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Across The Universe

fevereiro 13, 2008

 

Composition

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 sort of a 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 brought 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 “hail to the divine guru”, then the mystic syllable om.

The structure of the lyrics 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 Magazine, Lennon referred to the song as perhaps the best, most poetic lyric he ever wrote.

[edit] 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 George’s “The Inner Light” and Lennon’s “Hey Bulldog” between the 3rd and 11th of February.

Whilst the basic track was successfully recorded on the 4 February, 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 convinced 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 if it was McCartney’s own work.

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 White Album contributions were much angrier and had a harder edge.

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.

Retirado do site – Wikipedia.

One comment

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