The hidden meaning of the Beatles' 'Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds'

Can you dance to it? Does it have a good beat? Are the lyrics catchy? Are the words complete? And most of all, especially in the 1960s: what does it mean?

There's always been a cottage industry attached to the arts: interpreting the art, finding meaning, discovering clues, explaining the deeper subtext. It's been sent up over and over again — John Cleese waxing on about the meaning of the Tardis, parked in an art gallery, just before The Doctor and companions hop in and it dematerializes.

Some art, of whatever fashion, is easily understood. The Beatles, however, especially as they entered a more psychedelic phase, found their tunes and lyrics analyzed and reanalyzed and deconstructed until there was precious little left. It was never sufficient to simply say "It is what it is." And did all of that analysis add to understanding the recordings. Take their Sgt. Pepper album, released by the Fab Four in 1967. Album art and the compositions themselves were new, different. The four members had publicly discussed drug use and the benefits (as they saw it) of LSD in particular. McCartney admitted publicly that year that he'd used the drug, says Rolling Stone; the other three had already tried it. And so a cryptic title like "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," which included lyrical imagery like "marmalade skies" and "the girl with kaleidoscope eyes." Just look at the initials of the song: LSD, right? So obvious. And oh, so groovy.

Julian's painting inspired his father's songwriting

Except it wasn't, and it never was. John Lennon, who wrote the majority of lyrics (according to Ultimate Classic Rock, McCartney contributed a couple of phrases, like "newspaper taxis" — drugs, right?) was clear from the beginning that the inspiration for the song was two-fold: the dream world of Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, and Lennon's four-year-old (at the time) son, Julian.

Julian liked one of the girls at preschool, Lucy O'Donnell. He had drawn a picture of her, floating, surrounded by stars, which he called diamonds. And Papa John was taken by the phrase and the opportunities therein. It had to do with a child's painting, not recreational hallucinogens. In a Rolling Stone interview in 1970, Lennon said, "'Lucy In The Sky' with diamonds which I swear to God, or swear to Mao, or to anybody you like, I had no idea spelled LSD...."

Lennon told the same story during an interview on The Dick Cavett Show in 1971, reports Rolling Stone: "After the album had come out and the album had been published, someone noticed that the letters spelt out LSD and I had no idea about it. ... But nobody believes me."