The first-ever take of the groundbreaking Beatles track “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” which was recorded on Feb. 28, 1967, has been released from the band’s archive in advance of the upcoming Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band reissue.

The four-minute clip, laid down at Abbey Road Studios in London, begins with a range of off-the-cuff comments from members of the group, plus random guitar plucking and keyboard notes. After a few moments, the iconic organ riff, played by Paul McCartney, chimes in before John Lennon begins singing a rough lead vocal, complete with echo effect in places. The song was completed four days later, with assistance and piano contribution from producer George Martin.

You can listen to this take above.

The version bears a strong resemblance to the finished song that appeared on the Sgt. Pepper album later that year. It doesn’t include the chorus lyrics, said to be one of the earlier direct drug references in rock music – although Lennon always insisted that the words had been inspired by a drawing made by his son Julian, which the boy himself referred to as “Lucy, in the sky with diamonds.”

McCartney also played down the drug influence, telling the Los Angeles Times in 1968, “When you write a song and you mean it one way, and someone comes up and says something about it that you didn't think of, you can't deny it. People came up and said, cunningly, ‘Right, I get it. LSD,’ – but we never thought about it.”

He said the lyrics had instead been inspired by author Lewis Carroll. “We did the whole thing like an Alice in Wonderland idea, being in a boat on the river," McCartney explained. "Every so often it broke off and you saw Lucy in the sky with diamonds. This Lucy was God, the Big Figure, the White Rabbit.”

Lennon’s handwritten lyrics of the song sold at auction in 2011 for $230,000.

The Beatles will release the 50th anniversary edition of Sgt Pepper on May 26, including new mixes in stereo, 5.1 and high-resolution audio, along with unreleased tracks, video features and collector’s packaging. An outtake from the title track was launched last month. A behind-the-scenes documentary will be broadcast on June 3, which is said to unveil “the nuts and bolts of how the album came together” and “insights into the choices made by the Beatles and George Martin.”

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