- Disambiguation: Lucy in the Sky redirects here. For the heroine of this name, see Karolina Dean.
"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" is a song written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney that was recorded by The Beatles for their 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
The song has a complex arrangement typical of later Lennon-McCartney compositions; much of the song is in compound duple metre (6/8 time), except the chorus, where it switches to 4/4 time. The song also shifts between musical keys, using the key of A major for the verse, B♭ major for the pre-chorus or bridge section, and G major for the chorus . It consists of a very simple melody (reminiscent of a nursery song), sung by Lennon over an increasingly complicated underlying arrangement which features a tamboura, played by George Harrison, and a Lowrey organ played by Paul McCartney being taped with a special organ stop to give it a sound like a celeste.
Lyrics and title
Session tapes from the initial 1 March 1967 recording of this song reveal that Lennon originally sang the line "Cellophane flowers of yellow and green as a broken phrase, but McCartney suggested that he sing it more fluidly to improve the song.
According to the Beatles, one day in 1966 Lennon's son, Julian
, came home from nursery school with a drawing he said was of his classmate, a girl named Lucy. Showing the artwork to his father, young Julian described the picture as "Lucy — in the sky with diamonds."
Julian later said, "I don't know why I called it that or why it stood out from all my other drawings, but I obviously had an affection for Lucy at that age. I used to show dad everything I'd built or painted at school, and this one sparked off the idea for a song about 'Lucy in the sky with diamonds'."
His son's artwork appears to have inspired Lennon to draw heavily on his own childhood affection for Lewis Carroll's "Wool and Water" chapter from Through the Looking-Glass. At least one lyric was influenced by both Carroll and skits on a popular British radio comedy programme (The Goon Show) making references to "plasticine ties", which showed up in the song as "Plasticine porters with looking glass ties". A parody of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star", recited by the Mad Hatter, appears in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
Carroll's work has also been cited as having influenced Lennon's "I Am the Walrus" which refers to a character from Through the Looking-Glass and his two books, In His Own Write and A Spaniard in the Works.
Who was Lucy?
The Lucy referred to in the song was probably a classmate of Julian's at Heath House School named Lucy O'Donnell, born in Weybridge
in 1963. She has met up with him on a few occasions in the last few years, and occasionally appears on daytime shows for the anniversary of the "Sgt. Pepper's" album. She is featured in the book "A Hard Day's Night". She now lives in Surbiton
in Surrey, and owned a nanny agency for children with special needs until she was taken ill with psoriatic arthritis
some years ago.
There is another candidate for the original Lucy: British comedian Peter Cook's daughter, Lucy. Lennon and Cook were seeing quite a bit of each other at the time (Lennon made a guest appearance on Cook's TV show Not Only... But Also as a doorman). According to Cook's biographer, Harry Thompson, Lennon told Cook's then wife, Wendy, that the song was inspired by Lucy Cook.
According to documentary film that was shown on Russian TV, the title may refer to Lyudmila Zykina (or "Lucy") who met the Beatles in a restaurant and sang a Russian folk song for them.
Lucy was made into a fictional character for the movie musical, Across the Universe, which uses the songs of the Beatles to tell the story. Lucy is an American teenager who comes from a middle-class family and she falls in love with Jude, a British dockworker who comes to America to find his biological father.
Reference to drugs and the title of the song
recounted trading lyric ideas with Lennon in an interview, saying, "We never noticed the LSD initial until it was pointed out later, by which point people didn't believe us. This is confirmed by a 1971 interview of Lennon, where he admitted to curiously going so far as to search for acronyms in his other work, only to find "they didn't spell out anything." George Martin also denied the song was about LSD
in the book The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions
by Mark Lewisohn. However, Lewisohn goes on to say "there can be little doubt that this was the very substance that provoked such colourful word imagery to flow out of Lennon's head and onto paper." McCartney agrees in a 2004 interview, where he noted that Julian's painting had inspired the song, but that it was "pretty obvious" that the song was also inspired by LSD. For his part, Lennon attributed the colourful prose not to the drug, but to the writings of Lewis Carroll. George Martin also accredits the influence of Carroll and Dylan Thomas
Elton John version
The most successful remake was a single recorded in 1974
by Elton John
at the Caribou Ranch
with background vocals and guitar by John Lennon
(who used the pseudonym Dr. Winston O'Boogie). The single topped the Billboard pop charts for two weeks in January 1975
and also appeared on the ephemeral 1976 musical documentary, All This and World War II
During their collaboration, Elton John appeared on John Lennon's song "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night". Lennon promised to appear live with John at Madison Square Garden if it became a number 1 single. It did, and on Thanksgiving Night, November 28, 1974, Lennon kept his promise. They performed "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night", and "I Saw Her Standing There".
According to pop mythology, it was at this concert Lennon serendipitously reunited with Yoko Ono after the infamous Lost Weekend. This scene was fictionalized in the movie _A_Love_Story (1985). This would also be John Lennon's last major concert appearance before his death in 1980.
Those live versions are available on the Lennon box set, as well as Elton John's Here and There.
"It is a song that I never do in a set at a concert simply because it reminds me too much of John Lennon. This is the same with Empty Garden". Today, John does occasionally perform it. The single was later released on the 1996 re-release of Elton John's album Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy.
Other cover versions
The song has been covered
by many artists.
- A 1968 version by actor William Shatner (included on his album The Transformed Man) in which he speaks the lyrics in the style of a dramatic recitation, was unsuccessful at the time, but became well-known on the internet decades later. It was also included in the compilation album, Golden Throats. In the UK, it was championed by Kenny Everett, and appeared on his compilation album of bad pop songs. Reportedly, in both informal and more-structured polls of music fans, Shatner's rendition is considered one of the worst pop recordings ever, although the notoriety may, in fact, have helped his musical career.
- The Hooters performed the song on June 15, 1986 at A Conspiracy of Hope, a benefit concert on behalf of Amnesty International at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey and this version was later included on their 1996 compilation album Hooterization: A Retrospective.
- In 2002 the Brazilian artist Rita Lee released a Beatles cover album that included this song.
- Hyde, a Japanese rock musician best known as the vocalist for L'arc~en~Ciel, covered this song for the B-side to his 2001 solo single "Horizon," as well as numerous times in concert.
- Progressive metal band Queensryche covered the song for a Beatles tribute album.
- In 1988, Frank Zappa changed the lyrics of the song to satirize the sex scandal revolving around televangelist Jimmy Swaggart. In this version it was called: "Louisiana Hooker with Herpes". For legal reasons, the song is not available on the official Zappa catalogue.
- Katie Melua performed a cover version which appears on the Special Edition of her second album, Piece By Piece, released in 2006.
- The Grateful Dead (and more recently Phil Lesh and Friends) have also covered this song in concert.
- The Black Crowes covered this song on the I Am Sam soundtrack. Aimee Mann also performed a cover of this song on the soundtrack, which consisted of covered Beatles songs.
- The Asian artist Wing performs this song on her Beatles cover album.
- Puffy AmiYumi a Japanese pop/rock duo performed a cover for the B-side of their 2006 single "Hataraku Otoko".
- Bono, with U2 bandmate The Edge on backing vocals, covered the song for the 2007 film Across the Universe, which is based on the songs of The Beatles (in which the main female lead is called Lucy).
- Natalie Cole covered this song on her 1978 album Natalie Live!
- Les Fradkin has an instrumental version on his 2007 release- "Pepper Front To Back".
- It is also featured as the final track to the Across the Universe soundtrack (2007)
- The phrase "Lucy in the sky with diamond eyes" is sung at the beginning of the third verse in the Nevermore song titled "This Sacrament" from their album The Politics of Ecstasy .
- The famous Australopithecus fossil Lucy was named after this song, which was being played loudly and repeatedly on a tape recorder in the camp when the fossil was discovered.
- The song also plays an important role in the movie I Am Sam, starring Sean Penn, in which he names his daughter (Dakota Fanning) Lucy Diamond because of the song.
- The song is referenced in another Beatles song, "I Am the Walrus", in the line "See how they fly, like Lucy in the sky."
- In January 1968, John Fred and the Playboy Band parodied the song on their hit single "Judy in Disguise (With Glasses)" which intentionally sounds like "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds." Interestingly enough, the single knocked another Beatles single, "Hello, Goodbye", down the charts.
- On 13 February, 2004, astronomers at Harvard announced the discovery of BPM 37093, a celestial object which appears to be a carbon star. Carbon being the element diamonds are composed of, they whimsically named it Lucy, likely in reference to Arthur C. Clarke's 2061: Odyssey Three (1987), which speculates that the core of Jupiter may be an Earth-sized diamond, formed by carbon sedimenting from the outer layers (and when a mountain-sized chunk of diamond appears on Jupiter's moon Europa, Clarke's characters use the codeword "Lucy" to communicate the discovery).
- In The Simpsons episode "Last Exit to Springfield", Lisa is given nitrous oxide by her dentist and hallucinates in a scene inspired by the Beatles' Yellow Submarine movie. In it, she encounters the four Beatles in a purple submarine, with George Harrison saying, "Look, it's Lisa in the sky!" Followed by Lennon lamenting "No diamonds though."
- "Lucy in the Sky" is the codename of a superhero in the comic book Runaways. Karolina Dean takes up this name because her alien physiology makes her skin pulse with psychedelic colors and gives her the ability to fly. She states in a later volume that she came to know the song from a 'Best Of' album and although liking the band, was not a completely knowledgeable or dedicated fan.
- "Lucy Diamond" is the name of the villain in the movie D.E.B.S. (her name is "Lucy in the Sky" in the original short film).
- In the 1998 film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Gonzo is found in a hotel room with a girl named Lucy. He had given her acid (LSD) and quotes the song. "This is Lucy, in the sky with diamonds."
- Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids released a song with a similar title called "Lucy in the Sky with Demons" on their 1990 demo tape, Grist-O-Line.
- In the Pink Floyd song "Let There Be More Light" from their album entitled A Saucerful of Secrets band member David Gilmour sings "The outer lock rolled slowly back / The servicemen were heard to sigh / For there revealed in flowing robes / Was Lucy in the Sky".
- In the Alizee song "Lilly Town" from their album entitled Psychèdèlices are references when she says: "There is even,a sky so blue, that one can see there, Lucy, that one can even see there, if one wants, John or Gandhi"...
- In the Dream Theater song "Octavarium" from the album with the same name James LaBrie sings "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" along with other classic rock song titles and classic rock references.
- In the "311 (band)" song Home Brew from "Grassroots (album)" the lead singer says: "Fourth of July with Lucy in Sky, I remember pine trees and the coat of many colors..."