Lyrical Substance Deliberated


Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds from Yellow Submarine (1968).

The advent of spring invariably gets me listening to favourite psychedelic songs, and this year has been no exception. Earlier this week I was idly wondering how many songs there are that follow the Beatles’ lead in telegraphing their drug metaphors by using the initials L-S-D in their titles. Wikipedia’s page for Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (1967) relates John Lennon’s oft-repeated claim that the initialism in the title was a coincidence, and the song itself is really a bit of Lewis Carroll-like whimsy. This might be credible if works of art only ever carried one meaning but they don’t, of course, and the song is both a piece of Lewis Carroll-like whimsy as well as being a pretty obvious paean to the drug experience: “Climb in the back with your head in the clouds / And you’re gone”. Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit (1967) was similarly ambivalent with mushrooms/pills replacing acid.

Among the many things birthed by the enormous success of the Sgt Pepper album, a small flurry of songs or instrumentals have imitated Lennon’s initialism for their titles. The ones that came immediately to mind are detailed below, and they make a curious group. If anyone knows of any others—there must be others…—then please leave a comment.


Burning Of The Midnight Lamp/The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam’s Dice (Aug, 1967).

The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s B-side not only alludes to LSD but also to STP. The song itself doesn’t go very far before collapsing into freakout mode.


The Trip (1967).

Not a song but included here for that “Lovely Sort of Death” tag. Written by Jack Nicholson! With Dennis Hopper as the acid dealer! See the trailer here, then watch the whole film here.


Lost Soul In Disillusion (November, 1967).

Hard to imagine anyone in London would have heard this in 1967. The Power of Beckett were a Montreal garage group who only released two singles. Lost Soul In Disillusion turned up years later on compilation albums.


Would You Believe (1968) by Billy Nicholls.

Billy Nicholls’ debut album begins its second side with London Social Degree, a song in which Billy advises a female friend to open her mind by getting hip to the “degree” in question. A pretty good number which also turns up on compilations.


Foolish Seasons (1968) by Dana Gillespie.

This was a surprise. Dana Gillespie is a British actress with a Raquel Welch-style reputation for her prodigious chest measurements. A year after performing in Hammer’s bizarre The Lost Continent she recorded her debut album which includes among its cover songs her version of London Social Degree.


Church of Hawkwind (1982) by Hawkwind.

This Hawkwind album (actually more of a Dave Brock solo album) includes an instrumental track entitled Light Specific Data. It’s also the first Hawkwind album that featured any artwork of mine with some illustrations in the lyric booklet.


Love’s Secret Domain (1991) by Coil.

Coil’s first psychotropic album, several tracks of which allude to drugs. The song Love’s Secret Domain also manages to allude to William Blake, Arthur Machen and Roy Orbison, among other things.


Stolen and Contaminated Songs (1992) by Coil.

The companion release to Love’s Secret Domain was a very strong collection of alternate versions, and unreleased tracks from sessions for the earlier album. The final track is Light Shining Darkly.


Light Sensitive Data/UFO (1995) by Dimension 5.

Eight-and-a-half minutes of Goa trance.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Art of Tripping, a documentary by Storm Thorgerson
Enter the Void
In the Land of Retinal Delights
The art of LSD
Hep cats

6 thoughts on “Lyrical Substance Deliberated”

  1. Well, Lewis Carroll, according to legend, was also a big fan of such mushrooms…

  2. Edward: Thanks, I’ve amended the post. No excuse for my missing that when I’ve had the album since 1992.

    Tel: Indeed. And they also resisted the obvious move of having a close-up of Dana.

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