Skip to main content

An Analysis of The Beatles’ "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds"

Reginaldo is an educator, a father, and a frustrated pilot. Hope his play on words will elevate you higher and make you feel better.

The infamous Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds of the Beatles. Did it really talk of substance abuse and promoted illicit activities?

The infamous Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds of the Beatles. Did it really talk of substance abuse and promoted illicit activities?

Analyzing "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"

In terms of musical artistry, the works of The Beatles remain unmatched even today. Many contemporary artists have tried to make covers of their songs, but still, the beauty of the original remains the best.

Their talent for making music has made them immortal. With that, I would like to argue that The Beatles' version of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" remains the best.

About the Song and How It Came to be

The qualifying elements are the musical arrangement’s coherence with the lyrics’ interpretation, the artists’ interpretation revealed through the music video, and the proper rendition. The musical arrangement is essential since it was perceived to impact human feelings as one listens to the song (Numao, 1994). The music video will also complement the listeners’ interpretation of the song. Although the concept of music video making is different now from how it was done before, it still is essential to look at the artistic interpretation of the artists now. It may be different, but the visual stimuli caused by the graphic aspect of music today gain influence people’s appreciation of contemporary music.

The song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" was written by John Lennon. It was covered by Elton John and Flaming Lips featuring Miley Cyrus. These different renditions of the songs bring different interpretations of the song anchoring on the original version. The music video of the most recent cover will be considered in finding the song's meaning. These three musical renditions are highly different from each other, varying from very silent and reflective to a very distorted version of the song.

The Beatles were considered the most successful music group of the 20th century, which was also emulated by many musical icons. They have set standards and trends in making creativity not only in their music but also in a fashion which affected the attitudes about politics, youth, and drug culture (Polkow, 2004.). Their impact on music is undying that until now, many music lovers still listen to their songs, and many contemporary artists keep covering their songs.

What Makes "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" Special?

Among the Beatle's songs is "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds." It was recorded on the 28th of February, written by John Lennon, produced by George Martin, and released by June 1, 1967. Its title was very controversial since it has the initials of LSD, a powerful hallucinogenic drug. Although it is no secret that the band members used drugs to create music, there is a claimed story behind the song. Lennon took its name from a drawing of a school friend of his four-year-old son Julian Lennon. In the picture, there was a picture of a flying woman in the sky (thebeatlesbible.com). It was mentioned that Lucy in the song was Lucy O’Donnell, whose existence was made immortal through the song his friend’s father made of the drawing.

Despite their explanation of their song's creation, it is no surprise that this was connected to the use of drugs and perhaps the effect on them.

The band members' outstanding trouble was their involvement in marijuana and other drugs (ultimateclassicrock.com). A few of their listeners claim that this is one of the reasons why they could produce incredible musical arrangements and innovations.

With that, John Lennon immediately wrote a song about it. He also mentioned that his inspiration for the song, aside from the drawing, was Alice in Wonderland. The song is also structured with two parts: the 6/8 dreamlike verses with psychedelic images and the switch to 4/4 in the chorus part (thebeatlesbible.com). This subtle distortion impacts the listener as the shift is made.

If a person were to listen to the song, a surreal image of a woman and her world would form. Phrases like “girl with kaleidoscope eyes” and “cellophane flowers” are a few to show the fantasy in the song. It is highly imaginative and unrealistic that people would no wonder regard it as related to LSD since the images that can be formed may be formed through hallucinations.

Song Analysis

The song consists of seven stanzas plus one for the chorus. As was mentioned, the song's focus was Lucy, who was in the sky with diamonds.

In the first stanza, the persona tells about the song's setting where the person is in the boat on a river with marmalade skies and is called by a girl with kaleidoscope eyes. The image of the girl in the lyrics is quite interesting since kaleidoscope eyes mean that she has very colorful and beautiful eyes.

In the second stanza, surreal images are presented like “cellophane flowers,” In this part of the song, the girl with the sun in her eyes and the same girl with the kaleidoscope eyes are the same. It suggests that the moment was presented in an imagined and fantastical world they have created.

The listener is invited to follow the girl to a bridge by a fountain in the third stanza. In this place, imaginative creatures are said to eat marshmallow pies and are considered rocking horse people. The line “that grow so incredibly high” can be considered highly ambivalent since it may also suggest the highness of an individual when he or she is under the influence of drugs.

The fourth stanza talks about the newspaper taxis which would take the person away. This is a form of arrest. In that case, it was suggested that the persona take the back of the clouds for him to be gone.

The last significant stanza talks about the listener getting to see the girl with the kaleidoscope eyes.

Given these, two interpretations can be derived from the close reading of the text. First, the writer might have created an imagined world that is highly colorful, beautiful, and unrealistic. The other interpretation can be about the use of drugs. The chase of the girl and the evasion of the newspaper taxis suggest the use and the arrest of the users when they get involved in drugs.

This, at some point, serves as an invitation to something fantastical. Given this, there are others who claim that this song is simply about drugs and nothing else. However, like what was mentioned, Lucy existed.

For the original cover, the song is sung in a psychedelic way, and the tune is like a lullaby. It nourishes the surreal appeal of the song since the lyrics present a highly childlike appeal. The music goes with it since it is in harmony with the theme.

The Covers: Elton John Version

Elton John, on the other hand, also made a cover for this song. Born as Sir Elton Hercules John, CBE, he is one of the most successful artists of all time, given that he got 35 gold and 25 platinum albums and over 250 million records sold worldwide (eltonjohn.com). He is said to be the third most successful artist after Presley and the Beatles.

In his rendition of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," he deviated from the psychedelic appeal of the verses but instead sang it in his way. The tempo of the song changed from a steady to a slow speed. The climactic appeal of the tune rises in the second part of the verses and rests as it approaches the chorus. On the other hand, the chorus has a steady, cheerful beat which at some maintains the fantastical appeal to the listeners.

Compared to the original piece, Elton John’s rendition is calmer and non-psychedelic, and the music arrangement changes are not as abrupt as that of The Beatles. Despite that, it can still be considered that The Beatles’ rendition is still the best because the encapsulation of surrealism and the musical arrangement creates the distortion that the listeners themselves would feel the beauty of the hallucination.

The Covers: The Flaming Lips featuring Miley Cyrus

Lastly is the Flaming Lips featuring Miley Cyrus’ rendition. Their rendition differs from Elton John’s cover since theirs was highly guitar-heavy and louder.

The Flaming Lips are an American rock band from Oklahoma with their sound described as multi-layered and psychedelic (theflaminglips.com). They recorded several albums in the 1980s and 1990s. They have maintained critical respect and made more hit singles in the US and UK.

Along with them is Miley Cyrus. She is a contemporary artist who is formerly a Disney icon for Hannah Montana. She became an overnight sensation in 2006 as the star of the popular Disney television series, allowing her to launch her recording career (mtv.com). She is a controversial artist who never stops making experiments in her music videos. She gained the peak of her career when she shifted from a conservative and youth icon to a liberated one. She could be remembered for her controversial twerking in the VMA Awards. She is also known to smoke weed.

The music video starts with Miley screaming because her brains were supposedly stolen. The song goes on with a naked girl running here and there holding the pink substance, Miley's brain. Several surreal concepts, like creatures with indiscernible characters, and heads of candy canes, were also present. The girl jumps, walks around naked, and finally gets caught by these characters. In the entire music video, she fell here and there. Ideas of acid were present throughout the song. The colors were highly psychedelic and hallucinogenic. This is in coherence with the meaning and theme of the song, and aside from that, the band which covered it is known for their psychedelic songs.

More than that, repetitive scenes of lips with an eye image of smoking were flashed throughout the music video. The images were really beyond reality.

Given that, it can be said that the music video was able to take the fantastic aspect of the lyrics, but the musical arrangement was highly disturbing and painful to the ears. The verses were sung in a calm way until the entrance of the chorus per se. Heavy guitar riffs have not made the composition any better since it is cumbersome for the ears of the listener. The division of the verses is highly evident, and the riffs call attention to the shift.

Conclusion

With that, it can be asserted that despite the musical innovations done in the present to create better music, there are songs that are beautiful in their original rendition. In the case of the song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, despite John’s attempt as well as The Flaming Lips’ rendition, The Beatles’ version will always be the best with the organic harmony brought upon the union of the lyrics, the artists’ interpretation and the musical arrangement.

The interpretation will always be different if the person who performs it is the writer himself. The same goes for the song. John Lennon’s version will always be unique, the best, since the song's idea and essence are clear to him since he made the song himself.

Given those, this original song will always be the best. It may be relative, but the musicality and the original organic unity will dictate the sense of aesthetics, which can be compared to the modern versions. Like how other people say, The Beatles will always be The Beatles, and nobody can surpass them for that.

References

"Elton John." EltonJohn.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. <http://www.eltonjohn.com/>.

"Lucy In the Sky with Diamonds | The Beatles Bible." The Beatles Bible. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. <http://www.beatlesbible.com/songs/lucy-in-the-sky-with-diamonds/>.

"Miley Cyrus Bio | Miley Cyrus Career." (2014). MTV Artists. N.p., n.d. Web. April 26, 2019. <http://www.mtv.com/artists/miley-cyrus/biography/>.

Numao, Masayuki. (1994). "Acquisition of Human Feelings in Music Arrangement." ResearchGate. Citeseer. Web. 16 April 2019. <http://www.researchgate.net/publication/2518546_Acquisition_of_Human_Feelings_in_Music_Arrangement>.

Polkow, Dennis, (2004)."The Beatles." Encyclopedia of World Biography. "Beatles." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2003, "Beatles, The." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th Ed. 2014, MICHAEL KENNEDY; JOYCE BOURNE, "Beatles, The." World Encyclopedia. 2005, John Cannon, Elizabeth Knowles, Meg Donald, and "Beatles." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. 2007. "Beatles, The." Encyclopedia.com. HighBeam Research, 01 Jan. 2004. 16 April 2019. <http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/The_Beatles.aspx>.

"The Beatles - Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds Lyrics | SongMeanings."SongMeanings. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. <http://songmeanings.com/songs/view/126/>.

"The Flaming Lips." The Flaming Lips. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 April 2019. <http://www.flaminglips.com/>.

"The Beatles' Arrest History: Their Not-So-Fab Brushes with the Law. “Ultimate Classic Rock. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. <http://ultimateclassicrock.com/beatles-arrest-history/>.

© 2019 Professor S

Comments

Professor S (author) from Angeles City, Pampanga, PHILIPPINES on April 20, 2019:

True indeed! Even I thought it was a different band at first. Till next time then.

Angeles from Spain on April 20, 2019:

I finally listened to it and.. like it! But sounds quite different to other Beatles' songs!

Professor S (author) from Angeles City, Pampanga, PHILIPPINES on April 19, 2019:

That would still be great! Enjoy then.

Angeles from Spain on April 19, 2019:

Sorry, I meant "I'll listen to it asap!" ☺️ I love The Beatles music!!

Professor S (author) from Angeles City, Pampanga, PHILIPPINES on April 16, 2019:

Great! Thanks for reading and sharing Angeles. Yup, this song is one of those not-so-popular ones from the Beatles.

Angeles from Spain on April 16, 2019:

Good article, Reginaldo. I confess this is the first time I hear about this song! I'll listen to eat asap!