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Across The Universe (Lennon/McCartney)

Across The Universe was originally donated to a charity album for the World Wildlife Fund. That version was sped up by a semi-tone during mixing. For release on Let It Be, Phil Spector took the original master of the song, omitted some of the sound effects, added others, slowed the tape down, and added an orchestra.

The unissued EP

The No One's Gonna Change Our World version (the "wildlife version") was released in stereo for that compilation but was originally mixed in mono on the day it was recorded. That mono mix was also intended for inclusion on an aborted EP with the four new songs which appeared on the Yellow Submarine soundtrack. That EP was mixed for mono only and was later issued on the Mono Masters compilation included in The Beatles In Mono.

Apple Scruffs on background vocals

On the original recording, two female vocalists are heard singing the lines "nothing's gonna change my world" after John's choral line "jai guru deva ohm". These vocalists were chosen by Paul outside the Abbey Road studios after he and John realized the song was lacking harmony vocals. Chosen were 16-year old Brazilian Lizzie Bravo and 17-year old London native Gayleen Pease - the first and only fans ever invited to participate in a Beatles recording. Their contribution was taped on February 4, 1968.

Quotes

"I was lying next to my first wife in bed, you know, and I was irritated. She must have been going on and on about something and she'd gone to sleep and I'd kept hearing these words over and over, flowing like an endless stream. I went downstairs and it turned into sort of a cosmic song rather than an irritated song; rather than a 'Why are you always mouthing off at me?' or whatever, right? But the words stand, luckily, by themselves. They were purely inspirational and were given to me as - boom! I don't own it, you know; it came through like that. I don't know where it came from, what meter it's in, and I've sat down and looked at it and said, 'Can I write another one with this meter?' It's so interesting: 'Words are flying [sic] out like [sings] endless rain into a paper cup, they slither while they pass, they slip away across the universe.' Such an extraordinary meter and I can never repeat it! It's not a matter of craftsmanship; it wrote itself. It drove me out of bed. I didn’t want to write it, I was just slightly irritable and I went downstairs and I couldn’t get to sleep until I put it on paper, and then I went to sleep. It's like being possessed; like a psychic or a medium. The thing has to go down. It won't let you sleep, so you have to get up, make it into something, and then you're allowed to sleep. That's always in the middle of the bloody night, when you're half awake or tired and your critical facilities are switched off." - John Lennon

"It's one of the best lyrics I've written. In fact, it could be the best. It's good poetry, or whatever you call it, without chewin' it. See, the ones I like are the ones that stand as words, without melody. They don't have to have any melody, like a poem, you can read them." - John Lennon, Rolling Stone, 1970

"The Beatles didn't make a good record of "Across the Universe." I think subconsciously we - I thought Paul subconsciously tried to destroy my great songs. We would play experimental games with my great pieces, like "Strawberry Fields," which I always felt was badly recorded. It worked, but it wasn't what it could have been." - John Lennon, Playboy, 1980

"It was a lousy track of a great song and I was so disappointed by it. It never went out as The Beatles; I gave it to the Wildlife Fund of Great Britain, and then when Phil Spector was brought in to produce Let It Be he dug it out of the Beatles files and overdubbed it. The guitars are out of tune and I'm singing out of tune 'cause I'm psychologically destroyed and nobody's supporting me or helping me with it and the song was never done properly." - John Lennon

Recording dates

  • February 4, 1968 (6 takes, basic track, plus overdubs)
  • February 8, 1968 (overdubs)
  • April 1, 1970 (Phil Spector reworking and overdubs)

Release history

Notable covers

  • Fiona Apple (from the soundtrack to the film Pleasantville)
  • David Bowie (from Young Americans)

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