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.
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.
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’s Adventures 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.
All We Are Saying, David Sheff
‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’ 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.
The song 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.
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.
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.
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.
John Lennon recorded his lead vocals on 2 March, with harmony backing from Paul McCartney. They both manually double-tracked their performances, and then McCartney’s bass and George 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.