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*4.03-LUCY IN THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS (Beatles)

Beatles

LISTEN

Picture yourself in a boat on a river
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies.
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly
A girl with kaleidoscope eyes.

         Cellophane flowers of yellow and green
         Towering over your head.
         Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes
         And she's gone.

                   Lucy in the sky with diamonds. (3x)

Follow her down to a bridge by a fountain
Where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies.
Everyone smiles as you drift past the flowers
That grow so incredibly high.

         Newspaper taxis appear on the shore
         Waiting to take you away.
         Climb in the back with your head in the clouds
         And you're gone.

                   [Chorus]

Picture yourself on a train in a station
With plasticine porters with looking glass ties.
Suddenly someone is there at the turnstile--
The girl with kaleidoscope eyes.

                   [Chorus (9x) and fade]


The celeste-like melody, made with a Lowrey organ, that opens Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds is a keyboard introduction in a strange aural register, intended to capture our attention with its eerie beauty, a technique that Lennon had used in Strawberry Fields Forever. However, the keyboard melody in Lucy also provides a structure to the first verse. By the end of the first verse a tambura has been added for hot and droning radiant color. The second verse is accompanied by a high pitched electric guitar monotone, echoing the voice. However, after a chorus, the celeste sound returns for the final verse.

From Wikipedia: The Lowrey organ was similar to the Hammond organ, but it incorporated "automatic accompaniment". It was used by Garth Hudson in the Band's Chest Fever, by John Lennon on For the Benefit of Mr. Kite, and by Pete Townshend of the Who for Baba O'Reilly.

According to producer George Martin [Summer of Love: The Making of Sgt. Pepper (George Martin & William Pearson 1994)], although the album used varispeeding liberally, which had previously been used to match tracks in Strawberry Fields Forever, the technique was used to the greatest extent on Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.

The chorus of Lucy only repeats the title over & over again, like a mantra. There is pleasure, a pleasure intensified by LSD, in repeating the same thing over and over again, and it may lead to trance. The Beatles would continue to develop songs that were mantra- like; some of their number one hits were based on such repetitions, such as the Summer of Love's All You Need is Love and Hey Jude the following year. There's no argument that playing a hook over and over again will sell a record. But I particularly dislike its monotonous form as in McCartney's Hey Jude or Lennon's She's So Heavy, Paul Simon's The Boxer or Donovan's Atlantis. In the case of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, there is some improvisation during the chorus in Paul McCartney's bass playing which was mixed loud. Repetitions in Lucy last through the final minute; and McCartney's bass suffices. But this belief that the listener would find pleasure repeatedly in a mantra was, in my opinion, one of the missteps in psychedelic music development. Repetition without variation is an invitation to boredom.

It is popular knowledge that Lennon's story about Lucy is that it is based on a drawing that his son Julian had made. During the Summer of Love Lucy was a celebration of LSD, however much Lennon denied that this had been his intent. The lyrics are certainly dreamlike, and could be either from describing the imagination of a child or from describing an LSD experience. Lennon (fresh from the Strawberry Fields project) seems to be saying that they are much the same thing. There are triplets of syllables in the lyric that are essential to propping up the biggest of all the words in the poem: kaleidoscope. Some of the three syllable auxiliary words are kid words: tangerine, marmalade, marshmallow. I do believe Lennon might have been trying to teach his son big words. Plasticine? I think that may be a Jabberwocky-like joke. In the manner of Penny Lane, there is no logical development in the story told. Perhaps Julian would demand no such logic; happy simply to "picture" himself in different magical circumstances. For the adult listener, the story meanders as if a dream with the vision of the girl with kaleidoscope eyes serving as some sort of epiphany that can't be explained.

As marvelously childlike as Lennon's Lucy is, her name has been reincarnated nearly fifty years later by hip hop artist Kendrick Lamar in much darker colors. In his album To Pimp a Butterfly, Lamar suggests that Lucy is a nickname for Lucifer, and that she represents the temptations of evil rather than the door to enlightenment.

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