Tox Tunes #33: Tomorrow Never Knows (The Beatles)

November 16, 2010, 6:06 pm

With the announcement from Apple today that The Beatles’ catalogue will finally become available on iTunes, it seemed appropriate to post “Tomorrow Never Knows“, which in my opinion was the most musically and culturally significant track the group ever released. Written by John Lennon after he started to experiment with LSD, “Tomorrow Never Knows” used images and ideas from Timothy Leary’s book The Psychedelic Experience as well as The Tibetan Book of the Dead to create something that was totally original.

Here are excerpts from Ian MacDonald’s gloss on the song from his essential book Revolution in the Head: The Beatles’ Records and the Sixties:

. . . “Tomorrow Never Knows” introduced LSD and Leary’s psychedelic revolution to the young of the Western world . . .

Lennon, meanwhile, became psychologically addicted to LSD, taking it daily and living in one long, listless chemically altered state. Gradually fatigue and sensory overload conspired with Leary’s prescription for voluntary ego-death to dissolve his sense of self. For the next two years, by his own account, he had little grasp of his own identify. Living in a passive, impressionable condition dominated by LSD, he clung to the ideology of the psychedelic revolution despite an increasing incidence of the ‘bad trips’ which Leary had claimed were impossible after ego-death. By 1968 — at which point Leary was merrily hailing The Beatles as ‘Divine Messiahs, the wisest, holiest, most effective avatars the human race has yet produced, prototypes of a new race of laughing freemen’ –Lennon was a mental wreck struggling to stitch himself back together. Luckily, his constitution was robust enough to avert physical collapse, while the scepticism that balanced his questing gullibility warded off a permanent eclipse of his reason. Many others like him never came back.

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