"Tomorrow Never Knows" is the final track of The Beatles' 1966 studio album Revolver but the first to be recorded. Credited as a Lennon/McCartney song, it was written primarily by John Lennon. An innovative recording, it contributed to Revolver's reputation as one of the group's most influential and expressive albums. Music critic Richie Unterberger of Allmusic said it was "the most experimental and psychedelic track on Revolver, in both its structure and production."
The song has a vocal put through a Leslie speaker cabinet (which was normally used as a loudspeaker for a Hammond organ) and uses automatic double tracking (ADT) to double the vocal image. Tape loops prepared by Paul McCartney were mixed in and out of the Indian-inspired modal backing underpinned by Ringo Starr's irregular drum pattern.
|Pro Guitar||No Part|
|Pro Bass||No Part|
|Pro Keys||No Part|
John Lennon wrote the song in January 1966, with lyrics adapted from the book The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead by Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert, and Ralph Metzner, which in turn was adapted from the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Although Peter Brown believed that Lennon's source for the lyric was the Tibetan Book of the Dead itself, which, he said, Lennon read whilst consuming LSD, George Harrison later stated that the idea for the lyrics came from Leary's, Alpert's and Metzner's book and McCartney confirmed this, stating that he and Lennon had visited the newly opened Indica bookshop — Lennon was looking for a copy of The Portable Nietzsche— and Lennon had found a copy of The Psychedelic Experience that contained the lines: "When in doubt, relax, turn off your mind, float downstream".
Lennon bought the book, went home, took LSD, and followed the instructions exactly as stated in the book. The book held that the "ego death" experienced under the influence of LSD and other psychedelic drugs is essentially similar to the dying process and requires similar guidance.
The title never actually appears in the song's lyrics. In an interview McCartney revealed that, like "A Hard Day's Night", it was taken from one of Ringo Starr's inimitable intentional malapropisms. The piece was originally titled "Mark I". "The Void" is cited as another working title but according to Mark Lewisohn (and Bob Spitz) this is untrue, although the books, The Love You Make: An Insider's Story of the Beatles and The Beatles A to Z both cite "The Void" as the original title.
When the Beatles returned to London after their first visit to America in early 1964 they were interviewed by BBC Television. The interview included the following:
- Interviewer: "Now Ringo, I hear you were manhandled at the Embassy Ball. Is this right?"
- Ringo: "Not really. Someone just cut a bit of my hair, you see."
- Interviewer: "Let's have a look. You seem to have got plenty left."
- Ringo: (turns head) "Can you see the difference? It's longer, this side."
- Interviewer: "What happened exactly?"
- Ringo: "I don't know. I was just talking, having an interview (exaggerated voice). Just like I am NOW!"
- (John and Paul begin lifting locks of his hair, pretending to cut it)
- Ringo: "I was talking away and I looked 'round, and there was about 400 people just smiling. So, you know — what can you say?"
- John: "What can you say?"
- Ringo: "Tomorrow never knows."
Lennon first played the song to Brian Epstein, George Martin and the other Beatles at Epstein's house at 24 Chapel Street, Belgravia. McCartney remembered that, even though the song's harmony was mainly restricted to the chord of C, Martin accepted it as it was and said it was "rather interesting". The song's harmonic structure is derived from Indian music and is based upon a C drone. The "chord" over the drone is generally C major, with some changes to B flat major.
The 19-year-old Geoff Emerick was promoted to replace Norman Smith as engineer on the first session for the Revolver album. This started at 8 p.m. on 6 April 1966, in Studio Three at Abbey Road. Lennon told producer Martin that he wanted to sound like a hundred chanting Tibetan monks, which left Martin the difficult task of trying to find the effect by using the basic equipment they had. Lennon's suggestion was that he be suspended from a rope and—after being given a good push—he would sing as he spun around the microphone. This idea was rejected by Martin, but when asked by Lennon about it, he would only reply with, "We're looking into it." Emerick finally came up with the idea of wiring Lennon's vocal through a Leslie rotating speaker, thus obtaining the desired effect without the need of a rope. Emerick made a connector to break into the electronic circuitry of the cabinet and then re-recorded the vocal as it came out of the revolving speaker.
As Lennon hated doing a second take to double his vocals, Ken Townsend, the studio technical manager, created the first ADT system, taking the signal from the playback and recording heads and delaying them slightly. By altering the speed and frequencies he could create various effects, which The Beatles used throughout the recording of Revolver. Lennon's vocal was clearly double-tracked on the first three verses of the song: the effect of the Leslie cabinet can be heard after the (backwards) guitar solo.
The track included the highly compressed drums that The Beatles currently favoured, with reverse cymbals, reverse guitar, processed vocals, looped tape effects, a sitar and a tambura drone. McCartney supplied a bag of ¼ inch audio tape loops he had made at home after listening to Stockhausen's Gesang der Jünglinge. By disabling the erase head of a tape recorder and then spooling a continuous loop of tape through the machine while recording, the tape would constantly overdub itself, creating a saturation effect, a technique also used in musique concrète. The tape could also be induced to go faster and slower. McCartney encouraged the other Beatles to use the same effects and create their own loops.
The numerous tapes McCartney supplied were played on five individual BTR3 tape machines, and controlled by EMI technicians in studio two at Abbey Road on 7 April. The four Beatles controlled the faders of each machine while Martin varied the stereo panning. The tapes were made (like most of the other loops) by superimposition and acceleration (0:07) Martin explained that the finished mix of the tape loops could never be repeated because of the complex and random way in which they were laid over the music.
The tape loops contained:
- A "seagull" or "American Indian" whooping effect (which was McCartney shouting/laughing).
- An orchestral chord of B flat major (from a Sibelius symphony) (0:19)
- A Mellotron Mk.II, played with the "flute" tape set (0:22)
- Another Mellotron played in 6/8 from B flat to C, using the "3 violins" tape set (0:38)
- A sitar-like ascending scalar phrase (actually played on an electric guitar, reversed and severely sped up), recorded with heavy saturation and acceleration (0:56)
- The guitar solo from The Beatles' Taxman was also superimposed onto the second half of the instrumental break. The solo was cut up, reversed and transposed down a tone.
The Beatles further experimented with tape loops in "Carnival of Light", an as-yet-unreleased McCartney piece recorded during the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band sessions, and in "Revolution 9", released on The Beatles (album).
The opening chord fades in gradually on the stereo version while the mono version features a more sudden fade-in. The mono and stereo versions also have the tape-loop track faded in at slightly different times and different volumes (in general, the loops are louder on the mono mix). On the stereo version a little feedback comes in after the guitar solo which was edited out of the mono mix.
- John Lennon: double-tracked lead vocals, Hammond organ, tambourine and tape loops.
- Paul McCartney: bass, drums, backwards guitar and tape loops.
- George Harrison: sitar, tambura, backwards guitar and tape loops.
- Ringo Starr: drums and tape loops.
- George Martin: honky tonk piano and tape loops.
The Love album remixEdit
In 2006, Martin and his son, Giles Martin, remixed 80 minutes of Beatles music for the Las Vegas stage performance Love, a joint venture between Cirque du Soleil and the Beatles' Apple Corps Ltd. On the Love album, the rhythm to "Tomorrow Never Knows" was mixed with the vocals and melody from "Within You Without You", creating a different version of the two songs. The soundtrack album from the show was released in 2006. The Love remix is one of the main songs in The Beatles: Rock Band music video game.
Extracts and references in other musical worksEdit
The Chemical Brothers' first UK number one "Setting Sun" features a similar drumbeat. Their later single Let Forever Be also has some similarities. Both records feature Noel Gallagher on vocals, who is known for his appreciation of Beatles' music. Lawyers for the (then) three remaining Beatles later wrote to the Chemical Brothers, claiming that they had sampled "Tomorrow Never Knows". Virgin Records hired a musicologist to prove that they had not sampled the song.
The Rutles' song "Joe Public" is based on this song.
- Phil Collins on his Face Value album, in 1981.
- Monsoon on Third Eye (1983)
- The Mission UK on the B-Side to their single Severina. (1987)
- Yukihiro Takahashi covered this song on his album Ego, in 1988.
- Danielle Dax on her Blast the Human Flower album, in 1990.
- Trouble on Plastic Green Head (1995)
- Michael Hedges recorded an acoustic version of the song for his 1996 album, Oracle.
- Our Lady Peace for the soundtrack for the 1996 movie The Craft.
- Blackmail on blackmail (1997).
- The Helio Sequence on 2000's Com Plex.
- Oasis covered it as an instrumental intro to their track 'Cigarettes & Alcohol' when playing Wembley Stadium in 2000. It can be found on the live album, Familiar to Millions.
- Living Colour on their Collideøscope album, in 2003.
- Junior Parker's cover appears in the film Children of Men.
- The Chameleons on Strange Times.
- Jad Fair and Daniel Johnston on their collaboration album It's Spooky.
- David Lee Roth on his Diamond Dave album, under the title, "That Beatles Tune".
- Jimi Hendrix covered this song on the live album Bleeding Heart with Jim Morrison.
- 801 included a radically reworked version on their album 801 Live.
- The Grateful Dead released a live version of this song on Dick's Picks Vol. 27.
- Cowboy Mouth on Uh-Oh
- Los Lobos live on El Cancionero: Mas Y Mas
- King Crimson live on their 'Heavy Construktion' Box Set: Tomorrow Never Knew Thela [Including Tomorrow Never Knows] (2000)
- Pedro Aznar on Mudras]] (2003). Aznar recorded this song's vocals suspended from a rope, the way Lennon proposed originally.
- Dweezil Zappa on Abbey Road: A Tribute to the Beatles (2009)
- Tangerine Dream on Abbey Road: A Tribute to the Beatles (2009)
- ↑ CNN 2007.
- ↑ Unterberger 2009.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Brown & Gaines 1980.
- ↑ Harrison 1995.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 Spitz 2005, p. 600.
- ↑ Lennon.
- ↑ Spitz 2005, pp. 600–601.
- ↑ The New York Times 1996.
- ↑ Summum 2009.
- ↑ The Beatles Interview Database 2009.
- ↑ Spitz 2005, p. 600 ("Mark I" as the original title).
- ↑ The Beatles Interview Database 1964.
- ↑ Miles 1997, p. 290.
- ↑ Google Maps 2007.
- ↑ Miles 1997, pp. 291–292.
- ↑ 16.0 16.1 Spitz 2005, p. 601.
- ↑ 17.0 17.1 Spitz 2005, p. 602.
- ↑ 18.0 18.1 18.2 Miles 1997, p. 291.
- ↑ Martin 1995a.
- ↑ Spitz 2005, p. 603.
- ↑ "Tomorrow Never Knows" (Verses 4/7—1:27 until 2:47)
- ↑ McCartney 1995.
- ↑ MacDonald 1995.
- ↑ Miles 1997, p. 292.
- ↑ MacDonald 1995, p. 190.
- ↑ Martin 1995b.
- ↑ MacDonald 2005, p. 191.
- ↑ The Beatles Bible 2009.
- ↑ Marinucci 2007.
- ↑ Watson 2006.
- ↑ Paine 2006.
- ↑ CTV News 2006.
- ↑ Frushtick 2009.
- ↑ IMDB 2007.
- "Tomorrow Never Knows". The Beatles Bible. 2009. http://www.beatlesbible.com/songs/tomorrow-never-knows/. Retrieved 2 December 2008.
- "Revolver". The Beatles Interview Database. 2009. http://www.beatlesinterviews.org/dba07revol.html. Retrieved 20 November 2009.
- "Return to London from the USA". The Beatles Interview Database. 22 February 1964. http://www.beatlesinterviews.org/db1964.0222.beatles.html. Retrieved 28 February 2009.
- Brown, Peter; Gaines, Steven (1980). The Love You Make: An Insider's Story of the Beatles. Methuen Publishing. ISBN 978-0451207357.
- "Beatles, Radiohead albums voted best ever". CNN. 2007. http://archives.cnn.com/2000/SHOWBIZ/Music/09/04/britain.albums/. Retrieved 27 October 2007.
- "Beatles smash hits now a mashup". CTV News. 21 November 2006. http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20061121/beatles_mashup_061121/. Retrieved 27 October 2007.
- Friede, Goldie (2005). The Beatles A To Z (1st edition ed.). London: Methuen. ISBN 978-0416007817.
- Frushtick, Russ (21 July 2009). "'The Beatles: Rock Band' Expands Its Song List". mtv.com. http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1616628/20090721/beatles.jhtml.
- "24 Chapel Street, Belgravia". Google Maps. 2007. http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&time=&date=&ttype=&q=+24+Chapel+Street,+Belgravia&sll=54.162434,-3.647461&sspn=18.024308,30.761719&ie=UTF8&z=16&iwloc=addr&om=1. Retrieved 27 October 2007.
- Harrison, George (1995). The Beatles Anthology (DVD). Event occurs at Special Features, Back at Abbey Road May 1995, 0:10:59.
- "Children of Men soundtrack". IMDB. 2007. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0206634/soundtrack. Retrieved 28 October 2007.
- Lennon, John. The Beatles Anthology (DVD). Event occurs at Episode 7, 0:10:05.
- MacDonald, Ian (2005). Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties (Second Revised ed.). London: Pimlico (Rand). ISBN 1-844-13828-3.
- Marinucci, Steve (2007). "Carnival of Light". abbeyrd.best. http://abbeyrd.best.vwh.net/carnival.htm. Retrieved 27 October 2007.
- Martin, George (1995). The Beatles Anthology (DVD). Event occurs at Special Features, Back at Abbey Road May 1995, 0:09:06.
- Martin, George (1995). The Beatles Anthology (DVD). Event occurs at Special Features, Back at Abbey Road May 1995, 0:13:32.
- McCartney, Paul (1995). The Beatles Anthology (DVD). Event occurs at Special Features, Back at Abbey Road May 1995, 0:12:17.
- Miles, Barry (1997). Many Years From Now. Vintage-Random House. ISBN 0-7493-8658-4.
- "Pied Piper Of Psychedelic 60's, Dies at 75". The New York Times. 1 June 1996. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9500E0DD1E39F932A35755C0A960958260. Retrieved 27 October 2007.
- Paine, Andre (17 November 2006). "Legendary producer returns to Abbey Road". BBC News. http://www.bbc.co.uk/6music/news/20061117_lovealbum.shtml. Retrieved 21 September 2007.
- Spitz, Bob (2005). The Beatles: The Biography. New York: Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 1-84513-160-6.
- "The first English language translation of the famous Tibetan death text". Summum. 2009. http://www.summum.us/mummification/tbotd/. Retrieved 20 November 2009.
- Unterberger, Richie (2009). "Review of "Tomorrow Never Knows"". Allmusic. http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=33:w9fwxq8dld0e. Retrieved 20 November 2009.
- Watson, Greig (17 November 2006). "Love unveils new angle on Beatles". BBC News. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/6159426.stm.
- Alan W. Pollack's Notes on "Tomorrow Never Knows"
- Article about Tomorrow Never Knows on thishereboogie.com
- press.uchicago.edu - Rock and Psychedelics in the 1960s Nick Bromell
- google.com/books - Excerpts from Nick Bromell's book