For most of his career, John Lennon wrote songs alongside with his partner in crime and childhood friend, Paul McCartney. But that wasn’t always the case. He once admitted that one of the “best songs he had ever written” for The Beatles was penned alone, in the dark. Lennon felt he had peaked lyrically in 1969 once when he agreed to write a song for a charity compilation album: No One’s Gonna Change Our World. The Fab Four were featured on the album alongside such artists as Lulu, Cilla Black, and Rolf Harris. But their song for the record was particularly special for Lennon.
Lennon recalled how he wrote the incredible psychedelic track in 1968 after a brutal argument with his first wife, Cynthia Lennon.
The Beatle married Cynthia, a Blackpool local, in 1962 and went on to have a son with her, Julian Lennon, in 1963. Six years later, Lennon met Yoko Ono. Within a matter of months, he divorced Cynthia before marrying the Japanese artist in 1969. Six years after that, in 1975, Ono gave birth to Sean Ono Lennon.
Back in 1968, before Lennon had met Ono, songwriting became his method of dealing with the breakdown of his marriage to Cynthia.
Lennon told Playboy magazine: “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.”
Lennon used this furious event to write the lyrics to one song Beatles purists would class as one of the most iconic songs of all time: Across the Universe.
The incredible first lyrics to the track are: “Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup / They slither wildly as they slip away across the universe / Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my opened mind / Possessing and caressing me.”
Lennon was physically enthused by this lightning bolt of inspiration and instantly jumped into action to start writing.
He recalled: “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.”
He later confessed how he adored the lyrics to the song.
The psychedelic song Across the Universe was featured on the aforementioned compilation record but was later included in the band’s final album, Let It Be, a year later.
The same year, in 1970, Lennon was asked in an interview what his favourite Beatles tracks were. He revealed his top five were: Strawberry Fields Forever, I Want To Hold Your Hand, I Am The Walrus, Girl and Across The Universe.
Lennon then went into some detail about the final track. He said: “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.”
He added: “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.”
Although Across the Universe has gone down as one of The Beatles’ most recognisable songs, it never won any awards, but it was fired into the stratosphere – literally.
Across the Universe was transmitted towards the star Polaris, approximately 431 light-years away from Earth, by NASA. This was the first time a song had ever been intentionally transmitted into deep space. The marketing event was approved by McCartney, Ono, and Apple Corps.
Across the Universe was also used as the title for The Beatles musical movie adaptation directed by Julie Taymor.
In 2007 Evan Rachel Wood and Jim Sturgess starred in the musical jukebox romantic drama, Across the Universe, which featured some incredible musicians along the way.
Not only did Eddie Izzard and Salma Hayek make appearances, but so, too, did U2’s Bono.