To hear John Lennon be critical of his own work within The Beatles is nothing new. Songs like ‘Good Morning Good Morning’ and ‘Mean Mr. Mustard’ were thoroughly ravaged by Lennon in his lifetime, but you would be hard-pressed to find fans and critics who would call either of those the highest points in The Beatles’ recording career. Surprisingly, Lennon also took shots at some songs that were all-time classics.
When it came to ‘Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds’, the psychedelic and dreamlike cut from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, it wasn’t the song itself that Lennon had a problem with. Inspired by his son Julian’s drawing and filled with childlike wonder, the song found Lennon working at an incredible peak of his songwriting abilities. Once the song was put through The Beatles, however, Lennon became unsatisfied with the final results.
“I heard ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’ last night. It’s abysmal, you know? The track is just terrible,” Lennon told David Sheff in 1980. “I mean, it is a great track, a great song, but it isn’t a great track because it wasn’t made right. You know what I mean? I feel I could remake every fucking one of them better. But that’s the artistic trip, isn’t it? That it why you keep going, always trying to make that next one the best.”
“I was so nervous I couldn’t sing”, was the succinct way Lennon explained the situation to journalist Ray Connolly, “but I like the lyrics.” This critique wasn’t unique to ‘Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds’ either – Lennon held a similar bitterness towards the final version of ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ which, despite featuring some revolutionary tape manipulation from Geoff Emerick and George Martin, left Lennon disappointed.
The truth was that The Beatles were working faster than technology could keep up with. For almost all of their most legendary recordings, the band had to fit all of their overdubs, sound collages, experiments, and visions onto a four-track recorder. Songs like ‘Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds’ and ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ required some wild creativity in order to bring to life, but the fact that Lennon was never fully satisfied remains a curious source of intrigue.
Listen to the studio version of ‘Lucy in the Sky With Diamons’ down below.