Across The Universe

Across the Universe

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"Across the Universe"
Song by the Beatles from the album No One's Gonna Change Our World
Released12 December 1969
Recorded4 February 1968, Abbey Road Studios, London, England
GenrePsychedelic folk
LabelRegal Starline
ProducerGeorge Martin
No One's Gonna Change Our Worldtrack listing
"Across the Universe"
Cilla Black – "What the World Needs Now Is Love"
"Across the Universe"
Across the Universe - The Beatles.jpg
The 1996 U.S. jukebox single of the song, backed with "Two of Us"
Song by the Beatles from the album Let It Be
Released8 May 1970
Recorded4 February 1968, , Abbey Road Studios, London, England
GenrePsychedelic folk
ProducerPhil Spector
Let It Be track listing
"Across the Universe" is a song recorded by the Beatles. It was written by John Lennon, and credited to Lennon–McCartney. The song first appeared on the various artists' charity compilation album No One's Gonna Change Our World in December 1969, and later, in different form, on Let It Be, the group's final released album.


One night in 1967, the phrase "words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup" came to Lennon after hearing his then-wife Cynthia, according to Lennon, "going on and on about something." Later, after "she'd gone to sleep—and I kept hearing these words over and over, flowing like an endless stream," Lennon went downstairs and turned it into a song. He began to write the rest of the lyrics and when he was done, he went to bed and forgot about them.
I was lying next to my first wife in bed, you know, and I was irritated. and I was thinking. She must have been going on and on about something and she'd gone to sleep and I kept hearing these words over and over, flowing like an endless stream. I went downstairs and it turned into a sort of cosmic song rather than an irritated song, rather than a "Why are you always mouthing off at me?"... [The words] were purely inspirational and were given to me as boom!. I don't own it you know; it came through like that.
The flavour of the song was heavily influenced by Lennon's and the Beatles' interest in Transcendental Meditation in late 1967 – early 1968, when the song was composed. Based on this he added the mantra "Jai guru deva om" (Sanskrit: जय गुरुदेव ) to the piece, which became the link to the chorus. The Sanskrit phrase is a sentence fragment whose words could have many meanings. Literally it approximates as "glory to the shining remover of darkness," and can be paraphrased as "Victory to God divine", "Hail to the divine guru", or the phrase commonly invoked by the late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in referring to his spiritual teacher "All Glory to Guru Dev."
The song's lyrical structure is straightforward: three repetitions of a unit consisting of a verse, the line "Jai guru deva om" and the line "Nothing's gonna change my world" repeated four times. The lyrics are highly image-based, with abstract conceptsreified with phrases like thoughts "meandering", words "slithering", and undying love "shining". The title phrase "across the universe" appears at intervals to finish lines, although it never cadences, always appearing as a rising figure, melodically unresolved. It finishes on the leading note; to the Western musical ear, the next musical note would be the tonic and would therefore sound complete.
In his 1970 interview with Rolling Stone, Lennon referred to the song as perhaps the best, most poetic lyric he ever wrote: "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."[5]

Musical structure[edit]

On a standard-tuned guitar (EADGBE) the song is played in the key of D; however, the recording was slowed electronically, resulting in a lower C# tuning to the ear. The verse beginning "Words are flowing out" (I (D) chord) is notable for a prolonged vi (Bm)–iii (F#m) to ii7 (Em7) minor drop to the dominant chord V7 (A7) on "across the universe" in the 4th bar.] On the repeat of this chord sequence a turn following the ii7 (Em7) through a iv minor (Gm) brings the verse to a close before moving on directly to the tonic on the "Jai Guru Deva Om" refrain. The vi–ii minor drop leading to V had been used earlier in "I Will" (on "how long I've loved you") and George Harrison utilised a shorter vi–iii minor alternation to delay getting back to the dominant (V) in "I Need You". The verse beginning "Words are flowing out like endless rain..." is also notable for the suitably breathless phrasing and almost constant 8th note rhythm (initially four D melody notes, then C#, B, A, B)

Recording and version history[edit]

Complete recording and mixing history
4 February 1968Takes one–two and four–seven recorded. Overdub onto take seven. Reduction into take eight. Overdub onto take eight. Sound effects on takes one–three.
8 February 1968Overdub onto take eight. Mono mixing from take eight.
January 1969Overdubs onto take eight. Mono mixing from take eight. Version planned for the album No One's Gonna Change Our World.
2 October 1969Overdubs onto take eight. Stereo mixing from take eight. Version released on the album No One's Gonna Change Our World and later on Past Masters.
5 January 1970Stereo mixing from take eight. Version to have been released on 5 January Get Back album.
23 March 1970Stereo mixing from take eight.
1 April 1970Reduction into take nine. Overdub onto take nine.
2 April 1970Stereo mixing from take nine. Version released on the Let It Be album.

February 1968 recordings[edit]

In February 1968, the Beatles convened at the EMI Abbey Road studios to record a single for release during their absence on their forthcoming trip to IndiaPaul McCartney had written "Lady Madonna" and Lennon, "Across the Universe". Both tracks were recorded along with Lennon's "Hey Bulldog" and the vocal track for George's "The Inner Light" between the 3 and 11 February.
The basic track was successfully recorded on 4 February. Along with the basic rhythm track of acoustic guitar, percussion andtambura, it featured an overdubbed sitar introduction by George Harrison. Two teenaged fans, Lizzie Bravo and Gayleen Pease, were invited in off the street to provide backup vocals.
Lennon still wasn't satisfied with the feel of the track and several sound effects were taped, including 15 seconds of humming and a guitar and a harp-like sound, both to be played backwards; however, none of these were used on the released version. The track was mixed to mono and put aside as the group had decided to release "Lady Madonna" and "The Inner Light" as the single. On their return from India, the group set about recording the many songs they had written there, and "Across the Universe" remained on the shelf. In the autumn of 1968, the Beatles seriously considered releasing an EP including most of the songs for the Yellow Submarine album and "Across the Universe", and went as far as having the EP mastered.

World Wildlife Fund version

During the February 1968 recording sessions, Spike Milligan dropped into the studio and, on hearing the song, suggested the track would be ideal for release on a charity album he was organising for the World Wildlife Fund. At some point in 1968, the Beatles agreed to this proposal. In January 1969, the best mono mix was remixed for the charity album. In keeping with the "wildlife" theme of the album, sound effects of birds were added to the beginning and end. The original (mono) mix from February 1968 is 3:37 minutes in length. After the effects were added, the track was sped up so that even with 20 seconds of effects, it is only 3:49. Speeding up the recording also raised the key to E-flat. By October 1969, it was decided that the song needed to be remixed into stereo. This was done by Geoff Emerick immediately prior to the banding of the album. "Across the Universe" was first released in this version on the Regal Starline SRS 5013 album, No One's Gonna Change Our World, in December 1969.
This version was issued on three Beatle compilation albums, the British version of Rarities, the different American version ofRarities and the second disc of the two-CD Past Masters album.

Let It Be version

The Beatles took the song up again during the Get Back/Let It Be rehearsal sessions of January 1969; footage of Lennon playing the song appeared in the Let It Be movie. Bootleg recordings from the sessions include numerous full group performances of the song, usually with Lennon–McCartney harmonies on the chorus. To ensure the album tied in with the film it was decided the song must be included on what by January 1970 had become the Let It Be album. Also, Lennon's contributions to the sessions were sparse, and this unreleased piece was seen as a way to fill the gap.
Although the song was extensively rehearsed on the Twickenham Studios soundstage the only recordings were mono transcriptions for use in the film soundtrack. No multitrack recordings were made after the group's move to Apple Studios. Thus in early January 1970 Glyn Johns remixed the February 1968 recording. The new mix omitted the teenaged girls' vocals and the bird sound effects of the World Wildlife Fund version. As neither of the Glyn Johns Get Back albums were officially released, the version most people are familiar with came from Phil Spector, who in late March and early April 1970 remixed the February 1968 recording yet again and added orchestral and choral overdubs. Spector also slowed the track to 3:47, close to its original speed. According to Lennon, "Spector took the tape and did a damn good job with it."

Other versions

A previously-unreleased February 1968 alternate take of the song (recorded before the master), without heavy production, appeared on Anthology 2 in 1996. This is often referred to as the "psychedelic" recording because of the strong Indian sitar and tambura sound, and illustrates the band's original uncertainty over the best treatment for the song.
The February 1968 master was remixed again for inclusion on Let It Be... Naked in 2003, at the correct speed but stripped of most of the instrumentation, and digitally processed to correct tuning issues.

Critical reception and legacy

Music critic Richie Unterberger of Allmusic said the song was "one of the group's most delicate and cosmic ballads," and "was one of the highlights of the Let It Be album." Music critic Ian MacDonald was critical of the song, calling it a "plaintively babyish incantation" and saying "its vague pretensions and listless melody are rather too obviously the products of acid grandiosity rendered gentle by sheer exhaustion."
Lennon himself was unhappy with the song as it was recorded. In his 1980 Playboy interview Lennon says that the Beatles "didn't make a good record of it" and says of the Let It Be version that "the guitars are out of tune and I'm singing out of tune...and nobody's supporting me or helping me with it and the song was never done properly." He further accused McCartney of unintentionally ruining the song:
On 4 February 2008, at 00:00 UTCNASA transmitted the Interstellar Message "Across the Universe" in the direction of the star Polaris, 431 light years from Earth. The transmission was made using a 70m antenna in the Deep Space Network'sMadrid Deep Space Communication Complex, located outside of Madrid, Spain. It was done with an "X band" transmitter, radiating into the antenna at 18 kW. This was done to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the song's recording, the 45th anniversary of the Deep Space Network (DSN), and the 50th anniversary of NASA. The idea was hatched by Beatles historianMartin Lewis, who encouraged all Beatles fans to play the track as it was beamed to the distant star. The event marked the first time a song had ever been intentionally transmitted into deep space, and was approved by McCartney, Yoko Ono, andApple Corps. (The first musical interstellar message was "1st Theremin Concert to Aliens", section 2 of the Teen Age Message, in 2001.)
The name of Arjen Anthony Lucassen's first solo album Pools of Sorrow, Waves of Joy, released in 1996, comes from a quote of "Across the Universe", which is one of Lucassen's favourite songs.


1968 version:
  • Lizzie Bravo and Gayleen Pease – backing vocal
Let It Be version:
  • Uncredited – strings and choir
Let It Be... Naked version:
  • George Martin – Hammond organ, producer (original 1968 version)
  • Phil Spector – producer (1970 version)
  • Ken Scott, Martin Benge – engineers (original 1968 version)
  • Jeff Jarratt – remix engineer (1969 No One's Gonna Change Our World version)
  • Peter Bown, Mike Sheady – recording & remix engineers (1970 Let It Be version)
Personnel per Ian MacDonald
Elements of the performance recorded on 8 February 1968 were replaced by an orchestra and choir recorded on 1 April 1970.


There have been several recordings of "Across the Universe" released by the Beatles as well as covers by other artists.
ArtistRelease DateAlbum TitleNotes
Cilla Black3 July 1970Sweet InspirationProduced by George Martin
David Bowie7 March 1975Young Americansbacking vocals by John Lennon
Roger Waters12 June 1985Tribute to John LennonWith Andy Fairweather Low
Vadim Brodski1986Beatles Symphony
Cyndi Lauper1989/2009Unreleased /Across the Universe2009 Version w/ Jake Shimabukuro
Lana Lane21 November 1988Ballad Collection, Vol. 1
Laibach1988Let It BeVocals by Anja Rupel
10cc199510cc Alive
Nikolay Rastorguyev1996/2007Четыре ночи в Москве /Birthday (With Love)
Aine Minogue15 July 1997Between the WorldsCeltic version
Fiona Apple13 October 1998Pleasantville Soundtrack
Rufus Wainwright12 February 2002PosesUS Edition bonus track, part of the soundtrack of the film "I Am Sam", also played in episode 6 in of the science fiction TV series "FlashForward"
Verdena5 June 2003B-side
Ben Allison & Medicine Wheel24 May 2004Buzz
Kingdom Come20 December 2006Ain't Crying for the Moon
Jim Sturgess18 September 2007Across the Universe Soundtrackfrom the Julie Taymor musical based on Beatles songs. Also the title for the film.
John Butler Trio24 August 2004What You Want
Seether5 August 2008iTunes Originals – Seether
Justin Mauriello6 February 2010Justin Sings the Hits
Brian Molko3 July 2010Belgium Presidency of European Union
Beady Eye4 April 2011Proceeds go to Japanese Tsunami ReliefRecorded at RAK studios on 2 April 2011, performed live at the Japan Disaster Benefit concert on 3 April 2011, and released as a digital download on 4 April 2011 – all proceeds go to the charity.
Bill Frisell27 September 2011All We Are SayingReleased on Savoy Jazz records.
Scorpions4 November 2011Comeblack
Denise Ho6 December 2012無臉人演唱會
Hikaru Utada9 December 2010Wild Life (concert)Performed during her final concert aka "Wild Life" followed by her hiatus. Although the song was not officially recorded, it was included on her Wild Life DVD and Blu-ray release on 3 February 2011.
Chris Hadfieldand the Wexford Gleeks6 December 2013CBC Sounds of the SeasonLive performance on CBC Toronto News
In 2007, Jackson Browne and Robby Krieger of The Doors also recorded and released a version of the song.
Additionally, according to the IMDB website, the American band Velvet Revolver, with Slash playing a 12-string Gibson Les Paul, along with other artists, BonoNorah JonesAlicia KeysTim McGrawSteven TylerBrian WilsonAlison Krauss on fiddle, Billie Joe Armstrong, and Stevie Wonder, on lead vocals and harmonica, covered the song live as a tribute to the Tsunami Victims at the 2005 Grammy Awards. According to the 5 March 2005 Billboard magazine, the all-star Grammy recording debuted at no. 22 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart as a digital download.
On 3 July 2010 Placebo singer Brian Molko performed this song with a full orchestra in Brussels to celebrate the Belgium Presidency of European Union[30] British band Beady Eye covered the track in 2011 for the British Red Cross Japanese Tsunami Appeal. All profits from the track were donated to the appeal. During their 1981/1982 Time TourElectric Light Orchestra covered "Across the Universe" together with "Imagine" and "A Day in the Life" as part of their tribute to John Lennon. Band leader Jeff Lynne had gained most of his inspiration to make Electric Light Orchestra from the works of Lennon both with The Beatles and his solo career.[citation needed]


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Further reading[edit]

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