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Tomorrow Never Knows

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"Tomorrow Never Knows"
Song by The Beatles
Album Revolver
Released 5 August 1966
Recorded Abbey Road Studios
6, 7, 22 April 1966
Genre Psychedelic rock
Length 2:57
Label Parlophone
Writer Lennon/McCartney
Producer George Martin
Revolver track listing
Brennell Mk. 5, 1963
[Timothy] Leary was the one who was going round saying, 'Take it, take it, take it,' and we followed his instructions in The Book of the Dead, his how-to-take-a-trip book. I did it just like he said in the book, and then I wrote 'Tomorrow Never Knows,' which is almost the first acid song, 'Lay down all thought, surrender to the void.' I took one of Ringo's malapropisms as the title.

—John Lennon, 1968

'Tomorrow Never Knows' ... I didn't know what I was saying, and you just find out later. I know that when there are some lyrics I dig, I know that somewhere people will be looking at them.

—John Lennon, 1968

Often the backing I think of early-on never comes off. With 'Tomorrow Never Knows' I'd imagined in my head that in the background you would hear thousands of monks chanting. That was impractical, of course, and we did something different. It was a bit of a drag, and I didn't really like it. I should have tried to get near my original idea, the monks singing. I realize now that was what I wanted.

—John Lennon, The Beatles by Hunter Davies, 1968

We only had one verse and I think we stretched it to two verses and we couldn't think of any more words, 'cos we had said it all, what we wanted to say, in about two verses. So, we had to try and work out how to do it and make it different. So, I decided to do some of those loops that I had been doing on my own tape recorder.

—Paul McCartney

On our LP, we've got this track called 'Tomorrow Never Knows' which features electronic effects that I worked out for myself, and words from The Tibetan Book Of The Dead. We did it because I, for one, am sick of doing sounds that people can claim to have heard before. Anyway, we played it to The Stones and The Who, and they visibly sat up and were interested. We also played it to Cilla, who just laughed.

—Paul McCartney

People tend to credit John with the backward recordings, the loops and the wierd sound effects, but the tape loops were my thing! The only thing I used them on was 'Tomorrow Never Knows.'

—Paul McCartney, Many Years From Now by Barry Miles, 1998

That's me in my Tibetan Book of the Dead period. I took one of Ringo's malapropisms as the title, to sort of take the edge off the heavy philosophical lyrics.

—John Lennon, The Playboy Interviews, p.153, 1980

That was one of Ringo's malapropisms. John wrote the lyrics from Timothy Leary's version of the 'Tibetan Book of the Dead.' It was a kind of Bible for all the psychedelic freaks. that was an LSD song. Probably the only one. People always thought 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds' was, but it actually wasn't meant to say LSD. It was a drawing that John's son brought home from school. Lucy was a kid in his school. And we said, 'That's a great title,' and we wrote the psychedelic song based on it. It's a natural, isn't it? You know, it was that sort of time. Like all that Abbey Road cover stuff, you know. Paul is dead, because he hasn't got shoes on, you know? It was a period when they used to read into our lyrics a lot, used to think there was more in them than there was. We didn't bother pointing out.

—Paul McCartney, Playboy Interview, 1984

We all made up little abstract sounds on our home tape machines. Then, we'd cut a piece out of it, stick it together into a loop, and then put it onto the machine and round the playback head and we'd have to hold it with a pencil to keep it tight. We had all these things on different machines and then we'd mix them all into the record.

—George Harrison

'Tomorrow Never Knows' was a groundbreaker in so many ways. No John Lennon vocal had ever sounded like that before. That was the sound of a voice being fed through a reolving Leslie speaker inside a Hammond organ. Organ notes played through it are given the Hammond swirling effect; voices put through a Leslie emerge in much the same way. 'It meant actually breaking into the circuitry,' says Emerick. 'I remember the surprise on our faces when the voice came out of the speaker. It was just one of sheer amazement. After that they wanted everything shoved through the Leslie: pianos, guitars, drums, vocals, you name it!'

—Mark Lewisohn, The Beatles Recording Sessions, p.72, 1988

Perhaps the most striking sound on 'Tomorrow Never Knows' is one of tape loops [the sound achieved by tape saturation, by removing the erase head of a machine and then recording over and over on the same piece of tape]. 'The tape loop idea started because they all had Brennell machines,' recalls Geoff Emerick. 'Paul in particular used the make his own loops at home and walk into the studio with bags full of little reels saying "Listen to this!" The seagull-like noise on "Tomorrow Never Knows" is realy a distorted guitar.' (According to studio documentation, other loops used included the sounds of a speeded up guitar and a wine glass.) 'We did a live mix of all the loops,' says George Martin. 'All over the studios we had people spooling them onto machines with pencils while Geoff did the balancing. There were many other hands controlling the panning.' 'We had five machines running,' says Phil McDonald. 'Geoff would say "OK, let's lift that fader, that sounds good." It was done totally off the cuff. The control room was as full of loops as it was people.' 'I laid all of the loops onto the multi-track and played the faders like a modern day synthesiser,' says Emerick.

—Mark Lewisohn, The Beatles Recording Sessions, p.72, 1988

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