“I’m Only Sleeping” is a Beatles’ song from their 1966 album, “Revolver”. However, their rehearsals and “take 1” is on their “Anthology 2” album.
Recorded: 27th and 29th April, 5th and 6th May, 1966
Studio: EMI Studios, London
Genre: Psychedelic folk
Track Duration: 3:02
Record Label: Parlophone (UK)
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Geoff Emerick
I’m Only Sleeping
Primarily written by John Lennon, with credits going to the songwriting partnership of Lennon-McCartney, “I’m Only Sleeping” sits between “Eleanor Rigby” and “Love You To” on the 1966 Beatles’ album, “Revolver”. He first wrote the song in 1966 on the back of a letter, although this was only a draft copy of an idea for tweaking later.
The Beatles had been touring for years, but that would all end on 29th August, 1966, with their last concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California. Obviously, their tours were tiresome and John Lennon would often spend his time reading, writing, watching television and sleeping. From time to time, Lennon would be under the influence of drugs too. Also, on many occasions, Paul McCartney would need to wake Lennon up.
To reinforce John Lennon’s sleeping pattern his journalist friend once wrote the following:
“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’.”
London Evening Standard, 4th March, 1966
So, perhaps John Lennon was writing the song after becoming self-conscious about his own sleeping habits at the time.
The Beatles began recording “I’m Only Sleeping” on the 27th April, 1966, in Studio Three at the EMI Studios, London, during the 11.30pm-3.00am session. They recorded 11 takes and the last one was suitable to become the master take for the overdubs. On the 29th April, Lennon added his vocals.
“I’m Only Sleeping” become a first in the field of backmasking when someone loaded a tape the wrong way in a studio machine.
“It played backwards, and, ‘What the hell is going on?’ Those effects! Nobody knew how those sounded then. We said, ‘My God, that is fantastic! Can we do that for real?’… So that was what we did and that was where we discovered backwards guitar. It was a beautiful solo actually. It sounds like something you couldn’t play.”
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
George Harrison recorded the guitar pieces on the 5th May and then the band overdubbed the backing vocals the next day to complete the song. This became the first time on a pop recording with backward guitars being a unique feature.
The Beatles Anthology 2 album from 1996 has both the rehearsal and take 1 from their first day’s recording. They are both interesting pieces and well worth a listen.