Words: Chelsea Haith
Images: Sourced / Sebastian Wahl – Kaleidoscope Eyes
“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.”
Theories abound as to what this famous Beatles song actually means. Some say it is a reference to drug use and that the title is code for LSD (Lucy Sky Diamonds). Some say that they must have been experimenting to write it. What we do know is that it is a song about a girl with kaleidoscope eyes. It can’t be all bad…
Released on the Beatles’ eighth studio album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, known as Sgt. Pepper for short, in June 1967, the album spent 15 weeks at the top of the chart in the USA and 22 weeks at the top in the UK. Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds is one of the most celebrated, talked about and studied songs the Beatles ever recorded, loaded as it is with meaning, or perhaps the lack thereof.
According to the Beatles Bible, the song is inspired by a drawing by a school friend Julian Lennon brought home from school one day. When asked what it was of, Julian reportedly replied ‘Lucy in the sky with diamonds’. In his book of interviews with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, David Sheff recorded Lennon saying that Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland influenced the imagery of the song and you can see Lennon himself assert the song’s innocent beginnings.
Lennon confirmed that while Alice in Wonderland inspired the imagery, and it is reasonably well documented that there was a fair amount of recreational drug use at the time, the song is also about ‘the one’, a fantasy girl who would ‘save him’. “The imagery was Alice in the boat. And also the image of this female who would come and save me – this secret love that was going to come one day. So it turned out to be Yoko, though, and I hadn’t met Yoko then. But she was my imaginary girl that we all have,” he told Sheff.
Paul McCartney on the other hand reportedly told the BBC in 2004 that it was “pretty obvious” that Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds was about LSD. The imagery in the song lends some weight to this claim. Newspaper taxis and looking glass ties, cellophane flowers and of course, the ever enticing kaleidoscope eyes certainly suggest the influence of hallucinogenics.
No matter what you see you see or hear in it, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds is a beautiful piece of work, crafted by the genius of Lennon and McCartney and brought into the world by producer George Martin, the man behind the scenes. The images, the ideas and the colours are tangible and the song’s longevity is testimony to its place in the annals of music history.