Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s and 70’s. Enjoy the trip!
The Beatles Tomorrow Never Knows
Like “A Hard Day’s Night,” the title came from an expression Ringo Starr used. The proper idiom is “tomorrow never comes,” meaning that when tomorrow arrived, it would become today. Ringo’s variation of the phrase took the edge off the heavy philosophical lyrics. Working titles for the song before Ringo gave them inspiration were “Mark I” and “The Void.”
John Lennon wrote this, and described it as “my first psychedelic song.” It was inspired by Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert’s book The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based On The Tibetan Book Of The Dead, which Lennon discovered at Indica Books and Gallery (inspiration for “Paperback Writer”).
The book is a reinterpretation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead and a guide to understanding it through psychedelic drugs. Lennon would read it while tripping on LSD, and according to his biographer Albert Goldman, he recorded himself reading from the book, played it back while tripping on LSD, and wrote the song.
The most overt reference to the book is the line:
Turn off your mind
Relax and float downstream
It is not dying
The book states: “Whenever in doubt, turn off your mind, relax, float downstream.”
To accompany the psychedelic imagery in Lennon’s lyric, each Beatle created strange sounds which were mixed in throughout the recording, often backward and in different speeds. Their producer, George Martin, was older and more experienced, but he allowed the group to experiment in the studio as much as they pleased.