Picture Yourself

One afternoon early in 1967, Julian Lennon came home from his nursery school with a painting that he said was of his classmate, four-year-old Lucy O’Donnell.  Explaining his artwork to his father, Julian described it as Lucy in the sky with diamonds.  Lucy latter became Lucy Vodden and she died in 2009, but she was never particularly fond of the song ‘Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds’.  When she was 13, she discovered that she’d been immortalized in a Beatles’ song, however everyone told her that this song was about drugs and she had no idea what LSD was at the time.  Julian recalled that he didn’t know why he called his picture Lucy in the sky with diamonds, but he obviously had an affection for Lucy at that age. The day that Julian painted this picture his father happened to turn up with the chauffeur to pick him up from school.  He used to show his dad everything that he built or painted at school and this one just ended up turning into a song.

Julian’s Picture

This phrase stuck in John’s mind and it triggered a dreamy adventure that sounds suspiciously like a hallucinatory experience containing visually startling imagery and musically daring notes, that led to the writing of the dream-like ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’.  John was known to drop acid, but he swore that he had no idea that the song’s initials spelt L.S.D.  John asked his listeners to picture themselves in various places, so this song meant that his fans could go down a rabbit hole with him, one that he created.  This song begins with you in a boat and then you follow Lucy to a bridge by a fountain, you get taken for a ride in the back of a newspaper taxi, and you finally end up on a train in a station.  Lennon wrote all the lyrics for this song except the lines “Cellophane flowers of yellow and green” and “Newspaper taxis appear on the shore”, which were contributed by Paul McCartney.  John Lennon once said that “the girl with kaleidoscope eyes” was Yoko Ono.  Lennon painted images in his head that became the lyrics for this song.  This is one of three tracks on the Sgt. Pepper album which received special media attention because it was thought to be about drugs.  Sgt. Pepper’s was truly an album ahead of its time.  Rolling Stone named ‘Sgt. pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band’ as the best album of all time.  It came out during the 1967 Summer of Love and it became a milestone in the hippie movement.  The free-love flower children of the ‘60s loved the psychedelic images in this song, however ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ was actually banned in the UK for what they thought were drug references.

John claimed that the hallucinatory images in the song were inspired by the ‘Wool and Water’ chapter in Lewis Carroll ‘Through The Looking Glass’, Carroll’s prequel to ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’, where Alice is taken down a river in a rowing boat by the Queen, who has suddenly changed into a sheep.  In the chapter, Alice walks into a shop to discover a sheep sitting behind the counter and knitting.  After a few moments of conversation, the sheep asks Alice, “Do you know how to row?”  All of a sudden, the knitting needles turn into oars and Alice finds herself rowing with the sheep through a river lined by scented rushes (water plants).  Alice, confused and delighted by the whole thing, starts picking the rushes.  Then a crab latches its claws onto her oar and suddenly Alice and the sheep are back in the shop again.  The sheep asks her what she would like to buy.  As a child, Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass were two of John’s favorite books.

The song is slow and drowsy at first (the intro was played by Paul McCartney on an electric organ), but the chorus is fast and guitar-driven, jarring you out of your trance into a more hyperactive psychedelic experience.  I learned to appreciate this song when a Beatles’ friend of mine dosed me with some acid in the early 70s, because he thought that I needed to see the movie Yellow Submarine which was playing in Greenwich Village and I was truly mesmerized by the rocking horse people eating marshmallow pies. The Beatles were masters at writing songs with multiple meanings and although it may have started from a picture their fans didn’t miss the fact that Lucy, Sky, and Diamonds was an acronym for LSD.  In 2004 the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics announced the discovery of the universe’s largest known diamond, white dwarf star BPM 37093. Astronomers gave the star the catchier name of ‘Lucy’ from this song.

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

Cellophane flowers of yellow and green
Towering over your head
Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes
And she’s gone

Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Ah

Follow her down to a bridge by a fountain
Where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies
Everyone smiles as you drift past the flowers
That grow so incredibly high

Newspaper taxis appear on the shore
Waiting to take you away
Climb in the back with your head in the clouds
And you’re gone

Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Ah

Picture yourself…

Picture yourself on a train in a station
With plasticine porters with looking glass ties
Suddenly someone is there at the turnstile
The girl with the kaleidoscope eyes

Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Ah
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Ah
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds

Written for 9/9/18 Helen Vahdati’s This Thing Called Life One Word at a Time Song Lyric Sunday Theme where the prompt is “picture/photograph”.

17 thoughts on “Picture Yourself

  1. Of course I was stoned out of my ghord (pot, not acid) when I saw “Yellow Submarine” the first time (and many subsequent times). It was definitely trippy. I loved the song and the movie, but in all honesty, as much as I love the Sgt. Pepper album, my favorite is still Abbey Road.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wonderful song, no matter what little Julian had in mind when he painted it, or what John was referencing when he wrote the song… interesting reading, Jim! Thanks for posting it…and the video was wild! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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