UPDATED: Flyin’ High With “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” – The Beatles vs. Natalie Cole

If it weren’t for this 1967 Beatles song, Lucy Diamond from the b-movie spy flick D.E.B.S (you will be entertained if you ever catch it on cable) would join the Man with No Name as the rare club of nameless movie protagonists.

Many believed the song referred to LSD, since its title fit the acronym. The surrealistic lyrics also suggested an acid trip inspired them. Not too mention in the late fifties, the hallucinogenic quietly became the latest trend in some golden age Hollyweird circles with stars like Cary Grant among the long-list of famous personalities to experiment with Albert Hoffman’s concoction.

However, Grant and other golden age era stars did not inspire John Lennon to write this piece. His actual inspiration was a sketch by his then-three-year old son Julian made of a nursery school classmate named Lucy Vodden. But the drawing itself still makes me wonder where did lines like “rocking horse people eating marshmallow pies” come from.

The Beatles

The Lowry organ and Lennon’s dubbed-over voice carries listeners’ on a journey with “newspapers taxis” chasing a “girl with kaleidoscope eyes” that you’re sure to remember after your first listen. While Lennon delivers the verses sluggishly, the chorus finds him energetic (almost) chanting “Lucy in the sky with diamonds…” before the hypnotic “ahhhhhs” come out of nowhere.

Now, if only dreams as good as this Sixties hallmark could be as easily repeated. (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – EMI, 1967)

Classic Rating Scale: 10

Natalie Cole

The psychedelic charm of the original rocker translates well with a live band and Cole giving a passionate performance in her prime with her pristine phrasing and belting heavily influenced by Aretha “Lady Soul” Franklin. Cole’s version with its roaring “But diamonds!” crescendo finishes the song with a more dramatic climax than the Fab Four’s rendition. As a whole, her version sadly eschews the trance-like daydream of Lennon’s psychedelic classic.

Although her version is 5 minutes longer than the original, the total 8-minutes are bearable because Cole and company turn the Beatles hit into a soulful blues rock epic that must be heard in comparison with the psyched-out version it originated from. (Natalie Live! – One Way Records, 1978).

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds – Natalie Cole by DHaynes

Classic Rating Scale: 8.7

Winner: The Beatles

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