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August 6, 2015

17 Known Facts About the Song 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds' by The Beatles

"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. Shortly after the song's release, speculation arose that the first letter of each of the title nouns intentionally spelled LSD. Here are 17 known facts about the inspiration, composition, and reverberating impact of this classic song.

1. The "Lucy" who inspired this song was Lucy O'Donnell (later Lucy Vodden), who was a classmate of John's son Julian Lennon when he was enrolled at the private Heath House School, in Weybridge, Surrey. It was in a 1975 interview that Lennon said "Julian came in one day with a picture 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."

Lucy at age six.

The identity of the real Lucy was confirmed by Julian in 2009 when she died of complications from Lupus. Lennon re-connected with her after she appeared on a BBC broadcast where she stated: "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."

2. In 2009, Julian Lennon released the EP “Lucy” when he found out that his childhood friend Lucy Vodden was suffering from Lupus. All the proceeds from the EP benefitted the Lupus Foundation in the United States and UK. It was then that Julian revealed that the original drawing was lost and bought at an auction by David Gilmour of Pink Floyd.

Julian Lennon’s “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” Painting

About the drawing Julian said,
“It got lost. So how it was found or who may have taken it, I have no idea, but it’s now been re-found and David Gilmour from Pink Floyd has it and kindly allowed us to use a copy of it for the art work” for “Lucy.”

3. Many people thought this was about drugs, since the letters "LSD" are prominent in the title, and John Lennon, who wrote it, was known to drop acid. In 1971 Lennon told Rolling Stone that he swore that he had no idea that the song's initials spelt L.S.D. He added: "I didn't even see it on the label. I didn't look at the initials. I don't look - I mean I never play things backwards. I listened to it as I made it. It's like there will be things on this one, if you fiddle about with it. I don't know what they are. Every time after that though I would look at the titles to see what it said, and usually they never said anything."

The Beatles in 1967

4. Paul McCartney would later say it was "pretty obvious" that this song was inspired by LSD.
The images Lennon used in the song were inspired by the imagery in the book Alice In Wonderland.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland's cover of the 1898 edition.

5. George Harrison played a tambura on this song. It's an Indian instrument similar to a sitar that makes a droning noise. He had been studying with Indian musician Ravi Shankar, who is the father of Norah Jones.

George Harrison playing sitar.

6. The song was banned by the BBC (British Broadcasting Company) for what they thought were drug references.

Cover art for the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band The Beatles in 1967.

7. In 1974, this was a #1 hit for Elton John. Lennon sang and played guitar on his version, but reportedly forgot some of the chords and needed Davey Johnston, Elton John's guitarist, to help him out. Lennon made a surprise appearance in Elton's Thanksgiving concert in New York and performed 3 songs, which proved to be his last public performance.

Front cover for the single "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" by Elton John.

8. Actor William Shatner, who played Captain Kirk on Star Trek, covered this in his dramatic, spoken-word style. In at least one poll, this version was voted the worst Beatles cover of all time.

Cover art for the album The Transformed Man by William Shatner, which including the Beatles' cover "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds."

9. In 1974, Johanson and Gray named the 3-million-year-old Australopithecus fossil skeleton they discovered (the oldest ever found) Lucy, after this song because it was playing on the radio when Johanson and his team were celebrating the discovery back at camp.

Donald Johanson (left) assembles the Lucy skeleton for the first time with French colleague Maurice Taieb. Image: Courtesy Institute of Human Origins, Arizona State University.

10. During the media controversy over this song in June of 1967, Paul McCartney admitted to a reporter that the band did experiment with LSD.

Paul McCartney, 1967.

11. In 2004, McCartney addressed the issue of drugs in an interview with the Daily Mirror newspaper: "'Day Tripper,' that's one about acid. 'Lucy In The Sky,' that's pretty obvious. There are others that make subtle hints about drugs, but it's easy to overestimate the influence of drugs on The Beatles' music. Just about everyone was doing drugs in one form or another, and we were no different, but the writing was too important for us to mess it up by getting off our heads all the time."

The Beatles in the Sgt Pepper suits, 1967.

12. A group called John Fred and his Playboy Band had a #1 hit in 1968 with "Judy In Disguise (with Glasses)," a song that was a parody of this.

Front cover for the album Agnes English by John Fred and his Playboy Band, which including the song "Judy In Disguise (with Glasses)."

13. In the Anthology one of the Beatles referred to being on LSD as like seeing through a kaleidoscope. Although Lennon denied this is about drugs, it does refer to "The girl with kaleidoscope eyes."

Collage of The Beatles Anthology covers, created by Klaus Voormann.

14. Lennon said "The girl with kaleidoscope eyes" turned out to be Yoko.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono, at a reception, 1968.

15. This song is very distinctive musically. It's in 3 different keys and uses 2 different beats.

The Beatles posed for a photo-shoot in 1967.

16. Lennon admitted to British journalist Ray Connolly in an interview around the time of the break-up of the Beatles that he didn't think he sang this song very well. "I was so nervous I couldn't sing," he said, "but I like the lyrics."

George Harrison, and John Lennon on The Frost Programme, 1967.

17. In 2004 the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics announced the discovery of the universe's largest known diamond, white dwarf star BPM 37093. Astronomers gave the star the catchier name of "Lucy" from this song.

Carats of the largest diamond in space, a crystalized star that was named Lucy after the Beatles song "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds".

(via Songfacts)


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