I'm Only Sleeping

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"I'm Only Sleeping"
Song by the Beatles from the album Revolver
Released 5 August 1966 (UK)
Recorded 27 and 29 April 5 and 6 May 1966,
EMI Studios, London
Genre Psychedelic rock
Length 3:02
Label Parlophone
Writer(s) Lennon–McCartney
Producer(s) George Martin
Music sample
"I'm Only Sleeping"
Song by The Beatles from the album Yesterday and Today
Released 20 June 1966 (US)
Recorded 27 and 29 April 5 and 6 May 1966,
EMI Studios, London
Length 3:01
Label Capitol
Writer(s) Lennon–McCartney
Producer(s) George Martin

"I'm Only Sleeping" is a song by English rock group the Beatles from their 1966 studio album Revolver. It was released two months earlier on the US-only album Yesterday and Today and was not included on the US version of Revolver. Credited as a Lennon–McCartney song, it was written primarily by John Lennon.[1]


The recording of the song began in EMI Studios on 27 April 1966 with eleven takes of the rhythm track. Five further takes of the song were recorded but none were used. Take 11 was chosen as the master and two days later Lennon added his lead vocals. On 5 May, George Harrison wrote and recorded the double guitar part. The next day the recording was completed by Lennon, McCartney and Harrison's backing vocals.

The song features the then-unique sound of a reversed guitar duet played by Harrison in a five-hour late-night recording session with producer George Martin. Harrison perfected the part with the tape running backwards so that, when reversed, it would fit the dreamlike mood.[2] One guitar was recorded with fuzz effects, the other without. Engineer Geoff Emerick described the meticulous process as "an interminable day," lasting nine hours. "I can still picture George hunched over his guitar for hours on end," Emerick wrote in 2006, "headphones clamped on, brows furrowed in concentration."[3]

During the break before the second bridge, at about 1:57 into the song, a barely audible voice (probably Lennon's) can be heard saying, "Yawn, Paul", followed by a slightly more audible yawn at 2:00 minutes.


The first draft of Lennon's lyrics for "I'm Only Sleeping", written on the back of a letter from 1966, suggests that he was writing about the joys of staying in bed rather than any drug euphoria sometimes read into the lyrics.[3] While not on tour, due to his lack of routine, Lennon would often spend his time sleeping, reading, writing or watching television, often under the influence of drugs, and would often have to be woken by McCartney for songwriting sessions. In a London Evening Standard article published on 4 March 1966, which contained quotes from an interview in which Lennon made his "more popular than Jesus" remark, Maureen Cleave, a friend of Lennon's, wrote, "He can sleep almost indefinitely, is probably the laziest person in England. 'Physically lazy,' he said. 'I don't mind writing or reading or watching or speaking, but sex is the only physical thing I can be bothered with any more.'"[4]


The song was first released on 20 June 1966 as track 2 on the US album Yesterday And Today and on 5 August 1966 as track 3 on Revolver, the album for which the song was originally intended. The US version of Revolver did not feature the song as it had already been released: US Beatles releases frequently differed from the British versions.

The mono and stereo versions of "I'm Only Sleeping" differ in the positioning of the backwards guitar:

  • US mono version: No backwards track during the second verse but a quick fragment is heard on the "time" in "taking my time" and "ceiling" in "lying there and staring at the ceiling". The track is fully intact during the instrumental break and continues into the words "please don't" in "please don't spoil my day". Near the end of the song the backwards track starts four beats after the last word "sleeping".
  • US rechannelled stereo version: This version was mixed from the US mono version of the song but has far more reverb.
  • US stereo version: Backwards track on "running everywhere at such a speed" and "till they find there's no need". The track fades in two bars into the solo but continues into the word "please" in "please don't spoil my day". At the end of the song, the track starts immediately after the word "sleeping".
  • UK mono version: Backwards track on "...where at such a speed," "there's no need" and "staring at the ceiling". The track stops at the end of the solo and at the end of the song, starts immediately after the word "sleeping".
  • UK stereo version: Backwards track on "everywhere at such a speed" and "find there's no need". The track stops at the end of the solo and at the end of the song, starts immediately after the word "sleeping".

Since the release of The Beatles' music on CDs in 1987, the UK stereo version of the album has become the standard version in the US.

Part of an instrumental rehearsal of the song featuring a vibraphone and the first take of the song from 29 April 1966 were released on the 1996 album Anthology 2. The UK mono version of Revolver was released on CD as part of the 2009 The Beatles in Mono remastered box set.

Cover versions[edit]


Personnel per Ian MacDonald[5]


  1. ^ "The Beatles Songs: I'm Only Sleeping - The history of this classic Beatles song". http://oldies.about.com/. 5 August 1966. Retrieved 4 January 2014.  External link in |publisher= (help)
  2. ^ MacDonald 2005, p. 86.
  3. ^ a b "57 – 'I'm Only Sleeping'". 100 Greatest Beatles Songs. Rolling Stone. Retrieved 19 June 2012. 
  4. ^ Cleave 1966.
  5. ^ MacDonald 2005, p. 85.


External links[edit]