Across the Universe

Across the Universe

Infobox Song
Name = Across The Universe

Artist = The Beatles
Album = No One's Gonna Change Our World
Released = 12 December 1969
Recorded = Abbey Road Studios 4 February 1968
Genre = Psychedelic folk
Length = 3:49
Writer = Lennon/McCartney
Infobox Song
Name = Across The Universe

Artist = The Beatles
Album = Let It Be
Released = 8 May 1970
Recorded = 4 February 1968
track_no = 3
Genre = Psychedelic folk
Length = 3:49
Writer = Lennon/McCartney
prev = Dig a Pony
prev_no = 2
next = I Me Mine
next_no = 4
"Across the Universe" is a song by The Beatles that first appeared on a charity release in December 1969, and later, in modified form, on their final album, "Let It Be". The song features John Lennon singing lead, who is also the composer (though, as with all Beatles songs written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, alone or in collaboration, the song is credited to Lennon/McCartney).


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 it turned into a sort of cosmic song. He began to write the rest of the lyrics and when he was done, he went to bed and forgot about them.

In the morning, Lennon found the paper on which he had written the lyrics and took them down to his piano, where he began to play chords, and find pitches to match the words. The flavor of the song was heavily influenced by Lennon's and The Beatles' short-lived 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" to the piece, which became the link to the chorus. The Sanskrit phrase is a sentence fragment whose words could have many meanings, but roughly translate to "Victory to God divine","hail to the divine guru", or the phrase commonly invoked by the late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi "All Glory to Guru Deva" then the mystic syllable "om", which is theoretically the cosmic sound of the universe and used by monks during meditation.

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 concepts reified with phrases like thoughts "meandering", words "slithering", and undying love "shining". The title phrase "across the universe" appears at intervals to finish lines, although interestingly it never cadences, always appearing as a rising figure, melodically unresolved.

In his 1970 interview with "Rolling Stone", Lennon referred to the song as perhaps the best, most poetic lyric he ever wrote.

The recording and version history

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 India. Paul McCartney had written "Lady Madonna" and John, "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 3rd and 11th of February.

Whilst the basic track was successfully recorded on February 4th, Lennon wasn't satisfied with the feel of the track. Several innovations were tried, including blowing through comb onto paper and humming to add texture to the track, and the addition of a pedal guitar and tambora. In the end, according to Lennon, McCartney persuaded John to call in the services of Lizzie Bravo and Gayleen Pease, two of the so-called Apple scruffs (the female fans who collected outside the studio) to add harmony vocals. Lennon later cited this as evidence of McCartney's " [s] ubconscious sabotage" of Lennon's compositions, saying Paul would have used professional session singers had it been his own work.Fact|date=March 2008

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 including "Across the Universe" and went as far as having the EP mastered. However, the recent trip to India had soured Lennon on transcendental meditation and eastern spiritualism, and the song's mantra-type refrain already seemed outdated. His subsequent "White Album" contributions were much angrier and had a harder edge, reflective of the growing political and social turmoil of 1968.

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, and the track was mixed into stereo for the first time by George Martin. The original mix (mono and stereo) is 3:37. For the 'wildlife' album it was deemed appropriate to add sound effects of birds at the beginning and end of the track. After the effects were added the track was sped up; so that even with 20 seconds of effects the track is only 3:49. The song was first released in this version on the Regal Starline SRS 5013 album "No One's Gonna Change Our World", in December 1969.

Though never satisfied with the recording, Lennon was still attached to the song, and played it during the "Get Back/Let It Be" album sessions of January 1969; footage of John playing the song appeared in the "Let It Be" movie. Bootleg recordings from the sessions include a full group performance of the song, 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.

Glyn Johns remixed the February recording giving it an acoustic treatment and restoring the correct speed. However, as neither of the Glyn Johns "Get Back" albums were officially released, the version most people are familiar with came from Phil Spector. In line with the treatment of several tracks, Spector slowed the track to 3:47, and added full orchestra and chorus backing to the February 1968 master.

An unreleased February 1968 alternate take of the song (recorded before the master), sans heavy production, appeared on "Anthology 2" in 1996. This is often referred to as the "psychedelic" recording, due to the strong Indian sitar and tanpura 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.


"See Across the Universe (film)"

Across the Universe was used in the film of the same name. One particularly notable part is the aforementioned Sanskrit phrase. It is first said while Jude is on a subway train with another passing it. At that very moment, the Hare Krishna walk down the passing train.

Transmission into deep space

On February 4, 2008, at 00:00 UTC, NASA transmitted [ [ NASA - NASA Beams Beatles' 'Across the Universe' Into Space ] ] "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 DSN's Madrid 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, the 45th anniversary of the Deep Space Network (DSN), and the 50th anniversary of NASA. The idea was hatched by Beatles historian Martin Lewis, who encouraged all Beatles fans to play the track as it was beamed to the distant star. The event marked the second time a piece of music had been intentionally transmitted into deep space, and was approved by Paul McCartney, Yoko Ono, and Apple Records. [ [ "NASA beaming Beatles tune to the stars"] ] (The first musical interstellar message was "1st Theremin Concert to Aliens", section 2 of the Teen Age Message.)

Complete recording and mixing history

*4 February 1968: Takes 1-7 Recorded. Overdub onto Take 7. Reduction into Take 8. Overdub onto Take 8. Sound Effects Takes 1-3.
*8 February 1968: Overdub onto Take 8. Mono mixing from Take 8.
*2 October 1969: Overdubs onto Take 8. Stereo mixing from Take 8. Version released on the album "No One's Gonna Change Our World".
*5 January 1970: Stereo mixing from Take 8. Version to have been released on the 5 January "Get Back" album.
*23 March 1970: Stereo mixing from Take 8.
*1 April 1970: Reduction into Take 9. Overdub onto Take 9.
*2 April 1970: Stereo Mixing from take 9. Version released on the "Let It Be" album.

Cover versions

The song has been covered by many artists, including:
* 10cc
* 46bliss on their album Pistachio Home
* 6 Cycle Mind
* A Fine Frenzy
* Áine Minogue
* The John Butler Trio
* Ariane Moffatt, during a live concert
* Ben Allison on his album Buzz
* Chanel Cole on the Final 7 Beatle themed night on Australian Idol Season 2 (2004)
* The Curtain Society
* Cyndi Lauper
* David Bowie, on his album "Young Americans", singing alongside John Lennon
* Electric Light Orchestra performed on their 1982 Time Tour.
* Element of Crime usually play "Across the Universe" as the last song of their live concerts.
* Fiona Apple, featured in the film "Pleasantville" (a [ music video] clip on youtube)
* The Format
* Grant-Lee Phillips
* Jim Sturgess, for the film "Across the Universe"
* Joel Sherman covered this song in the documentary film Word Wars
* Kayler
* Kevin Max's "Her Game" from his debut album, Stereotype Be, has vocals that are structured the same as Lennon's.
* Laibach featuring Anja Rupel, on the Laibach's cover album "Let It Be"
* Lana Lane
* Liam O'Maonlai and Eddi Reader performed the song on Australian television program RocKwiz in 2006. The recording appears on the CD "RocKwiz Duets, Vol. 2".
* Liam Wright
* Lisa Ono
* Matt Corby on Australian Idol, Season 5 (2007)
* Michael Johns on American Idol, Season 7 (2008)
* Phish
* Pink Floyd included an homage to the song in their acclaimed "Echoes": the phrase "inviting and inciting" is directly lifted from "Across the Universe," as well as some of the vocal melody. Roger Waters also recorded a cover of the song, and some of the wildlife noises appear in the Waters-penned Pink Floyd song "Grantchester Meadows"Fact|date=November 2007.
* Robyn Hitchcock
* Rufus Wainwright, featured in the film "I Am Sam" and as a bonus track on his CD Poses
* Sean Lennon played this with Moby and Rufus Wainwright at a 2001 John Lennon tribute at Radio City Music Hall.
* Seether
* Seigmen played an altered version of their song "Mørkets øy" using the "Across the Universe" lyrics during their last tour.
* Suede
* The Smiths, A rare acoustic version exists but can only be found on file sharing networks.
* The String Cheese Incident
* Texas, as a B-side to their 2001 single, "Inner Smile"
* Verdena
* Zero 7Fact|date=June 2008
* Another version was performed by a number of artists, including Billie Joe Armstrong, Bono, Steven Tyler, Brian Wilson, Tim McGraw, Scott Weiland, Alicia Keys, Alison Krauss, Norah Jones, and Stevie Wonder, backed by members of Velvet Revolver, at the 2004 Grammy Awards ceremony in February 2005. The following week, a recording of the performance was released exclusively for purchase through the iTunes Music Store. All proceeds from its sale go to funds for victims of the 26 December 2004 Tsunami. Sales from the benefit release made it the fastest-selling download in iTunes history and allowed the song to peak at #22 on the Billboard singles chart. This version has a lyric change: "Nothing's" gonna change my world" was changed to "Something's" gotta change my world."

Further reading

* John Lennon, Yoko Ono, David Sheff and G. Barry Olson (1981), "The Playboy interviews with John Lennon and Yoko Ono". New York: Playboy Press/Putnam. ISBN 0-87223-705-2 - includes unpublished conversations and Lennon's song-by-song analysis of his work.

ee also

*Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence (CETI)


External links

* [ The Beatles Bible: Across The Universe]

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