How Do You Sleep? (John Lennon song)

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"How Do You Sleep?"
Song by John Lennon from the album Imagine
Released 9 September 1971 (US)
8 October 1971 (UK)
Recorded 23 June 1971–5 July 1971
Genre Rock, hard rock
Length 5:36
Label Apple/EMI
Writer John Lennon
Producer John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and Phil Spector

"How Do You Sleep?" is a song by John Lennon from his 1971 album Imagine. The song makes pointed and unflattering remarks aimed at his former Beatles bandmate and songwriting partner, Paul McCartney, although Lennon would later state that many of the accusations he had written could just as easily describe himself.

Composition and lyrics[edit]

Following the release of McCartney's album Ram earlier that year, Lennon felt attacked by McCartney, who later admitted that lines in the song "Too Many People" were intended as digs at Lennon.[1] Lennon thought that other songs on the album, such as "3 Legs," contained similar attacks,[2] and the back cover of Ram, showing one stag beetle mounting another, has been described by McCartney as indicative of how he felt treated by the other members of The Beatles.

The lyrics of "How Do You Sleep?" refer to the Paul is dead hoax ("Those freaks was right when they said you was dead").[3] The song begins with the lyrics, "So Sgt. Pepper took you by surprise", referring to their landmark album; a strange insult considering that the Sergeant Pepper idea had been Paul's, first voiced to Mal Evans on a flight from Kenya to London on 19 November 1966.[4] Preceding this first line are ambient sounds evocative of those heard at the beginning of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album.

The lyrics, "The only thing you done was yesterday/And since you've gone you're just another day" are directed at McCartney, the first lyric being a reference to The Beatles' 1965 song "Yesterday". In the "Imagine" film, (with Harrison playing alongside Lennon) Lennon sings, "How do you sleep ya cunt?" before he asks the engineer to stop recording.[citation needed] The second lyric is a reference to McCartney's hit single, "Another Day", released earlier in 1971. Lennon initially penned the lyrics, "You probably pinched that bitch anyway", as a reference to the many times McCartney himself had made claims that he was not sure if he "nicked" Yesterday, having asked Lennon, Harrison, Martin and others if they heard that song before. Although Lennon receives the sole credit as the song's author, multiple reports[who?] indicate that Yoko Ono, as well as Allen Klein, Lennon's manager, also contributed lyrics.[3]


The song features a slide guitar part played by George Harrison.[5] In addition, the song featured Lennon on piano and vocals, Klaus Voormann on bass, Alan White on drums, acoustic guitar played by Ted Turner, Rod Linton, and Andy Davis, as well as additional piano parts by Nicky Hopkins and John Tout.[3]

Ringo Starr visited the studio during the recording of the song and was reportedly upset, saying: "That's enough, John."[3]

The final mix version as released on the album is in mono rather than stereo, unlike all the other tracks.


Reception and aftermath[edit]

In a contemporary review of the Imagine album, Rolling Stone magazine described the song as “horrifying and indefensible” but noted its “immediacy”.[6] Lennon softened his stance in the mid-70s and said that he had written the song about himself; he revealed in 1980, "I used my resentment against Paul... to create a song... not a terrible vicious horrible vendetta... I used my resentment and withdrawing from Paul and The Beatles, and the relationship with Paul, to write 'How Do You Sleep'. I don't really go 'round with those thoughts in my head all the time".[7]

Roger Glover wrote the riff for the song "Maybe I'm A Leo," recorded by Deep Purple in 1971, after hearing this riff, inspired by the fact that the riff did not start on the down beat.

The Magnificent Bastards, a side project of Stone Temple Pilots lead singer Scott Weiland, recorded a cover version in 1995 for the tribute album Working Class Hero: A Tribute to John Lennon. Replicants, featuring members of Failure and Tool, covered the song on their self-titled debut.

A demo version of the song appears on John Lennon Anthology, released in 1998.

McCartney's Reply[edit]

In the DVD special documentary on RAM Paul McCartney said that on hearing "How Do You Sleep?", he considered writing a song called "Very Well, Thank You."


  1. ^ Playboy Magazine (1984). "Playboy Interview With Paul and Linda McCartney". Playboy Press. Retrieved 23 August 2008. 
  2. ^ Cadogan, Patrick (2008). The Revolutionary Artist: John Lennon's Radical Years. Morrisville, North Carolina: Lulu. p. 141. ISBN 978-1-4357-1863-0. 
  3. ^ a b c d Blaney, John (2005). John Lennon: Listen To This Book. Guildford, Great Britain: Biddles Ltd. p. 89. ISBN 0-9544528-1-X. 
  4. ^ Miles, Barry (1997). Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now. Henry Holt and Company. p. 720. ISBN 0805052496. ISBN 9780805052497. 
  5. ^ Leng, Simon (2003). The Music of George Harrison: While My Guitar Gently Weeps. London: Firefly Publishing. p. 79. ISBN 0-946719-50-0. 
  6. ^ Gerson, Ben. Imagine; 28 October 1971 [Retrieved 3 October 2011].
  7. ^ "Playboy Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono – 1980". Retrieved 15 December 2007. 

External links[edit]