17. 'Across the Universe'
Main Writer: Lennon
Recorded: February 4 and 8, 1968
Released: December 12, 1969
Not released as a single
The words to "Across the Universe" were "purely inspirational and were given to me," said Lennon. "I don't own it; it came through like that." The song is a paean to cosmic awareness, with serene ruminations like "Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my open mind" and a refrain that names Guru Dev, the guru under whom the Maharishi himself studied. "It's one of the best lyrics I've written," Lennon told Rolling Stone. "In fact, it could be the best. It's good poetry, or whatever you call it, without chewin' it."
Lennon was dissatisfied with the Beatles' recorded version, originally cut for the White Album. (David Bowie would later cover the song, with Lennon on guitar.) Engineer Geoff Emerick recalled taping the lead vocal "over and over again because John was unhappy with the job he was doing. . . . It hadn't come out the way he'd heard it in his head." For Let It Be, producer Phil Spector slowed down the original recording and added a choir and orchestra. Said Lennon, "Spector took the tape and did a damn good job with it."
Appears On: Past Masters and Let It Be