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I'm Only Sleeping is a song by The Beatles from their 1966 studio album Revolver. It was released two months earlier in the USA on the album Yesterday and Today and did not feature on the original U.S. version of Revolver. The song was primarily written by John Lennon but, like all The Beatles' songs written by Lennon and Paul McCartney, it is credited to Lennon/McCartney.


The song has a unique sound, featuring a dual guitar solo by George Harrison played backwards, as well as an electronically compressed rhythm guitar track. The idea for the backwards solo was conceived after a tape operator accidentally threaded a tape into the machine the wrong way. The backwards guitar was written and performed by Harrison in a five hour late-night recording session with producer George Martin. To make the solo consistent with the rest of the song, Harrison had to practise the entire melody of his solo backwards so that when reversed and mixed in, it would fit the overall dreamlike mood of the rest of the song.[1]

The psychedelic drone effect of the song was achieved by recording it at various speeds. The band also added other dreamlike touches, including alarm-clock-like vocal harmonies by McCartney and Harrison when Lennon sings "Please don't wake me" and during the break before the second bridge, at about 1:57 minutes 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 psychedelic sound, the hazy, disjointed mood and the dreamy lyrics of song, suggest Lennon is singing of being in a sleepy drug-induced state. The first draft of Lennon's lyrics for "I'm Only Sleeping", written on the back of a letter from 1966, suggest that he was writing about the joys of staying in bed rather than any drug euphoria. 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.'"[2]

Lennon later wrote another song on the subject of sleep (or the lack of sleep) with "I'm So Tired"', which appeared on The Beatles' 1968 eponymous album The Beatles AKA "The White Album".


The recording of the song began in Abbey Road Studios on 27 April 1966 with eleven takes of the rhythm track being recorded. Take 11 was chosen as the master and two days later, on 29 April, Lennon added his lead vocals. Five more takes of the song were also recorded but none were used. On 5 May, Harrison wrote and recorded the double guitar solo; one solo was recorded with fuzz effects, the other without. The next day, on 6 May, the song was completed with Lennon, McCartney and Harrison recording the backing vocals.


The song was first released on 20 June 1966 as track 2 on the U.S. album Yesterday And Today. The song was later released on 5 August 1966 as track 3 on Revolver, the album for which the song was originally intended. The U.S. version of Revolver did not feature the song due to the fact it had already been released in the country on a different album.

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

  • U.S. 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".
  • U.S. rechannelled stereo version: This version was mixed from the U.S. mono version of the song but has far more reverb.
  • U.S. 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 sfter 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 "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 sfter the word "sleeping".

Since the released of The Beatles music on CDs in 1987, the UK stereo version of the album has become the standard version in the U.S.

Part of an instrumental rehearsal of the song featuring a vibraphone and the first take of the song from 29 April 1966, was 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[]

  • Lobo covered the song on the album Just A Singer, released in 1974.
  • "I'm Only Sleeping" was the first solo single by British singer Suggs, best known as the lead singer of Madness. Released in August 1995, the song entered the UK charts at #7.
  • The song was covered by The Vines for the 2001 film I Am Sam, in which the soundtrack consisted entirely of covers of Beatles songs.
  • Quorthon recorded a cover, which can be heard on the third CD of the 2006 compilation album In Memory of Quorthon.
  • Straylight Run released an acoustic cover of the song as a bonus track on the separate 3 track EP with their 2007 album The Needles The Space.
  • The song was performed by The Stereophonics and Oasis in a tribute event to John Lennon.



  • MacDonald, Ian (2005). Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties

(Second Revised ed.). London: Pimlico (Rand). ISBN 1-844-13828-3. 

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