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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, now living in "Portlandia"!

Monday, June 17, 2013

In Case It Wasn’t Clear From My Last Post, The Proof That John Lennon Fibbed about His LSD Acrostic After All

No, I’m not suggesting that someone has just discovered some secret recording of John Lennon admitting that he was fibbing all along when he never stopped repeating, till the day he died in 1980, his claim that he got the title "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" from his son Julian.

And no, I am not even relying on Paul McCartney’s apparent change of story (which I just found out about this evening hours after posting my first post about Lennon’s son), when McCartney, in a 2004 interview, stopped toeing the party line of the previous four decades, and said: "A song like 'Got to Get You Into My Life,' that's directly about pot, although everyone missed it at the time." "Day Tripper," he says, "that's one about acid. 'Lucy in the Sky,' that's pretty obvious….”:

Although of course it doesn’t hurt to have Sir Paul’s agreement.

This is all relevant, because as of the present, there are still a number of websites, including the following representative sample courtesy of Google….

..which continue to toe that party line as if Paul had never broken ranks, mostly relying on the assumption that John Lennon had no reason to lie, since his use of LSD was well known, so we ought to just take him at his word.

Not much has changed on this point among knowledgeable Lennon interpreters, since the comprehensive 1984 scholarly article, “The Walrus and the Deacon: John Lennon's Debt to Lewis Carroll”, in which Michael E. Roos wrote:

“The initial and perhaps most prevalent explanation of the song is that it describes an LSD experience, an interpretation supported by the acrostic in the title. Lennon himself has denied that interpretation, insisting that the inspiration for the song came from a drawing his son Julian made at school of a friend named Lucy.
Whichever of these explanations we prefer, we must couple it with the undeniable fact, a fact that Lennon has admitted, most recently in the Playboy interview, that Carroll was also an important inspiration. We need only examine the lyrics. The opening line, “Picture yourself in a boat on a river,” is an obvious allusion to the same image in the introductory poem to Wonderland, which describes the day Dodgson created the story for Alice Liddell and her sisters. It also alludes to Chapter V, “Wool and Water, in Looking Glass, during which Alice and the White Queen, who has taken the form of an old sheep, float  down a stream which has beautiful scented rushes growing on the bank. Alice begins  picking them, but she finds that the most beautiful are out of reach and the ones she does pick wilt very quickly and “melt away like snow, being dream rushes.” …. The “cellophane flowers….” remind us of those flowers Alice spies from the hill in Chapter III of Looking Glass, the ones with elephants drinking from them. The “rocking horse people” would seem to be inspired by the rocking horse fly Alice sees in the same chapter. In the third stanza of Lennon’s song, we find ourselves “on a train in a station”, and we are reminded instantly of the train Alice rides, also in Chapter III, across the third square of the chessboard, when she is told by the guard that she is traveling the wrong way. In addition,…[the] ‘plasticine porters’…may even remind us of Alice’s fellow passenger in the train, the man dressed in white paper…”

But as I reread, and reflected back on, my long post earlier today in which I presented a variety of evidence for covert subtexts behind “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, including Carroll’s works….

…I realized that lost amidst the mountain of evidence I presented about allusive subtexts, I quickly flew by the single undeniable fact which, when properly interpreted, _proves_ that John Lennon did indeed intend to refer to LSD in Lucy in the Sky I Diamonds, and also provides persuasive basis for speculation as to _why_ he did it.

Here is that fact as I previously stated it:

“…did you notice my breaking Carroll’s poem into asymmetric stanzas of 5, 9 and 7 words? I did that, to accentuate a famous aspect of Carroll’s poem:  it is a perfect acrostic on the name of the girl who inspired the character of Alice—Alice Pleasance Liddell!
What’s my point? That, acrostic-like, the first letter of the three nouns in Lennon’s song title (and chorus), in order, spell the word LSD— as Dodgson, a mathematician, would have written, QED!”

Now I will be crystal clear, as I was not, above. I am claiming that if it already strains our credulity that the kindergartner Julian Lennon could have coined the name “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” which just happened to be an acrostic for LSD in a song drenched in psychedelic imagery, then it does not merely strain our credulity, it shatters it into a thousand pieces that Lennon’s song, which has an acrostic in it, just happens to allude (as Lennon acknowledged, and Roos explained in detail) to Carroll’s two famous works, one of which includes within it a poem which is a key source for Lennon’s imagery, a poem which is  also   AN ACROSTIC!

If the odds were one in a million that the song title acrostic could have arisen randomly, they must be one in a trillion that there would be this direct parallelism of acrosticity on top of the other parallelism!  

But how, you ask, does this suggest a motive for John Lennon’s fibbing about this? Because, I suggest, we may infer, from his never having publicly connected his acrostic to Carroll’s acrostic, that John Lennon felt more or less the same way about his literary secrets (in this case, the parallel acrosticity) as Jane Austen felt about hers---apparently he, too, did not write for the dull elves who did not have the ingenuity (and familiarity with Carroll’s works) to discover his secret on their own.

Rather, he was writing for the sharp elves who would quickly surmise that his denials were actually invitations to an interpretive dance, and would then do the work necessary to find out the steps that led to the truth.

And he’d  also be emulating  another master whom we also know was a great model for Lennon—indeed,  he caught a great deal of flak, you might recall, for even speaking of himself in the same breath with that master—Jesus. It was Jesus who spoke in parables, and who famously and  cryptically explained that he did so, so that only the few would understand. 

Perhaps he never got over getting crucified in the American press for that comparison, and so he always felt it was best to keep that one locked away, where only those who loved his music enough to dig for that answer could be trusted to keep his secret for him.

But  today in 2013, I think (and so, I suspect, did Paul McCartney in 2004), that no one will be injured if the truth is finally told and accepted.

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

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