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Tomorrow Never Knows by The Beatles

Album: RevolverReleased: 1966
  • The title came from an expression Ringo Starr used. They chose it to take the edge off the heavy philosophical lyrics. Working titles for the song before Ringo gave them inspiration were "Mark I" and "The Void."
  • John Lennon wrote this, and described it as "my first psychedelic song." It was inspired by Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert's book The Psychedelic Experience, which Lennon would read while tripping on LSD. Lennon recorded himself reading from the Tibetan Book of the Dead, played it back while tripping on LSD, and wrote the song.
  • Each Beatle created strange sounds which were mixed in throughout the recording, often backward and in different speeds. McCartney had the idea for using tape loops to create effects.
  • This used 16 tape loops. Several people remember standing around the room holding pencils for the tape to loop around and back into the recording machine as the various sound effects and instrumentation were faded in and out.
  • The vocals were forced through a Leslie (revolving) speaker. Lennon desired the effect that the listener could hear the words but not hear him, like a group of Tibetan monks chanting on a mountain top.
  • John Lennon used only one chord in this whole song, which creates a hypnotic feeling. For his vocals, he asked producer George Martin to make him sound like the Dali Lama.
  • This was the first track recorded for the album yet the last on record.
  • There are 2 guitar solos on this song - both were heavily processed.
  • On May 6, 2012, this song was featured in an episode of the popular American TV show Mad Men. The episode was set in 1966, and part of the plot was the ad agency in the show helping a client capitalize on Beatlemania. This was a big deal, since Beatles songs are very rarely licensed for TV shows - at least in their original versions. Cover versions and performances (think American Idol) show up from time to time, since those just have to be approved by Sony/ATV, which owns the publishing rights. Getting permission to use an actual Beatles recording requires permission from Apple Corp, which is controlled by The Beatles and their heirs.

    The Wall Street Journal reported the payment for the song at $250,000, and Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner had to reveal to Apple exactly how the song would be used, which was a big deal since he is very secretive about scripts. In the episode, the main character Don Draper has trouble adapting to changing musical times. He plays this song to see what all the fuss is about, and after character-developing montage while the song is playing, he switches it off. The song then comes back to play over the closing credits.
  • Phil Collins covered this on his debut solo album. Like The Beatles did on Revolver, Collins used it to close the album. (thanks, Adrian - Wilmington, DE)
  • Our Lady Peace remade this song for the soundtrack to the movie The Craft. It's played during the opening credits. (thanks, Patrick - Bremen, GA)
  • Oasis gives a tribute to this in their song "Morning Glory" with the line "Walking to the sound of my favorite tune Tomorrow Never Knows what it doesn't know too soon." Oasis is well know for their similarity to the Beatles. (thanks, Dominic - Pittsburgh, PA)
  • This song is featured on the 2006 Beatles album Love (a soundtrack to the Cirque du Soleil show based on their music) remixed with "Within You Without You." (thanks, Ryan - London, England)
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Comments: 103

I think this could be like an ancestor for drum'n'bass... The beats... Right?Eliseu - Canoas, Brazil
These are the top fourteen songs voted 2012 by MOJO readers and Beatles fans:
1. Tomorrow Never Knows
2 Hey Bulldog
3. Rain
4. Happiness Is a Warm Gun
5. And Your Bird Can Sing
6. For No One
7. Dear Prudence
8. It´s All Too Much
9. Long Long Long
10.I´m Only Sleeping
11.You Know My Name
12.Helter Skelter
13.I Want You
14.She Said She Said
Johan - Stockholm, Sweden
One of the Beatle's tunes that IMHO has aged really well, and not very many psychedelic- acid rock songs really stand up to time. That MAD MEN sequence was exquisite; just those few minute were worth every penny of that 250k.Marlene - Montreal, Qc
It's interesting how the Beatles made the quick transition from moptops to pyshedelic studio wizards. Yes, I know about the drugs. But without the talent, it could not have happened.Jim - West Palm Beach, Fl
I don't see how anyone could read "The Tibetan Book of the Dead" while on acid, especially about surrendering to the void, which is scary to an ego trying to deflate. Leary must have been trying to put everybody on a bad trip. A person is the void and can't surrender to it, on acid reading "The Book of the Dead" a person's ego would get entangled with the confusion and never disappear.
It's interesting that Richard Alpert, who became Baba Ramdas, referenced Meher Baba in one of his books, and it was Baba who was the Avatar of the Age. One of the yogis associated with Ramdas said Baba manifested in material form in the Western civilization as LSD. Meher Baba died in 1969 at the end of the hippie love generation.
Harry - Sunnyvale, Ca
The Fab Four, a Beatles tribute band, used the music from "Tomorrow Never Knows" for their version of "Jingle Bells".Miranda - Moorhead, Mn
When Lennon the first time played the song to George Martin, Martin didn´t like it.It has only one chord ( Bob Spitz, The Beatles, 2005, page 601). Martin was broght up with Irwing Berlin and Cole Porter and prefered McCartney´s more conventional stuff.
Why has not anybody talked about this: Martin mostly talked contemptously about Lennon´s music, and looked upon McCartney as if he was Mozart, i his books and his interviews. George Martin was and is an authority,
people listened at him. He damaged Lennon´s selfconfidence and his reputation. George Martin
contributed a bit to the split
Johan - Stockholm, Sweden
trippy. peace and loveJulia - Milton, Pa
The working title was never 'The Void'. This is a Beatles myth based on Neil Aspinall's contemporaneous writings in the group's monthly fan magazine. The recording sheet shows it's working title was 'Mark I' only. The recording inspired engineer Ken Townsend to invent ADT (Artificial Double Tracking) which Lennon called 'flanging' or 'Ken's flanger'. Incredible that the song was first recorded on 6th April 1966.Craig - Sheffield, United Kingdom
This song is amazing without drugs....but absolutely awesome on them! :)Lyn - Wales, United Kingdom
This is an amazing song. I love it so much.Breanna - Henderson, Nv
Really though, what is the point in doing a cover of anything like this track? I've always hated covers. POINTLESS!Andy - Bristol, United Kingdom
Jessie there is Mellotron in a few of the loops created for the background of this track. They went ahead of everyone in their genre by creating a series of loops, electronic effects and drones in creating a psychedelic background rather than using the standard rock instrumentation of the time.Matildamother - Lynhurst, Nj
I bought the Revolver album today got home and listened to this. I was amazed and confused.Billy - Nederland , Tx
was it on anthology where the 3 remainin beatles were talking music and they played this song...george harrison says "now we're talking"..?Eddie - Cr, Ia
Just to be clear, the song is mostly in the key of C, however during the interludes "of the beginning.." and so forth it drops to a Bb. Not just one chord throughout, but close.Ian - Moline, Il
And if you really listen closely, I swear I hear a synthesizer droning in there somewhere. It's in there, and it's very plausible that they could have gotten an early Moog in the studio for some takes. By this time there were Moogs floating around. But it's a stretch considering the time frame.Jesse - Madison, Wi
you dont have to be stoned to listen to this song and get the same feeling.Mitch - Melbourne, Australia
excuse me, who dares relate anybody to the beatles? and i highly doubt that oasis sounds like the beatles. i refuse to acknowledge the attemptK - Nowhere, On
it still amazes me how diverse beatles music is. they have pop, rock, metal, psychedelic stuff....name a genre, the beatles inspired it in some way. this song is, of course, awesomely trippy, but has cool lyrics too. often when im freaking out about something, ill just tell myself to turn off my mind, relax and float downstream. either that, or remind myself that nothing's real, and theres nothing to get hung about.Chloe - St. Louis, Mo
First rock song to use a backward guitar solo, Automatic Double Tracking and vocals through a leslie speaker. It makes use of pre-recorded samples as a musical backdrop with a upfront bass 'n'drum sound. A major influence on various genres in Modern Music.Modernrocker79 - Kearny, Nj
Listen for the edit about 53 seconds in.Dean Hill - Vancouver, Bc
I love psychedelic songs, and I must say that this one rank up there with White Rabbit, White Room, One rainy wish, and The End. In fact, I would give this the edge. When on that level, I coiuld listen to this for hours.George - Little Rock, Ar
The mix with "within you with out you" is totally awesome, it gets me groovy!Victor - New York, Ny
Geoff Emmerick also changed Ringo's drums for this peticular song. He noticed that Ringo always kept his cigarettes on the snare drum while he played. So Geoff took the same concept and took a wool sweater that he found in the studio and shoved it into the bass drums front skin to dampen the sound. He also moved the mic in front of the bass drum just a few inches closer.Tristan - Kansas City, Mo
Geoff Emmerick, the sound engineer for The Beatles, was actually the one that found the Leslie Speaker to change John's voice instead of suspending him from the ceiling. John didn't let that idea die after this recording. On a later recording John asked Mal Evans to go out and find the strongest rope he could find to try his idea out again. Mal never came back with rope. Still to this day no one know if he just couldn't find one or if he was just trying to potect John from another one of his crazy ideas.Tristan - Kansas City, Mo
Awesome, awesome, AWESOME!! What an AWESOME song!Andy - Columbia, Sc
Los Lobos has also peformed a wild version of this in some of their concerts.Richard - Anniston, Al
801 (Phil Manzanera, Brian Eno, Bill MacCormick,
Francis Monkman, Simon Phillips, Lloyd Watson) did a cover of this (titled TNK) on their "801 Live" CD in 1976. The album also had a cover of The Kinks "You Really Got Me".
Richard - Anniston, Al
This Song might just be my favorite beatles song.
Although there are alot to choose from, theres just something about this song.
Chris - Spokane, Wa
The Mission U.K. does a great cover of this.Richard - Talladega, Al
This song was techno 25 years before techno was born. One of the most influential dance records ever.Liam - New York, Ny
This might be the first true psychedelic song ever certainly more than Eight Miles High by the Byrds.Tnknows - York, England
there is a hidden message in that song if you reverse the tape (back masked) 1:26 to 1:28..

Try searching "Back Masked Beatle Song Proves John Lennon Is Not An Anti-Christ" on Google to find out what.
Jacaranda - New York, Ny
This song is superior to what Zappa or the Velvet Underground were doing at the same time. One great thing it manages to have a great melody along with all the weird noises.Joe - Hackensack, Nj
This song is a mystical,magical masterpiece and was years ahead of it's time,capturing the begining of psychadelic music.I admit the lyrics may be dark and even sinister,but the music is so unique and interesting that it is brilliant.This is not plain rock and roll,this is super rock and clearly proves that the Beatles if they wanted to could out rock any other band and create a harder sound.This is proof of a muical genius at work.Very powerful.George - Belleville, Nj
How far in the future this song goes with tape loops or sampling with a pounding drum beat and bass line a concept used a lot in hip hop or techno. Also the backward guitar solo I wonder what the Beatles heroes like, Presley or Berry must have been thinking. One of the most original rock songs past or present.Joe - Montvale, Nj
"Awsome" is the most overused word in the English Language. If you can't add anything, why bother?Guilliermo - New York, Ny
One of the first great songs of psychedelic rock.George - Yonkers, Ny
This is one of the first songs of Psychedelic music. It's also a one chord raga song or based on one chord the superimposed tape loops make it two. It uses the tamboura drone and the Leslie vocal effect. There is a backward guitar solo with a fuzzbox and they are two different vocal effects one with ADT and in the last portion of the song the Leslie vocal effect, also the ambient bird sounds come from tape loops. The tape loops were Paul's idea and they taped recorded through the recording console.Joe - Montvale, Nj
The bird sounds in this song are not supposed to be seagulls but are supposed to sound like wild night geese. John used to sit on his back steps at his house in Surrey (probably while tripping) and watch them flying across the moon.Vickie - Sydney, Australia
Definitely one the best examples of combining avant garde with pop/rock music and also mostlikely the first example of this.Other innovations include ADT,vocals through leslie, backward guitar solo,the use of tape loops, bird like noises from guitar,the use of traditional indian drone,reverse drone,sampling,tape loop solo,reverse fade in and one of the first songs to use mellotron and one first masterpieces of acid rock just one of the most innovative songs of all time. One more note the lyrics are influenced from the Tibetan of the dead.
Sal
Sal - Bardonia , Ny
where can i get 'the void' remix?Tommo - Hebden, United States
This is one of many, Beatle songs my friend and I would sit and listen to for hours trying to dissect it.
We were not into drugs, we were into the music and the Beatles! We use to think that there were live seaguls in the background. We were very young, but this song definitely turned off, (turned on) our mind! The ultimate Beatle song!
P J - Okc, Ok
Highly experimental, a revolution at that time.Nathan - Bruges, Belgium
Wow, this song can seriously freak you outAllen - Up, Ct
this is one of the only Beatles songs that actually directly relates to drugs.Tyler - Petaluma, Ca
Great cover done by avant-gardist Daniell Dax, although allusic.com calls it "misguided". She sang the song to electronic dance rhythms but kept the mystical feel and included samples such as Edie Sedgwick yearning to turn the whole world on and the weird, processed vocals from The Beatles' Blue Jay Way. Worked for me! She quit the music bizz when it tanked after she had gradually become fairly popular (especially in Britain) despite being quite experimental...Fyodor - Denver, Co
I just finished the SongFacts quiz that had the question "which beatles song only has Lennon as the songwriter"---it's THIS song! i just looked through a bunch of my Beatle LPs, and it was really surprising that it was on Revolver, not a later album, like Abbey Road or something. COOL STUFF! I love this song.Laura - Spencerport, Ny
Ok first of all, how could this be both the first song recorded and the solo from taxman backwards? If this was first, then that solo hadn't been recorded yet... great song though, wonderfully put togetherSean - Psst, Ca
The Chameleons U.K. did a cover of this as well.Wayne - Hudson, Fl
This song was also covered by Cowboy Mouth on their CD "Uh Oh" as the lead off track.Doug - Evansville, In
This song still sounds great today. It really is a testament to how Lennon's songs have stood up so much better over time as compared to McCartney's.Robb - Hamburg, Ny
I'm going to record this whole song and play it backwards and see what I hear.Robb - Hamburg, Ny
This song is Impossible to reproduce in a recording studio because of all the loops and effects.George - Poopville, Ia
The Grateful Dead played this song in tandem with "Baba O'Riley" during concerts in the 90s.Barry - New York, Ny
What really makes this song great is Ringo's amazing drumming keeping the rhythmJohn - Woburn, Ma
I've loved this track since I first heard it on my dad's reel-to-reel in the late 70's (and my dad still has the r2r and that recording of Revolver 30-odd years later...) BTW, everyone pointing out the similarity to Chemicals tracks, the Chemicals will often play TNK unadulterated in their live sets - what better tribute can you ask for?Murray - Croydon, England
Best song from the best act in the world! Making this song the ultimate masterpiece of creativity and inspiration ever.... Nothing less. What I also love about it is this hypnotic beat which inpired or led to a tribute by other artists like Chemical brothers (Setting sun), Grapes of Wrath (All The Things I Wasn't, Field trip version), The Rutles (Joe Public). And I'm sure I?ll find many more. If you know any.... Also check this nice link: http://www.beatlemania.ca/xtra/tomorrow.swfPatrick_g - Laval, Qc, Canada
Hahaha this song is awesome. I can tell John sang it.Stefanie - Rock Hill, Sc
Los Lobos did a killer version of this on some tribute to the Beatles a frew years back, with their guitarist (I dont know his name, sorry) covering all the backwards parts on one guitar.
Chris
Chris - Metuchen, Nj
Kip, this song has amazing drumming and bass, trippy loops and trippy vocals, and lyrics that are way above and beyond anything else at the time (except for Dylan). It's innovative on all levels, and 40 years later it still rocks. Perhaps the question you should be asking is "How can a song so awesome as this continually blow my mind every time I hear it again and again and again?"Henry - Victoria, Canada
How is this song "brilliant"??? No offense intended--although I'm sure it's inevitable, but--what are you people smoking? You shouldn't need to be high to enjoy a song, and even if you aren't, how is this song so great?Kip - Sussex, Wi
Ringo made up the title.Jordan - Wimette, Il
Salvatore, you are right. This is the best song in the world.Henry - Victoria, Canada
I really belive this is the best song of the world.Salvatore - Ancona, United States
This song must have been the inspiration for Yo La Tengo's take on the Simpsons theme. Awesome.Fiona - Napier, New Zealand
This song so far ahead of it's time! It has inspired many moments *Doug - Rochester, In
To fully appreciate how cutting-edge this song is 40 years later, listen to this song back to back with the Chemical Brothers' "Let Forever Be." Better yet -- tell some 20-year old kid "this is the Chemical Brothers" and see if he believes it.Brian - Chicago, Il
if you ever DO trip, this is definitely a good description of the feeling, a loss of ego. if you dont, then this song would be as close as you can getJim - Toledo, Oh
it's a great psychedelic song. "Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream". that sounds like something Lennon would write.Stefanie Magura - Rock Hill, Sc
it's a great psychedelic song. "Turn off your mond, relax, and loat downstream'. that sounds like something Lennon would write.fStefanie Magura - Rock Hill, Sc
i don't think there's any mension of Jesus in this song.Stefanie Magura - Rock Hill, Sc
i heard that the solos in this song are actually the solo to "tax man" played backwards. oddly enough "taxman" is the first track on the record and "tomorrow never knows" is the last track.Bizgotti - Toronto, Canada
This song makes my hair stand on end. Scary and beautiful. I hated it when I was a kid, but now...Wow! Those seagull sounds are wild.Nessie - Sapporo, Japan
Oh! "But if you listen to it loudly on earphones in the dark at night, it does some wierd things to your mind"...Yeah honey it really looks like you are not interested at all on trying any drugs, you just listen to a psychedelic song at full volume and "imagine weird things" at night.....The song is amazing...and yes, i'm one of those who think this is amazing to listen to when you're stoned.Nelle - Lima, Peru
you guys are such squares! We don't care if you've 'never had so much as a ciggarette'.Nicole - New York City Full Time/boston(my Hometown) In The Summer
the backwards guitar solo after about 1:30, is apparantly the solo on taxman (played by Paul) , played backward. I was dissapointed by this. it always really blew my mind to think that that they wrote a guitar solo knowing what it would sound like played backwards. Shame.Mammothdave - London, England
The greatest psychedelic song ever written and recorded (in my humble opinion).Roger - Bristol, Tn
A friend of mine and my humble self did a remix of the song a couple of years ago. Since it captures the original idea of monks singing, we entitled it 'The Void' - the original title. We added a few lines of original Gregorian chant, extended both the opening with the drum loops slowly fading in and the ending with Lennon repeating "Of the beginning" at least 20 times over.
Needless to say listening to ir is a thrilling high end experience - it is not dying...
C.J. Ganter, Hof / Saale (Germany)
C.j. - Hof / Saale, Germany
"Turn off your mind, relax and float down strem" great advice for anyone that has just taken a psychedelic substanceBrett - Watertown, Sd
mr. kite, there's no mention of Jesus in this song.Henry - Victoria, Canada
Great song--kinda foreshadowed the revolutionary stuff the Fab Four would do for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

On an interesting side note, Jimi Hendrix recorded this song live at the Scene Club in NYC with Johnny Winter, Buddy Miles, and a very drunk Jim Morrison.
Will - Schoharie, Ny
I just discovered that there's a line in the song that actually says "Love is Jesus Christ!"

I crossed out any notion of john being an antichirst here.
Mr.kite - Bulacan, Poland
If you haven't heard it, it is fascinating to listen to the version that appears on The Beatles "Anthology"...especially the intro and how it evolved to the standard we're used to hearing today.Rob - Hutchinson, Ks
The first time i heard this song, I hated it and thought to myself, "What drug were they on when they wrote this???" But the more I listen to it, the more I like it. It requires some thinking- listen to the colour of your dreams...Natalia - Sydney, Australia
Definitely ahead of it's time. Gotta be one of the first pure British psychadelic songs.Joe - West Creek, Nj
The thing is song is you can play it full blast in your car, it sounds great, and people listening either in or out side of the car are like,dam thats a phat song. It as hip now as it was back then. Kind of like drum & bass...Nick - Buffalo, Ny
The working title of this song was "The Void," and the seagull like noises at the beginning is actually Paul laughing, but sped up and reversed. The trippy guitar solo is the solo from "Taxman," the first song on Revolver, backwards. Clever stuff for 1966 eh? Especially when you realise that this song was one of the first laid down for this album. Lennon wanted this to sound like "a thousand monks chanting on a mountain top" which is the effect he nearly got, in my opinion. This song would go great in a Vietnam film or somethingMike - London, England
Umm, I love this song and I'm not a stoned spaz. I like to play it loud and on ear phones. But I've never so much as had a ciggarette. So this song isn't only for stoners as some people are making it seem. No, I love this song as I love most of the songs on Revolver but I have no intentions to toke up 3 grams of anything. And whoever feels that they must do that to understand any song is wierd and a little sad. But if you listen to it loudly on earphones in the dark at night, it does some wierd things to your mind.Brittanie - Liverpool, England
Are you guys all stoners or somthing?John - West Covina, Ca
Very cool song; just goes to show you how far ahead of their time they were. I love The Beatles.Shirley - Ocean, Nj
Nevermind that crap about drugs, this is a damn good song and revolutionary for its time. Ringo's drumming beat sets a nice pace and the backwards guitar solo creates a nice break between John's "heavy philosphoical lyrics." The perfect way to close out Revolver.Adrian - Wilmington, De
WHOA. what a trippy songAllen - Superior, Wi
There's a book about Silverchair called "Tomorrow Never Knows"Whitnee - Portland, Or
This was actually the first song recorded for the Revolver LP. It is also one of the first songs to make effective use of what is known a "sampling and looping".Robb - Hamburg, Ny
This one was years ahead of the sound and production of music in 1966. It's an amazing song, even if you aren't stoned.James - Birmingham, Al
While high, this song opens new doors to thought. try it sometimes. it worksBen Russell - Durham, Nc
This was used as the theme song to the movie "the Craft"Jen - London, England
Get 3 grams of the best dank you can find, toke, then listen to this for 1 hour over and over at full volume. Sit and reflect and you will recieve a revelation. Post comments on how this works on this page. Enjoy!
-420
Patrick - Durham, Nc
The bird-like sounds in the background was a tape Paul McCartney laughing played backwards in the song.Erik - Davis, Ca
John Lennon organally wanted to have a microphone placed in the center of the studio while he was to be swiging on a rope to create the swirling effect. A Leslie speaker, which has a rotating speaker inside, was used instead.Chet - Saratoga Springs, Ny
I LOVE this song (as I love so many of their others).!!! It HAS to be played LOUD and as John said "Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream" - brilliant!!Gary - Croydon, England