“Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” the iconic hit featured on the Beatles’ much-celebrated 1967 album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, is probably among one of the most mesmerizing and musically inventive Billboard-toppers of all time. Described by Rolling Stone magazine as “Lennon’s lavish daydream,” everything from “Lucy’s” illusive lyrics to its complex arrangement has enhanced the psychedelic tune’s enduring power – and legacy. Here are seven lesser-known facts about the inspiration, composition, and reverberating impact of this rock ‘n’ roll classic, from Lucy in the Mind of Lennon.
1) It was banned by the BBC (British Broadcasting Company) for what they thought were thinly-veiled drug references. Speculations that the song’s title was a clever mnemonic for the psychedelic drug LSD, and that lyrical content of the song itself detailed the band’s experience with drug experimentation, never quite escaped Lennon, who denied those rumors up until his death in 1980. “It was purely unconscious that it came out to be LSD,” he insisted. “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.” (Source: All We Are Saying, David Sheff)
2) In fact, “Lucy’s” song title was actually inspired by a picture that Lennon’s then four-year-old son, Julian, painted of classmate Lucy O’Donnell. “I was trundled home from school and came walking up with one of my watercolor paintings,” Julian recalled years later in an attempt to address popular misconception. “It was just a bunch of stars and this blonde girl I knew at school. And Dad said, ‘What’s this?’ I said, ‘It’s Lucy in the sky!'” The Beatles’ 1968 Christmas Record also featured another of Julian’s drawings. (Source: Hey Jules)
3) The dream-like images referenced in Lennon’s song lyrics were inspired by imagery from Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland. “The images were from Alice In Wonderland,” said Lennon in 1980. “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.” (Source: All We Are Saying, David Sheff)
4) George Harrison played a tambura on this song. A long-necked lute played in Macedonia and Bulgaria, the tambura is a stringed folk instrument that is similar to a mandolin. Harrison had previously incorporated tambura samples in other tracks featured on the Beatles’ 1966 album Revolver, including “Tomorrow Never Knows.”
5) In 1974, this cover of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” was a #1 hit for Elton John.
6) Actor William Shatner also covered the song in dramatic, spoken-word style.
7) 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 “Lucy.”
And now a “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” cover playlist: