Subject: Origins of +quot;Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds+quot; title Date: Fri, 14 Jan 1994
Subject: Origins of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" title
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (snopes)
Date: Fri, 14 Jan 1994 05:39:00 GMT
Anyone from either newsgroup with additional information on this subject
in encouraged to provide it. All factual statements and quotations enclosed
herein are keyed to the documented sources listed in the NOTES section at
the end of the article by means of a number enclosed within parentheses.
When the Beatles' album "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"
was released in 1967, the track that quickly became the centerpiece of the
album was the song that featured John Lennon's ethereal, high-pitched voice
singing drug-inspired lyrics to the accompaniment of a celeste-like organ
lead played by Paul McCartney. (1) It wasn't long, however, before listeners
quickly discovered the "hidden" pun in the song's title, "Lucy in the Sky with
Diamonds": the initial letters of certain words spelled out the acrostic LSD.
Even though none of the Beatles publicly admitted to taking LSD until two weeks
_after_ "Sgt. Pepper" was released (2), the public "knew" that the song's
title was "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, couldn't possibly have been given a title
like that by accident. _Everyone_ was in on the joke.
John Lennon, while never denying that the song itself was inspired by the
many acid trips he had taken, quickly explained that the title, in fact, _had_
been a mere coincidence. It was taken, verbatim, from the name John's
four-year-old son Julian had given to a drawing made at school, John claimed,
and John himself had no idea that the title formed the abbreviation LSD until
it was pointed out to him by someone else after the album's release. (3)
Needless to say, this explanation was not widely accepted. Lennon's
response, as Schaumberg wrote, " . . . didn't satisfy the wise ones of our
generation. Oh no, wink wink, nudge nudge, *they* knew what he meant all
along, snicker snicker". (4) Other chroniclers of Beatle history offer the
same general statements of public disbelief. Schaffner, for example, says,
"Clever people quickly detected the acrostic spelt out by 'Lucy in the Sky
with Diamonds', and weren't about to be taken in by the Beatles' explanation
that the title had been dreamed up by four-year-old Julian Lennon for one of
his own paintings". (5) Philip Norman's Beatle biography offers much the same
reaction: "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
Looking back at this matter nowadays, however, there is little question
but that John's explanation was an accurate and honest one. He did not merely
claim that the title was a coincidental invention of his own, but offered a
specific, external explanation of its origins. He provided his explanation
at the time the song was first released, and consistently maintained the
same story for the rest of his life (7). He even quickly produced a typical
Lennon mockery for the benefit of those who doubted his story, as described by
To the accompaniment of a tinkly harpsichord, a narrator said,
in a high, whiny Goody Gumdrop voice:
"Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin. One day, months
ago, Julian, son of Lennon, came home from school with a painting
he'd just drawn, a picture of a lady bursting with colors. John
Lennon said, 'What's that you got there, Junior?' To which Junior
replied, 'It's Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Daddy.' 'Shaddup.'
[Smack!] 'Waaahhhh . . .!'" (8)
Examples of John's consistency are provided in some of the various print
interviews he did in subsequent years. For example, his interview with
_Rolling Stone_ magazine in 1970, in which he 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 . . ." (9) Immediately after that response, John was
specifically asked about the song's title by the interviewer:
Q: When did you realize that LSD were the initials of "Lucy in the
Sky with Diamonds"?
A: Only after I read it or somebody told me. I didn't even see it
on the label . . . (10)
In September, 1980, only a few months before his tragic death, John was
still offering the same story of the title's origin in an interview with
"My son Julian came in one day with a picture he painted about a
school friend of his named Lucy. He had sketched in some stars in
the sky and called it Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Simple." (11)
Besides John's consistency in offering the same explanation over the
years, his credibility is enhanced by his reputation for candidness and
honesty, and the fact that his story is entirely in keeping with the material
he typically used as inspiration for songs at the time. These points are best
highlighted with excerpts from the writings of other Beatle book authors:
" . . . there is no reason to doubt Lennon's official explanation.
The man has always been open and honest, if not always careful in
what he says. He admitted to using drugs, he admitted to taking
over a hundred LSD trips. Why on earth would he bother to deny one
little story about the origins of a song unless it wasn't true?" (12)
" . . . if the Beatles *weren't* pulling our legs -- and the reliably
candid Lennon *still* sticks by his original story -- it would only be
in keeping with the equally unusual catalysts for John's other contri-
butions to 'Sgt. Pepper': a Victorian carnival poster, a T.V. cornflakes
commercial, and a _Daily Mail_ clipping about holes in Blackburn,
Lancashire . . ." (13)
We need not rely solely on John's words to corroborate his explanation,
however. His childhood and lifelong friend, Pete Shotton, who was a frequent
guest at the Lennon home, verifies that John's son Julian actually did produce
and name the painting that John claimed was the inspiration for the song's
"I also happened to be there the day Julian came home from school with
a pastel painting of his classmate Lucy's face against a backdrop of
exploding, multi-colored stars. Unusually impressed with his son's
handiwork, John asked what the drawing was called. 'It's Lucy in the
Sky with Diamonds, Daddy,' Julian replied.
"'Fantastic!' said John -- and promptly incorporated that memorable
phrase into a new song.
"Though John was certainly ingesting inordinate amounts of acid around
the time he wrote 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds', the pun was indeed
sheer coincidence." (14)
If John Lennon (and Pete Shotton) were both lying, they never let on to
their friends and colleagues, because everyone close to the Beatles --
including Paul McCartney (15), George Martin (16), and Peter Brown (17) --
tells the same story. Since John Lennon is unfortunately no longer around to
contribute to this narrative, we will leave the final word on the subject to
"This one is amazing. As I was saying before, when you write a song
and you mean it one way, and then someone comes up and says something
about it that you didn't think of -- you can't deny it. Like 'Lucy in
the Sky with Diamonds', people came up and said, very cunningly, 'Right,
I get it. L-S-D' and it *was* when all the papers were talking about
LSD, but we never thought about it.
"What happened was that John's son Julian did a drawing at school and
brought 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." (18)
( 1) Mark Lewisohn, _The Beatles Recording Sessions_ (New York: Harmony
Books, 1988), p. 100.
( 2) Philip Norman, _Shout! The Beatles in their Generation_ (New York:
Fireside, 1981), p. 294.
( 3) Jann S. Wenner, ed., _20 Years of Rolling Stone_ (New York: Friendly
Press, 1987), p. 109.
( 4) Ron Schaumburg, _Growing Up with the Beatles_ (New York: Pyramid Books,
1976), p. 74
( 5) Nicholas Schaffner, _The Beatles Forever_ (Harrisburg, PA: Cameron
House, 1977), p. 77
( 6) Norman, op. cit., p. 293.
( 7) William J. Dowdling, _Beatlesongs_ (New York: Fireside, 1989), p. 166.
( 8) Schaumburg, op. cit., p. 74.
( 9) Wenner, op. cit., p. 109.
(11) _Playboy_, September 1980.
(12) Schaumburg, op. cit., p. 74.
(13) Schaffner, op. cit., p. 77.
(14) Pete Shotton and Nicholas Shaffner, _The Beatles, Lennon, and Me_
(New York: Stein and Day, 1984), p. 245.
(15) Barry Miles, _Beatles In Their Own Words_ (New York: Quick Fox, 1978),
(16) Lewisohn, op. cit., p. 100.
(17) Peter Brown and Steven Gaines, _The Love You Make_ An Insider's Story
of The Beatles (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1983), pp. 244-245.
(18) Miles, op. cit., p. 88.
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