Friday, April 14, 2006

Saving the World

Segue back in time. Last year of graduate school. Sprawled on the apartment sofa of the man who is to become my first husband 14 months later, after his second tour of Vietnam as junior officer in the navy. He plays his latest LP. Sgt Pepper's Lonely Heartclub Band. The Beatles with full orchestra. The Beatles breaking every rule. The sweet lads from Liverpool wearing a new face.

Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds fills the dark room. Not since Bill Halley sang Rock Around the Clock in my childhood, causing instant panic and sermons on the sins of Rock & Roll, had I heard a piece of music that I knew would change the face of music in a major way again. An LP, either.

Lucy...floating through the Sky. We all thought it was the Beatles tripping, but they said the song came from a drawing by one of their six year olds. I believe them, but we'd have to play Revolver backwards to get the real skinny behind that one.

Enter Grace Slick. Wilder than the Beatles could ever be. A female Elvis on illegal drugs. A sensual hair flinging Janis Joplin in white boots. Jefferson Airplane. What could be more glamorous than the combination of San Francisco, the Filmore West, Haight Ashbury, Hair, and Ken Kesey blowing the scene , all happening at the same time. Grace was every woman's alter ego. Superman to our Clark Kent personas. She was music. She was sex. She was drugs. She knew no boundaries. I heard White comes Alice..and she's ten feet tall...and no-one could say GRACE was singing about her six year old's drawing. Grace Slick and the Airplane became the music of the times. She made your heart thump, your feet itch for adventure.

I finally saw her perform in person in the seventies. The band had changed names. Grace was older, tired-looking on a platform stage in a gymnasium somewhere in Massachusetts. The fire wasn't there like before, and my husband and I had gone our separate ways, but the man in my life at that time and I sat on the gym floor in the dark, listening to that famous voice, riding it back to times when our generation believed flowers, protest marches, bell bottoms and free love would save the world.

From the archives:9/18/2003

As an aside, thanks to Lyle Daggett, read the Snopes article about the Lucy drawing here and see the drawing, too.

beginning of the article:
Claim: John Lennon deliberately chose the song title Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds because the initial letters of key words form the acrostic "LSD".
Status: False.

Origins: When the Beatles' album Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was released in 1967, its centerpiece track was the song that featured John Lennon's ethereal, high-pitched voice singing drug-inspired lyrics to the accompaniment of a celeste-like organ lead played by Paul McCartney. It wasn't long, however, before listeners quickly discovered the "hidden" pun in the song's title, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds: The initial letters of certain words spelled out the acrostic LSD.

Although none of the Beatles publicly admitted to taking LSD until two weeks after Sergeant Pepper the public "knew" that the song's title was "obviously" more than mere coincidence. A song incorporating acid trip imagery, released on an album featuring psychedelic designs, at a time when LSD was very much in the news, couldn't possibly have been given a title like that by accident. Everyone was in on the joke.

John Lennon, while never denying that the song itself was inspired by the countless acid trips he had taken, quickly explained that the title, in fact, had been mere coincidence. It was taken, verbatim, from the name John's four-year-old son Julian had given to a drawing he made at school (shown below), Lennon claimed; Lennon himself had no idea that the title formed the abbreviation LSD until it was pointed out to him by someone else after the album's more


Lyle Daggett said...

I once heard John Lennon in a T.V. interview tell the story about Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds -- he was quite emphatic that it came from a picture his son Julian did at a young age, as the Beatles have always insisted.

Of course they've never denied that it's one interesting coincidence...

The urban legend tracking website,, has an article about the Lucy in the Sky legend -- and it includes a reproduction (or they say it is anyway) of the actual picture by John's son Julian.

(Lucy, according to the article, was a friend of Julian's at school. John saw Julian coloring a picture of a girl flying around in the air, surrounded by bursts of color, and asked what it was. Julian said, "That's Lucy in the sky with diamonds.")

Wouldn't that be the "Where are they now" story of all time -- what ever happened to Lucy?

The Snopes article is here. (Scroll down a little to see the reproduced image of Julian's picture.)

Pris said...

Hi Lyle,
When I first heard the song, like everybody else, I assumed LSD, but, oddly , not because of the iniitals, but because of the content. When I heard the story about the drawing (I see I got the age wrong), I believed it. They were open about LSD at that point and I saw no reason for them to lie. It DID make for an interesting intersection of events, tho, didn't it?

Pat Paulk said...

And we never saved the world. Spent a whole night in a bathroom with "Lucy" laughing my arse off at the wallpaper. Wasn't as funny the next day!

Pris said...

Hi Pat
Yup, we missed our chance, but we sure had one heck of a good time trying:-)

pepektheassassin said...

Ha! Love it! You got it right .... we never saved the world, but we TRIED! Do you think it's too late now?

Pris said...

It's NEVER too late:-)

Pat Paulk said...

Never too late, but I think I'll leave out some of the additives next time!

Pris said...

Good plan. Maybe a nice piece of pie instead???

Angel Hiccups said...

I’m a little young for all this so no …'when I was young from me' but..

I don’t see why it couldn’t be a bit of both! I think it would be perfectly reasonable for the title to be from a drawing which then took on a life of its own through what ever other creative means ;)

Pris said...

I think that's what happened in reality. At the time, it was such a big 'the beatles are condoning LSD', etc etc. This only upset the older generation, though. Everybody was experimenting. I may be one of the few exceptions. The stuff just scared me too much.