Tomorrow Never Knows - The Beatles

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"Tomorrow Never Knows" - The Beatles (1966)

“Tomorrow Never Knows” is based on Timothy Leary’s version of the “Tibetan Book of the Dead.” The title was taken from another one of Ringo’s “malapropisms”- weird things that Ringo would say- and which would wind up as titles to songs- such as “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Eight Days A Week.”

Lennon imagined the song would sound like thousands of monks chanting. They weren’t successful and he was unhappy with the result. Why he would think a thousand monks chanting in unison would sound good- was never addressed.

“Tomorrow Never Knows” is a veritable kitchen-sink mix of just about every trick in the Beatles’ book to-date, including: an Indian drone, modal tune, bluesy instrumental, tape loops, ADT, vocals played through revolving speakers, distortedly close-up miking of instruments, and a psychedelically mystical “outlook.”

Although the track is typically thought of as being a “John song” it was McCartney who created the most innovative and distinctive features of the recording- which includes the track’s astonishing soundscape.
McCartney came up with the idea for using tape loops to create effects. 16 tape loops were employed as several people remember standing around the room holding pencils for the tape to loop around and back into the recording machine as the various sound effects and instrumentation were faded in and out.

“Tomorrow Never Knows” is centered on just one chord. Ringo’s lopsided beat matched the mood of the song perfectly. His tom skins were slacked and then the track heavily compressed. Ringo (or McCartney- perhaps) is responsible for creating this unusual, lopsided beat that was invented just for this number.
The entire composition is also constructed around a drum pater which some experts say changed the way drums should sound like. Engineer Geoff Emerick improved the sound of Ringo’s percussion by moving the microphones closer to his drum kit and by stuffing an old woolen sweater inside his bass drum in order to deepen its resonance.

Beatle scholar Ken Womack says this was the song that The Beatles showed a “sense of an ending” that marked their shift from mere pop music performers/rock-and-rollers into “narrateurs”- storytellers.

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