Turn Off Your Mind

‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ is the closing psychedelically brilliant transcendental track from the Beatles seventh studio album Revolver, which was released in August 1966.  There was a lot going on in Revolver, with tape loops, backwards guitar solos, Indian sitars and tablas (twin hand drums), string quartets and ripe horns.  The Beatles had taken three months off prior to Revolver, their longest break since the start of their career, but with Revolver the band grew their confidence, as was clearly evident in ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’.  The song was titled simply ‘Mark 1’ when they started recording it, and Lennon wrote the song as a mantra composed of one repeating melody line over driving the bass and drum track.  One of the stranger sounds on this song is a seagull which was made by distorting the sound of Paul McCartney laughing to himself.  John Lennon wanted to sound like the Dalai Lama chanting from a hilltop on ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ and to get this effect producer George Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick recorded his voice through a rotating Leslie speaker and using an automatic double tracking technique, which the first time this was ever done.

The inspiration for the John Lennon and Paul McCartney credited Beatles song (but mostly written by John) ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’, came from a book that John was reading entitled, The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based On The Tibetan Book Of The Dead.  John was taking his third LSD trip when he was reading this book, which is about using psychedelic drugs and it was written to serve as a model and a guide for all mind-expanding inquiries.  It was published by Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner and Richard Alpert, all of whom took part in experiments investigating the therapeutic and religious possibilities of drugs such as mescaline, psilocybin and LSD.  The book is dedicated to Aldous Huxley and it includes a short introductory citation from Huxley’s book The Doors of Perception.  After Timothy Leary spent seven months in the Himalayas studying Tibetan Buddhism, he constructed a model of psychological transformation that rejected religious or transcendental meaning while creatively expanding the bardo concept (liminal state between death and rebirth) already evident in Tibetan Buddhism.

Lennon ran a tape recorder and read passages from (the book) as he was flying on a plane to the exotic island of Trinidad and Tobago.  He was soon writing a song using some of the actual lines from Leary, including his description of the state of grace beyond reality.  Lennon used ‘The Void’ as a working title.  Reading this book while taking LSD gave the Beatles the idea that, as with ancient Egyptian practice, when you die you lie in state for a few days, and then some of your handmaidens come and prepare you for a huge voyage.  Lennon followed the instructions that were given in Leary’s book and then he wrote this song.  Ringo would often say grammatically incorrect phrases (often called Ringo malapropisms) and that would make all the other guys laugh.  Ringo said, “I used to while I was saying one thing have another thing come into my brain and move down fast”, and one day he said, “Tomorrow never knows”, which came from a television interview after he told a story about a when someone cut off a portion of his hair and John made this the title of the song.

Turn off your mind, relax and float down stream
It is not dying, it is not dying

Lay down all thoughts, surrender to the void
It is shining, it is shining

Yet you may see the meaning of within
It is being, it is being

Love is all and love is everyone
It is knowing, it is knowing…

… that ignorance and hates may mourn the dead
It is believing, it is believing

But listen to the colour of your dreams
It is not living, it is not living

So play the game “Existence” to the end…
… Of the beginning, of the beginning
Of the beginning, of the beginning
Of the beginning, of the beginning
Of the beginning, of the beginning

We were talking about the space between us all
And the people who hide themselves behind a wall of illusion
Never glimpse the truth then it’s far too late
When they pass away We were talking about the love
We all could share when we find it
To try our best to hold it there with our love
With our love we could save the world if they
Only knew Try to realize it’s all within yourself
No one else can make you change
And to see you’re really only very small
And life flows within you and
Without you We were talking about the love
That’s gone so cold and the people
Who gain the world and lose their soul
They don’t know they can’t see,
Are you one of them? When you’ve seen beyond yourself
Then you may find, peace of mind is waiting there
And the time will come when you see
We’re all one and life flows on within you and without you

Written for Song Lyric Sunday where the prompt is Brain/Mind/Think.

23 thoughts on “Turn Off Your Mind

    1. I found some totally different lyrics for this song at first, so I kept searching till I found these. Jenny Boyd, Pattie’s sister talked about the lone, “Life flows on within you and without you” saying that she was so blown away by it that she had to call her sister to discuss the meaning.

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      1. Not everyone would learn stuff from psychedelics. They made me a much less angry and more accepting person.

        It was how I learned to accept the past without needing to relive it. I learned to accept being different without hating myself for it. To understand that other people are just being who they are and not always being intentionally cruel.

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  1. My mom always said this is the song she knew that The Beatles was on drugs. She would always tell me “Amy, this song is when they were on drugs.” I always thought this song was pretty weird.

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