Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, “The Beatles” Edition” where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s and 70’s. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!
The Beatles Lucy In The Sky With DiamondsThe “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.”
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.”
Confusion over who was the real Lucy was fueled by a June 15, 2005 Daily Mail article that claimed the “Lucy” was Lucy Richardson, who grew up to become a successful movie art director on films such as 2000’s Chocolat and 2004’s The Life And Death Of Peter Sellers. Richardson died in June 2005 at the age of 47 of breast cancer.
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.”
Lennon affirmed this on the Dick Cavett Show, telling the host, “My son came home with a drawing of a strange-looking woman flying around. He said, ‘It’s Lucy in the sky with diamonds.’ I thought, ‘That’s beautiful.’ I immediately wrote the song about it.”
It’s not just fans that didn’t believe him: Paul McCartney said it was “pretty obvious” that this song was inspired by LSD.
In our interview with Donovan, who was good friends with John Lennon and joined The Beatles on their 1968 retreat to India, he made the point that Lennon often thought in terms of artwork, and like Donovan did on this song “Wear Your Love Like Heaven,” Lennon painted images in his head that became the lyrics for this song. “When we put the painter’s brush down and we picked up the guitar, a lot of the songwriters started ‘painting’ songs,” he said. “You’d just have to think of John’s ‘Picture yourself on a boat on a river’ – you’re actually in a movie or you’re in a painting. ‘Tangerine trees and marmalade skies’ – he’s painting.
The images Lennon used in the song were inspired by the imagery in the book Alice In Wonderland.
George Harrison played a tambura on this track. 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.