was directly influenced by John Lennon’s continual experimentation with LSD, which hit a peak in 1967.”

    Pure conjecture. There’s no way you can know that.

    1. Joe Post author

      Yes, but think about what inspired Lennon to write such surreal works. There’s a massive leap from She Loves You to Lucy In The Sky, and to suggest that his songwriting here hadn’t been affected by taking LSD is just daft. I realise that the lyrics were inspired by Lewis Carroll, but consider the broader picture.

  5. robert

    I think if a person is going to stake out a position on whether or not LSD inspired any of John’s lyrics (or melodies for that matter)- I think the person should state whether they themselves have taken LSD.

    I have taken LSD – many times – not thousands like John – but I did some in the early 70′s – and I have no doubt that LSD influenced John’s writing.

  6. MotTheWot

    Lennon’s criticism of the arrangement comes from his long standing belittlement of George Martin and his actual input and influence to The Beatles sound. Both Lennon & McCartney owe a huge debt to Martin, there is nothing abysmal about Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, it’s sounds more like Lennon’s original vision for the song might not have been up to standard? Lennon does not strike me as the sort of character that would say yes to something unless he really believed in it. If he had objections to Lucy as an arrangement he would’ve voiced it there and then. As for Maccas input? Sure he would’ve thrown in a line or two here and there, i am sure both of them did, but i notice that McCartney is giving himself a lot of credit for what we all know to be John’s songs? Is McCartney trying to re-write his musical history? I wouldn’t put it past him.

    1. Joao Querido

      John did say the song “Help” went out as a “jolly Beatle #”. I think he wanted it as a ballad. So no doubt with pressure they were under, contracts, & drugs some of his songs didn’t line up 100% with what he had in mind.
      I don’t know how they could have improved “Lucy”. I do like the Giles Martin mix on “Love” soundtrack. I think he adds the guitar from “Sgt Peppers Lonely hearts club” song. Nice touch.

  7. will

    who plays the piano? My guess is paul but it could be anyone really; its right after ringo’s count- in to the chorus and the piano chuggs along quietly but it does crash in with a full chord a couple of times

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