The unforgettable song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” is definitely one of the highlights of The Beatles’ psychedelic period from 1966 to 1967. Written and recorded for their remarkable Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, this John Lennon composition was performed with significant contributions from the rest of the band. Paul McCartney supplied a beautiful descending bass line along with bell-like arpeggios on the Lowery organ to complement Lennon’s childlike melody in the verses. George Harrison played a guitar through a Leslie speaker, as well as the tamboura, an Indian instrument that added an Eastern drone to Lennon’s psychedelic journey. Ringo Starr filled out the song with his maracas, brushed cymbals, and drum kit — including the three solo snare hits leading into each chorus.
Producer George Martin and Engineer Geoff Emerick completed the picture by adding automatic double-tracking (ADT), flanging, and other tape effects. It’s a sound picture that puts the listener right in the middle of a Lewis Carroll-like fantasy. The performances and effects only enhance what’s already an incredibly well constructed and interesting song. Lennon’s psychedelic trip is also a musical one: from the key of A to the key of B-flat to the key of G and back again. One would be hard-pressed to find another popular tune (or any music for that matter) that seamlessly modulates to neighboring keys three times in less than a minute. It may sound childlike, but it showcases a mature songwriter at the peak of his powers.
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Photo credit: British pop group the Beatles — from left to right: John, George, Ringo and Paul — circa 1967. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)