John Lennon Checked Other Beatles Songs for Hidden Drug References After ‘Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds’ Controversy

John Lennon and other members of The Beatles were often known for writing music that referenced drugs, especially LSD. One of their most apparent allusions is “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” which many believed spelled out LSD. However, Lennon once said the song is not a reference to drugs, and he later would check other Beatles songs for secret drug references. 

‘Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds’ was banned for referencing drugs

Paul McCartney and John Lennon (1940-1980) from The Beatles posed backstage at the Finsbury Park Astoria, London during the band's Christmas Show residency on 30th December 1963
Paul McCartney and John Lennon | Val Wilmer/Redferns

“Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” debuted in 1967 as a part of the album Sgt. Peppers’ Lonely Hearts Club Band. The album itself was full of references to drugs, and many of the visuals paired with the album featured bright and psychedelic imagery. While “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” never directly referenced LSD, many believed the song’s title was spelling out the acronym for the drug. 

The BBC was against any references to drugs in music and subsequently banned the song, despite being unsure if the song was a legitimate allusion to drugs. According to The Guardian, the BBC also banned “A Day in the Life,” which was also on the same album. 

John Lennon checked future Beatles songs for drug references

In a 1971 interview on The Dick Cavett Show, John Lennon addressed the rumors that The Beatles were alluding to LSD in “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.” The British artist claims the song was not based on drugs and refers to a drawing his son created. He also would check other Beatles songs to ensure there were no other confusing drug references. 

“My son came home with a drawing and showed me this strange-looking woman flying around and I said ‘What is it?’ He said, ‘It’s Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds’ and I said ‘That’s beautiful,’” Lennon said. “I immediately wrote a song about it. The song had gone out, the whole album had been published, and Somebody noticed that the letters spelled out LSD, and I had no idea about it. And of course after that I was checking all the songs to see what the letters spelled out. They didn’t spell out anything. None of the others, and it wasn’t about that at all.”

While Lennon’s explanation makes sense, it’s hard to blame people for thinking the song was about LSD, especially since The Beatles members were open about experimenting with psychedelic drugs. 

Plenty of Beatles songs reference various types of drugs

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Even if “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” is not about LSD, there are many other Beatles songs that reference drugs. A few examples include “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “I am the Walrus,” “With a Little Help from My Friends,” “She Said She Said,” and “Magical Mystery Tour.”

An infamous example may be “Got to Get You Into My Life” from Revolver. While the song appears to be a love ballad, Paul McCartney later admitted in the Barry Miles biography Many Years From Now that the song was an “ode to pot.” The Beatles were inventive in how they referenced drugs, causing many to reinterpret their lyrics years later.