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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Tomorrow Never Knows/The Beatles

There appears to be some residual confusion about the origins of the song "Tomorrow Never Knows," from The Beatles' 1966 album Revolver. It has long been known that John Lennon wrote the song after taking LSD; but did he draw inspiration directly from The Tibetan Book of the Dead as some Beatles insiders claimed, or from Timothy Leary's 1964 book The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, written with Ralph Metzner and Richard Alpert? The Beatles' own book, The Beatles Anthology, seems to lay the matter to rest, quoting Lennon as saying: "Leary was the one going around saying take it, take it, take it. And we followed his instructions in his ‘how to take a a trip’ book. I did it just like he said in the book, and then I wrote 'Tomorrow Never Knows,' which was almost the first acid song. ‘Lay down all thought surrender to the void’ and all that shit which Leary had pinched from The Book of the Dead. . . . I read George Martin was saying John was into The Book of the Dead. I’d never seen it in my life." Certainly the line Turn off your mind, relax and float down stream is straight out of Leary's book. The title of the song is unrelated to the content. "I gave it a throwaway title because I was a bit self-conscious about the lyrics," Lennon said. "So I took one of Ringo's malapropisms, which was like 'a hard day's night,' to take the edge off the heavy philosophical lyrics." [The Psychedelic Experience is dedicated to Aldous Huxley, and quotes his book The Doors of Perception--the same book that inspired Jim Morrison to name his band The Doors.]

Submitted by Stephen

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