Saturday, 14 June 2008

Lyrics & their meaning Part 13 - Lucy in the sky with diamonds


This continuing story of song lyrics and their meaning in some of the worlds best loved songs.

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (1967)

One of the great fallacies of Rock music is that the title of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds was an intentional reference to the hallucinatory drug LSD.
Two weeks after the release of the revolutionary Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band, the Beatles publicly admitted to taking LSD and other drugs, but by this time the public “knew” that Lucy in the sky the song and its title were obviously more than mere coincidence. A song incorporating acid trip imagery, released on an album featuring psychedelic designs, at a time when LSD was very much in the news. Every one was in on this joke. The Beatles were well known for their very wicked sense of humour.
But this was where the public were wrong.
John Lennon while never denying that the song was inspired by countless acid trips (but then again so was the rest of the album.) He quickly explained the title was in fact a mere coincidence. The title was taken from a name Lennon’s 4 year old son had given to a drawing he made at school and proudly shown his dad.
But to no avail the people were no going to buy it. They knew Lennon better.
In Phillip Norman’s Beatle biography its recorded:
Even greater was the scandal arising from the discovery that “ Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” was a >mnemonic for LSD. In vain did John explain that it was simply the name his son, Julian, had given to a picture drawn at school.
To emphasize the point, In an Interview with Rolling Stone in 1970 Lennon stated:
“Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”…I swear to God or swear to Mao, or to anybody you like, I had no idea spelled LSD…
Lennon told much the same story during an interview in 1972 on the Mike Douglas Show and in September 1980, only a couple of months before his death, He was still offering the same story about the titles origin in an interview with Playboy Magazine.
This story has also been confirmed by the other Beatle members as late as 1997 for the Anthology series the most in depth documentary of the Beatles ever.
Paul McCartney tells his story”
What happened was that John’s son Julian did a drawing at school and bought it home, and he has a schoolmate called Lucy, and John said what’s that, and he said “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”….so we had a nice title.
There is no reason to doubt John Lennon. He was always open and honest, if not always careful of what he said. He admitted to using drugs, he admitted to taking over a hundred LSD trips. Why would he bother to deny one little story about the origins of a song unless it was true. He was more annoyed he didn’t think of it.
Update -- June, 2004:
In a new interview in Uncut Magazine, Paul detailed his drug use for the first time with the Beatles, which centered mostly around cocaine and that he had tried heroin once. In that interview, although Paul acknowledged that Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds had indeed been named for the drawing by Julian, he also said "it's pretty obvious" that the song is about an acid trip.

the picture by Julian Lennon
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©2004 Shidot Prod.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Lyrics & their meaning Part 12 - I am the walrus

Rock Lyrics are not what they appear to be.
I Am The Walrus(1968) The Beatles
The Beatles are arguably one of the most influential, popular, significant, innovative (just keep adding superlatives) Rock band that the world of popular music has ever known. The type of Messiah popularity they attracted was always bring out the lunatic fringe but in the case of the Beatles they didn’t need help from the loonies they had John Lennon.
The Beatles well-documented experiments with mind-altering drugs have explained their inventiveness in the studio and with the canny ability of their Producer George Martin the band managed to record them on tape. The drugs also help explain some of Lennon’s lyrics; in this particular case I am the Walrus.
The album Magical Mystery Tour in which it was contained was released in 1967 and was smack in the middle of the psychedelic period for the group in terms of packaging and content, it was also strangely enough involved in one of the Beatles few failures.
The television special, which followed the release of the record, was dismissed by critics and viewers alike, and rightly so because it was an amateurish piece of crap dominated in production and direction by Paul McCartney who should have left it to the experts.
The Album and its packaging as it was revealed later was a gold mine of clues for the unprovable practical hoax of Paul McCartney’s untimely death in a mythical car crash.
Songs like Fool on the hill’, Magical Mystery Tour & I am the Walrus were destined to be prime targets for the word analysers.
The song I am the Walrus is very drug influenced. The opening lines “I am he / as you are he / as you are me and we are all together” – came to Lennon during an acid trip. And so too did the songs phrasing. The lyrics follow the same sound pattern as the ‘Ee Ow Ee Ow’ of an English Police siren. Many of the other verses were triggered by a fan letter the band received from a student from John Lennon’s old high school. Lennon’s good friend Pete Shotton recalled how he and Lennon were taking ‘Lucky dips” into the fan mail bag one day when out came a letter from a lad describing how his English teacher was pontificating on the real meaning behind the Beatles lyrics.
Lennon already exasperated by the often mistaken analysis of Beatle songs by journalists, critics and fans was seized by a brain wave. Asking Shotton to recite their shared boyhood rhyme Dead Dogs Eye. A listing of the kind of gross things young boys find appealing. Lennon reconfigured the words into yellow matter custard, dripping from a dead dog’s eye. Likewise the words Semolina pilchard , a nice way to say sardine custard. After scribbling down these lines, Lennon looked up with a smile and said “ Let the fuckers work that one out Pete”
John Lennon has categorically stated he wrote the words for ‘ I am the Walrus’ to trip up the critics, they meant absolutely nothing at all. Lennon confused clue seeker even more when he wrote Glass Onions ’for the White Album a song he revealed was just a lot of phrases that were popular for there suggested hints. That he embellished in response to critics whom he felt over-analysed I am the Walrus and the Paul is Dead hoax.
Other lyrics were lifted straight out of Alice through the looking glass along with other snappy phrases were perfect catalyst to the off beat tune. You have to remember Lennon wasn’t partial to grabbing whatever was available for words; don’t forget he got the entire lyrics for the Benefit for Mr. Kite from an old circus poster.
As innocent as the song seems the BBC still managed to unofficially but effectively ban I am the Walrus from T.V and radio.
Maybe Lennon knew the song was going to attract so much attention that he put in his own little message.
At the end of the song there is a falsetto chorus of screams and whoops performed by the Mike Sammes Singers a group of hired session vocalists that builds as the song reaches its climax. Nice people say it sounds like “Oompa, Oompa stick it up your jumper”. If you listen hard enough I reckon their saying what Lennon was really trying to say to the critics: “Get Fucked, get fucked everybody get fucked”.
(c) 2002 Shidot Prod.