Coming soon to British exams: Explain Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds


  • Culture
  • Saturday, 16 May 2015

Legendary British rock band The Beatles in 1967 during their Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album era. From left: Ringo Starr, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison.

Is The Beatles’ song Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds a rebellious anthem about wild drug-taking or a touching tribute to a child's imagination? Discuss.

The question, which has obsessed Beatles fans since the song appeared in the seminal 1967 album Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, could soon form part of an exam curriculum for British teenagers.

Exam board AQA, which sets and marks papers for about half of all GCSE exams taken by British 16-year-old high-school pupils, plans to introduce three songs from Sgt. Pepper into the music curriculum from September 2016.

"Pop music began in this country with The Beatles in the swinging sixties, so what better band to look to for the study of contemporary music than the Fab Four," says Seb Ross, head of AQA's music department.

The addition of the Sgt Pepper tracks to the board's music GCSE curriculum puts The Beatles in the company of classical composers Joseph Haydn and Aaron Copland, as well as influential guitarist Carlos Santana, whose works also feature.

AQA says students would be asked to look at the melody, harmony, structure, rhythm and meaning of three songs from the Beatles album, which influenced generations of musicians and changed recording techniques.

The drawing made by John Lennon's eldest son Julian when the latter was a child, which the elder Lennon claimed became the inspiration for The Beatles' controversial hit Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.
The drawing made by John Lennon's son Julian at age 5, which the elder Lennon claimed was the inspiration for The Beatles' controversial hit Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.

Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds has long been the subject of disagreement between those who say the title's letters refer to the psychedelic drug LSD and those who accept John Lennon's more innocent explanation.

Lennon has always maintained that a drawing made by his then five-year-old son Julian about a school friend named Lucy Vodden inspired the song. It's a lore that has been backed up by testimonies from Julian Lennon, Paul McCartney, and even Lucy Vodden herself, but some listeners still hear something illicit in the lyrics.

The other two songs to be included are Within You, Without You and With A Little Help From My Friends.

This prompted Times newspaper columnist Daniel Finkelstein to suggest the following multiple-choice question, which may cause dismay among fans of drummer Ringo Starr, who performed the lead vocals in With a Little Help.

“What would you do if I sang out of tune?” Would you:

  1. Stand up and walk out on me?
  2. Make me the lead vocalist on one of your most famous songs?

And no, you can't call Yoko Ono for help. – Reuters/Estelle Shirbon

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