An Analysis of The Beatles’ "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds"
Analyzing "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"
In terms of musical artistry, the works of The Beatles remain unmatched even today. A lot of contemporary artists have tried to make covers of their songs, but still, the beauty of the original remains the best.
Their talent in 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
To start with the qualifying elements are the musical arrangement’s coherence with lyrics’ interpretation, the artists’ interpretation revealed through the music video and the rendition proper. The musical arrangement is an important factor since it was perceived to have an impact on human feelings as one listen to the song (Numao, 1994). The music video will complement the listeners’ interpretation of the song as well. Although the concept of music video making is different now from how it was done before, it still is important to look at the artistic interpretation of the artists now. It may be different, but the visual stimuli caused by the graphic aspect of the music today gains influence in the 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 taken into consideration in finding the meaning of the song. These three musical renditions are highly different from each other varying from very silent and reflective from a very distorted version of the song.
The Beatles were considered as the most successful music group of the 20th century which were also emulated by many musical icons. They have set standards and trends in making creativity not only in their music but also in fashion which affected the attitudes about politics, youth and drug culture (Polkow, 2004.). Their impact in music is undying that until now, many music lovers still listen to their songs and many contemporary artists keep on covering their songs.
What Makes "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" Special?
Among the Beatles 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 was 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 members of the band used drugs to create music, there is a claimed story behind the song. According to Lennon, he 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 the creation of their song, it is of no surprise that this was connected to the use of drugs and perhaps the effect of it on them.
In fact, the outstanding trouble that the band members had is their involvement in the use of 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, first is the 6/8 dreamlike verses with psychedelic image and the switch to 4/4 in the chorus part (thebeatlesbible.com). This creates a subtle distorted impact on 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 will form. Phrases like “girl with kaleidoscope eyes” and “cellophane flowers” are a few to show the fantasy in the song. It is highly imaginative in nature 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.
The song consists of seven stanzas plus one for the chorus. Like what was mentioned, the focus of the song was Lucy who was in the sky with diamonds.
In the first stanza, the persona tells about the setting of the song 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” and in this part of the song, the girl with the sun in her eyes, 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.
In the third stanza, the listener is invited to follow the girl to a bridge by a fountain. In this place, there are imaginative creatures that are said to eat marshmallow pies and are considered as rocking horse people. The line “that grow so incredibly high” can be considered as 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 an arrest. In that case, it was suggested that the persona should 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 and beautiful and highly 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 in nature. Given this, there are others who claim that this song is simply about drugs and nothing else. However, like what was mentioned, Lucy really 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 of 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 as well as over 250 million sold records 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 own way. The tempo of the song changed into a steady to slow speed. The climactic appeal of the tune rises in the second part of the verses and rests as it approaches the chorus. The chorus, on the other hand, has a steady cheerful beat which at some maintains the fantastical appeal to the listeners.
Comparing it 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 is quite different from the 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 in nature (theflaminglips.com). They have 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 which allowed her to launch her own recording career (mtv.com). She is a controversial artist who never stops in 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 with her controversial twerking in the VMA Awards. She is also known to smoke weed.
In the music video, it starts with Miley screaming because her brains were supposedly stolen. The song goes on with a totally naked girl running here and there holding the pink substance which is the brain of Miley. Several surreal concepts were also present like creatures with indiscernible characters with heads of candy canes etc. The girl jumps and walks around naked and gets finally caught by these characters. In the entire music video, she fell here and there. Ideas of acid were present all throughout the song. The colors were highly psychedelic and hallucinogenic in nature. 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 smoking were flashed all 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 singing 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 highly heavy for the ears of the listener. The division of the verses is highly evident that the riffs really called the attention for the shift.
With that, it can be asserted that despite of 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 of 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 with the song. John Lennon’s version will always be unique and the best since the idea and the essence of the song is clear to him since he made the song himself.
Given those, with this song, the original will always be the best. It may be something relative, but the musicality and the original organic unity will dictate the sense of aesthetic 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.
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