- Published in 1969
- Author: Lennon/McCartney
- Track 3 on “Let It Be“
- Track 27 on “The Beatles 1967-1970” (Blue Album)
- Track 13 on “Past Masters Volume 2“
Table of Contents
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” is a timeless composition by The Beatles. Penned by John Lennon and officially credited to the Lennon-McCartney songwriting duo, it made its debut on the 1969 charity compilation album ‘No One’s Gonna Change Our World.’ Later, a modified version found its place on Let It Be, marking the band’s final released album and also made its way onto the 1988 compilation Past Masters, Volume Two. The enduring appeal of this song is evident in the numerous covers, including David Bowie’s rendition on his 1975 album ‘Young Americans,’ which boasted contributions from Lennon himself.
The genesis of this poetic masterpiece can be traced back to a night in 1967 when the phrase “words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup” came to Lennon after a conversation with his then-wife Cynthia. He recounted the moment: “I was lying next to my first wife in bed, you know, and I was irritated, and I was thinking. 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 a ‘Why are you always mouthing off at me?’ [The words] were purely inspirational and were given to me as boom! I don’t own it you know; it came through like that.”
The song’s structure is elegantly simple: three iterations of a unit comprising a verse, the line “Jai guru deva om,” and the line “Nothing’s gonna change my world,” repeated four times. The lyrics are vividly evocative, painting abstract concepts with tangible images, like thoughts “meandering,” words “slithering,” and undying love “shining.” The title phrase, “across the universe,” punctuates lines at intervals, never fully resolving, always ascending melodically. It concludes on a leading note, leaving the Western musical ear anticipating the tonic, thereby instilling a sense of unresolved anticipation.
In a 1970 interview with Rolling Stone, Lennon held this composition in high regard, deeming it perhaps the finest, most poetic lyric he ever crafted: “It’s one of the best lyrics I’ve written. In fact, it could be the best. It’s good poetry, or whatever you call it, without chewin’ it. See, the ones I like are the ones that stand as words, without melody. They don’t have to have any melody, like a poem, you can read them.”
Meaning of “Across the Universe”
The lyrics of “Across the Universe” are known for their poetic and somewhat abstract quality. The song’s essence was deeply influenced by Lennon’s and The Beatles’ engagement with Transcendental Meditation in the late 1967 to early 1968 period, when the song took form. As a result, he incorporated the mantra “Jai guru deva om” into the piece, serving as a pivotal link to the chorus. The Sanskrit phrase holds rich, multifaceted meanings, ranging from “Victory to God divine” to “Hail to the divine guru.” It was a phrase frequently invoked by the late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, referring to his spiritual mentor, “All glory to Guru Dev.”
The song evokes a sense of cosmic and transcendental imagery, with phrases like “Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup” and “Limitless undying love which shines around me like a million suns.” These lines convey a feeling of boundless and all-encompassing love and inspiration.
The song’s chorus features the repeated refrain of “Nothing’s gonna change my world,” which can be interpreted as an assertion of inner peace and acceptance, regardless of external circumstances.
“Across the Universe” is often seen as a reflection on the interconnectedness of all things, the power of love, and a sense of universal unity. It’s worth noting that John Lennon has mentioned that the song’s lyrics were inspired by a surreal, poetic style, and the imagery was influenced by his experiences with meditation and the writings of Yoko Ono.
The song has been interpreted and appreciated in various ways by different listeners, and its meaning can be quite personal and subjective.
(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
How to play “Across the Universe” on guitar
John Lennon’s guitar intro in “Across the Universe” is fingerpicked. This technique allows for a softer and more nuanced sound, which suits the meditative and introspective mood of the song.
The following video shows how to play intro and rythm section of “Across the Universe” on guitar:
“Across the Universe” karaoke
If you want to test yourself and sing “Across the Universe” like John Lennon, here is the karaoke version of the song: