Across the Universe - The Beatles

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"Across the Universe" - The Beatles (1970)

“Across the Universe” was recorded in February 1968. Exactly forty years later on 4 February 2008, NASA transmitted the Interstellar Message “Across the Universe” in the direction of the star Polaris, 431 light years from Earth. It was the first time a song had ever been intentionally transmitted into deep space.

The song is about the act of writing. The words come out of him and literally escape into the universe where they go one forever. The narrator is describing the trance-like state he is in when writing.

Lennon said it’s one of the best lyrics he ever wrote:

“Such an extraordinary meter and I can never repeat it! It’s not a matter of craftsmanship- it wrote itself. It’s good poetry, or whatever you call it, without chewing it. 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.”

When The Beatles recorded it in February of 1968, both Lennon and McCartney decided they wanted falsetto harmonies on the song. No matter what he did, John said he was sounding out of tune, so, as the story goes, Paul went outside and grabbed two groupies handing out in front of Abbey Road studios to add the background harmonies.

Lennon said:

“The song was destroyed with the atmosphere of looseness and casualness and experimentation. I think subconsciously sometimes we - I say ‘we’ although I think Paul did it more than the rest of us - Paul would, sort of subconsciously, try and destroy a great song... meaning we’d play experimental games with my great pieces, like ‘Strawberry Fields,’ which I always thought was badly recorded.”
In its opening lines the track conveys the idea that language as a kind of infinite commodity: “Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup; they slither while they pass, they slip away across the universe.”

Lennon is plucking words from their natural context and putting them together in ways that simply make interesting strings of sounds or paint strange or fantastic aural pictures. Absolutely anything could serve as a prompt for Lennon to put words together to frame his lyrics. Sounds, newspaper articles, everyday discourse, old English ditties and nursery rhymes all provided him with the words he needed to make his lyrics sound right.

Steve Turner writes of “Across the Universe”:

It is John’s most purely poetic song, he asserts that nothing is going to change his world. The reason he can claim this is what his world- the world that he has control over- lies within. The images of slithering words, waves of joy, pools of sorrow, and shining suns are all placed within “my open mind.”

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