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Music

Watch John Lennon explain that 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds' was not about LSD

The Beatles’ drug use has been documented for a long time. The Fab Four undoubtedly experimented with cannabis and LSD, and maybe even the odd touch of cocaine here and there. Their use of drugs probably even started when the group were being advertised as a clean pop group, though this was most likely kept under wraps, as the 1960s societal view of drugs was one of moral panic.

However, the Beatles’ drug use wasn’t excessive; Paul McCartney had admitted to smoking weed but was not into anything much harder such as amphetamines, which were gaining popularity in Britain at the time. Ringo Starr has further claimed that anytime the band “overdid” it on the intoxicants, the music they produced was “shit.”

It was during the well-documented LSD years of the band, particularly during the writing and recording of 1967’s trippy and psychedelic record Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, that the press drew attention to the group’s drug use. Many publications and radio and television stations began to question the band’s ‘dependence’ on drugs, particularly when they noticed that ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ helped to spell out the acronym ‘LSD’.

However, John Lennon insisted that this was simply not the case and was a complete and utter coincidence. It was actually Lennon’s son that inspired the song’s title. In a Lennon and Yoko Ono interview with Dick Cavett, Lennon attempted to clear up the confusion surrounding the title of the track. He claimed:

“It [the song] never was, and no one believes me. I even saw some famous star introduce me; I’ve forgotten who it was; they were introducing a Lennon/McCartney show, and they were saying how ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ was about LSD. This is the truth: my son came home with a drawing and showed me this strange-looking woman flying around. I said, ‘what is it’, he said, ‘it’s Lucy in the sky with diamonds’. I thought, ‘that’s beautiful,’ and immediately wrote a song about it.”

“The song had gone out, the whole album had been published, and somebody noticed that the letters spelt out ‘LSD’. I had no idea about it and of course after that I checked all the songs to see what the letters spelt out. They didn’t spell out anything, none of the others, and it wasn’t about that at all. Nobody believes you, you see.”

However, ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamond’ wasn’t the only Beatles track that papers and radios had mistakenly claimed that Lennon had penned about the use of drugs. Others included ‘Mr Kite’ and ‘Happiness is a Warm Gun’. In the interview, Lennon continues:

“There was Henry the Horse in a song I wrote called ‘Mr Kite’. The lyrics which I got most of it off were from an old poster for an old-fashioned circus from the 1800s, and it was all about a fair, and the horse was there, and they said Henry the horse was horse [heroin] which I did know anything about.”

“And ‘Happiness is a Warm Gun’ was another one which was banned on the radio, which they said was about shooting up drugs. And it was the front of a gun magazine which said, ‘happiness is a warm gun’. They’re advertising guns which I thought was so crazy that I made a song out of it.”

You can check out the full interview with Lennon and Ono below, in which they go on to say that the social question of why people take drugs in the first place ought to be considered before a resolution can be found to aid the danger that drug addicts find themselves in.