The Beatles' music: quotes and info

“Across The Universe”

John Lennon’s quotes about “Across The Universe”

JOHN 1972: “One of my best songs. Not one of the best recordings, but I like the lyrics.”

JOHN 1980: “I was a bit more artsy-fartsy there. I was lying next to my first wife in bed, (song originally written in 1967) you know, and I was irritated. She must have been going on and on about something and she’d gone to sleep– and I kept hearing these words over and over, flowing like an endless stream. I went downstairs and it turned into a sort of cosmic song rather than an irritated song– rather than ‘Why are you always mouthing off at me?’ or whatever, right? …and I’ve sat down and looked at it and said, ‘Can I write another one with this meter?’ It’s so interesting. ‘Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup/ They slither while the pass, they slip away across the universe.’ Such an extraordinary meter and I can never repeat it! It’s not a matter of craftsmanship– it wrote itself. It drove me out of bed. I didn’t want to write it… and I couldn’t get to sleep until I put it on paper… It’s like being possessed– like a psychic or a medium. The thing has to go down. It won’t let you sleep, so you have to get up, make it into something, and then you’re allowed to sleep. That’s always in the middle of the night when you’re half-awake or tired and your critical facilities are switched off.”

About “Across the Universe”

“Across the Universe” was written by John Lennon and credited to Lennon–McCartney. Originally released on the charity compilation album No One’s Gonna Change Our World in 1969, the song was later included on the group’s final album Let It Be in 1970. The original version appeared on two different albums, both titled Rarities: a 1978 British release and a 1980 US release. The song was also included on the album Past Masters, Volume Two, released in 1988. There have been many covers of the song, including one by David Bowie on Young Americans, which featured contributions from John Lennon.

The song’s flavour was heavily influenced by Lennon and the Beatles’ interest in Transcendental Meditation in late 1967 – early 1968. As a result, he added the mantra “Jai guru deva om” to the piece, which became the link to the chorus. There are many meanings to the Sanskrit phrase: it can be translated into “Victory to God divine”, “Hail to the divine guru”, or even “All glory to Guru Dev”, commonly invoked by the late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

This song’s lyrical structure is straightforward: three repetitions of a verse, the line “Jai guru deva om” and the line “Nothing’s gonna change my world” repeated four times. In the lyrics, abstract concepts are visualized through phrases like “thoughts meander”, “words slither”, and “undying love shines”. As a rising figure, the title phrase “across the universe” appears at intervals to finish lines, but it never cadences. It finishes on the leading note; to the Western musical ear, the next musical note would be the tonic and would therefore sound complete.


(Let It Be version)

  • John Lennon – lead vocal, acoustic guitar, electric guitar
  • Paul McCartney – piano
  • George Harrison – sitar, tambura
  • Ringo Starr – maracas, bass drum
  • Phil Spector – strings and choir

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