Tomorrow Never Knows

“Tomorrow Never Knows” is a Beatles’ song which is also the final track on their 1966 album, “Revolver”. The song was revolutionary and was a taster of more diverse things to come from the Fab Four.

So, in just a couple of years, The Beatles made a giant leap from Beatlemania into the psychedelic era. Furthermore, they were creating songs which would be difficult to perform live on stage. Hence, the band were to concentrate on studio performances and their gigging days were effectively over.

In Detail

Albums

Publisher: Northern Songs
Release Date: 5th August, 1966 (UK), 8th August, 1966 (US)
Recorded: 6th, 7th and 22nd April, 1966
Studio: EMI Studios, London
Genre: Psychedelic rock, electronic music, raga rock, hard rock, avant-pop
Track Duration: 2:58
Record Label: Parlophone
Songwriter: Lennon-McCartney
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Geoff Emerick

Performers

John Lennon: vocals, Hammond organ, Mellotron, also tape loops
Paul McCartney: bass guitar, also tape loops
George Harrison: sitar, tambura, lead guitar, also tape loops
Ringo Starr: drums, tambourine, also tape loops
George Martin: tack piano

Track Sources

Revolver
Anthology 2
Love

Tomorrow Never Knows

In short, John Lennon’s influence for “Tomorrow Never Knows” came from the experience with the drug, LSD. But, there was a book which also proved influential at the time – The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead by Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert and Ralph Metzner.

Tomorrow Never Knows is a Beatles' song on their Revolver album
Revolver (1966)
Tomorrow Never Knows is a Beatles' song and take 1 is on their Anthology 2 album
Anthology 2 Album (1996)
Tomorrow Never Knows is a Beatles' song and the drums used are on a mix on the Love album
Love Album (2006)
John Lennon wrote the song in January 1966 with lyrics being an adaption from the book.

“The final track on Revolver, Tomorrow Never Knows, was definitely John’s. Round about this time people were starting to experiment with drugs, including LSD. John had got hold of Timothy Leary’s adaptation of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, which is a pretty interesting book.

For the first time we got the idea that, as with ancient Egyptian practice, when you die you lie in state for a few days, and then some of your handmaidens come and prepare you for a huge voyage. Rather than the British version, in which you just pop your clogs. With LSD, this theme was all the more interesting.”

Paul McCartney
Anthology

The Portable Nietzsche

John Lennon was trying to find a copy of “The Portable Nietzschein” in the Indica bookshop. However, he soon found “The Psychedelic Experience”. This was basically a guidebook for those using psychedelic drugs and its intension was to allow for greater spiritual enlightenment.

Within the book he saw the lines: “Whenever in doubt, turn off your mind, relax, float downstream.” He liked what he saw and bought the book. Then he went home, took some LSD and followed the instructional text within.

The book claims that while under certain drugs, such as LSD, users may experience “ego death”. In other words, being totally aware of the present moment or a one-pointedness of mind. Obviously, the Cavern Club and Beatles Forum does not recommend anyone mess with any drugs in any way!

“Tomorrow Never Knows, was definitely John’s. Round about this time people were starting to experiment with drugs, including LSD. John had got hold of Timothy Leary’s adaptation of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, which is a pretty interesting book.

For the first time we got the idea that, as with ancient Egyptian practice, when you die you lie in state for a few days, and then some of your handmaidens come and prepare you for a huge voyage. Rather than the British version, in which you just pop your clogs. With LSD, this theme was all the more interesting.”

Paul McCartney
Anthology

Ringoisms

The words, Tomorrow Never Knows, doesn’t actually appear in the song itself. However, we do know that John Lennon liked the phrase when Ringo Starr uttered them in an interview in Washington DC in 1964. So, Lennon used them as a title. This wasn’t the first time that The Beatles used a Ringoism. For example, also in 1964, Ringo coined the phrase “A Hard Day’s Night“.

Recording Studio

The Beatles began recording the song in Studio 3 at the EMI Studios, London, at 8 pm on the 6th April, 1966. The working title was “Mark I” but also has the title of “The Void”. John Lennon preferred Ringo Starr’s title “to sort of take the edge off the heavy philosophical lyrics”.

There were three takes of the rhythm track and take one appears on the Anthology 2 album. While they didn’t complete take two, the take three version is that which appears on the “Revolver” album. Overdubbing of that version with vocals and other instruments was on the 22nd April, 1966.

Breaking The Rules

Together with George Martin, The Beatles were to try numerous forms of recording “trickery” like using a “revolving speaker”. They even used a backward guitar sound – the first time ever on a pop record. Using other techniques such as loosening the drum skins and distorting other sounds, the result would be dramatic.

Recording engineer, Geoff Emerick recalls that the band would “encouraged us to break the rules”. He also says that the band insisted that each instrument, “should sound unlike itself”.

Due to the complex structure of the song, the band could never replicate the sound from this song live. Indeed, they couldn’t even do it again in the recording studios!

“We did a live mix of all the loops. 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.

It is the one track, of all the songs The Beatles did, that could never be reproduced: it would be impossible to go back now and mix exactly the same thing: the “happening” of the tape loops, inserted as we all swung off the levers on the faders willy-nilly, was a random event.”

Beatles Producer, George Martin

This would effectively see The Beatles scrap touring to favour the recording studios. Beatlemania days were about to disappear but this was the beginning of a new chapter and The Beatles took full advantage of it. The psychedelic era would soon be the next biggest thing in music.

Author: Bobby

I have been a Beatles fan since the early 1960s so I speak from my heart and soul. It was a pleasure to accept the role of Admin on The Beatles Forum when we left our old site. If you feel that something needs correcting with the information I provide, please contact me.

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