Released: 12 December 1969
John Lennon: vocals, backing vocals, acoustic rhythm guitar, organ
Paul McCartney: backing vocals, acoustic guitar, piano
George Harrison: backing vocals, electric guitar, tambura, maracas
Ringo Starr: drums, percussion, svaramandal
George Martin: Hammond organ
Lizzie Bravo: backing vocals
Gayleen Pease: backing vocals
Uncredited: 18 violins, four violas, four cellos, harp, three trumpets, three trombones, two guitarists, 14 choristers
Although best known as a track on 1970's Let It Be album, Across The Universe was recorded in early 1968 and first released on a World Wildlife Fund album the following year.
It was John Lennon's first composition to be recorded by The Beatles since I Am The Walrus five months earlier. The words were written before the music, and came to Lennon in the early hours one morning at his home in Kenwood.
I was lying next to my first wife in bed and I was thinking. It started off as a negative song and she must have been going on and on about something. She'd gone to sleep and I kept hearing, 'Words are flowing out like endless streams...' I was a bit irritated and I went downstairs and it turned into a sort of cosmic song rather than, 'Why are you always mouthing off at me?'...
The words are purely inspirational and were given to me - except for maybe one or two where I had to resolve a line or something like that. I don't own it; it came through like that.
Part of the song's chorus - 'Jai guru deva, om' - is a Sanskrit phrase which roughly translates as 'Victory to God divine'. It was likely inspired by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, whom The Beatles had met in August 1967. The Maharishi's spiritual master was called Guru Dev. 'Jai' is a Hindi word meaning 'long live' or 'victory', and 'om' is a sacred syllable in the Hindu, Jain and Buddhist religions.
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.
Rolling Stone, 1970
Lennon initially wanted Across The Universe to be released as a single while The Beatles were in India with the Maharishi, but the group opted for Lady Madonna instead. In March 1969 Across The Universe was mooted for a never-released Yellow Submarine EP, but eventually appeared on No One's Gonna Change Our World, an 11-song charity album also featuring The Bee Gees, Cilla Black, The Hollies and others.
This was one of my favourite songs, but it's been issued in so many forms that it's missed it as a record. I gave it at first to the World Wildlife Fund, but they didn't do much with it, and then we put it on the Let It Be album.
- Glyn Johns compiles the second Get Back LP
- Recording: Across The Universe, The Long And Winding Road, I Me Mine
- Phil Spector begins work on Let It Be
- Mixing: The Long And Winding Road, I Me Mine, Across The Universe
- John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band