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How Do You Sleep? by John Lennon

Album: ImagineReleased: 1971
  • Lennon wrote this at the height of his feud with Paul McCartney after The Beatles broke up. Each line of the song is an attack on some aspect of McCartney's life or music at the time. For instance, the line "Everything you done was yesterday. Since you gone you're just another day" refers to Paul's song "Yesterday" with the Beatles and his first solo single "Another Day." John felt that Paul's greatest work was behind him.
  • When the Imagine album was originally released, it contained a postcard of John holding the ears of a large pig. This was making fun of Paul's 1971 album cover for Ram, released before Imagine, where Paul is pictured holding the horns of a ram. On the back of the Ram album, Paul included a picture of two beetles 'screwing,' or saying to John 'screw' you from one Beatle to another.
  • The feud between Lennon and McCartney originated after The Beatles manager Brian Epstein passed away. Paul wanted his new father-in-law to manage the group while the other Beatles wanted the notorious Allen Klein. Lennon and McCartney maintained a frosty relationship after the band broke up. By most accounts, McCartney contacted Lennon periodically, but was often rebuffed. The last time they saw each other was two years before Lennon's death when they shared dinner in New York. In a 2008 interview with The Times of London, McCartney said: "The answer to John was well - I was sleeping very well at the time. Before John died I got back a good relationship with him. That was very special. The arguments we had didn't matter. We were able to just take the piss about all those songs; they weren't that harsh. In fact, I have been thanked by Yoko and everyone else for saving the Beatles from Allen Klein. Everything comes round in the end."
  • This appears in John and Yoko's film Imagine. (thanks, Mike - Little Falls, NJ, for above 4)
  • Some of Lennon's lyrics refer to McCartney's "Too Many People" from his album Ram (Hence the pig postcard). The lyrics from "Too Many People" that referred to Lennon: "Too many people preaching practices" and "You took your lucky break and broke it in two." (thanks, John - Watertown, WI)
  • Nicky Hopkins, an Apple records protégé who Paul McCartney produced on his song "Those Are The Days My Friend," played piano on this.
  • George Harrison played lead guitar on this track, and Klaus Voorrman played the bass. Voorman, an old friend from The Beatles Hamburg days, did the cover collage for The Beatles album Revolver. The fact that others who were close to McCartney also played on this track made it even more painful for the former Beatle. (thanks, chet - saratoga springs, NY, for above 2)
  • Lennon discussed this song in an interview with BBC Radio 1 DJ Andy Peebles on December 6, 1980, four days before his death. He recalled: "I used my resentment against Paul, that I have as a kind of sibling rivalry resentment from youth, to write a song. It was a creative rivalry… It was not a vicious vendetta… but I felt resentment, so I used that situation the same as I used withdrawing from heroin to write Cold Turkey; I used my resentment and withdrawing from Paul and the Beatles to write How Do You Sleep?" (Source Q magazine November 2010)
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Comments: 99

For those who don't understand what John meant when he said the song's about himself when it's clearly about Paul. He never denied writing it about Paul, when he said was that, reflecting on it later on, he realized he was talking about himself.

BTW Bryan (from Washington) thank you very much for posting that excerpt from Many years from now. Not sure whether I quite agree with your theory - though I do think John may well have been trying to mess with Paul's mental stability - but it was VERY interesting to read that. Reminds me I MUST read that book.

I believe though that Paul took LSD more than once?.
Cristina - Santiago, Chile
The lyric about Yesterday being "pinched" was better imo, in no small part because it was more humorous - as Paul played the tune around to people for months or more asking them if they had heard it before, he was afraid he had subconsciously plagiarised it - rather than the lyrics that Klein suggested, downright putting down Paul's music, which must have been very hurtful.Cristina - Santiago, Chile
The original lyrics were "The only thing you did was Yesterday/And you probably pinched that bitch, anyway". "Pinched" is Liverpool slang for "stole". Alan Klein asked John to change the lyric; he was fearful that Paul would sue John for implying that "Yesterday" was plagiarized. John did change the line to include the title of Paul's then-latest single "Another Day".Ken - Louisville, Ky
My comment to Christian in Richmond, WI --- to attempt to claim Paul McCartney was of no importance to The Beatles is like claiming oxygen is of no importance to human survival.Edie - Round Rock, Tx
Most any good song is from the heart. Think of some of your favorite songs and I bet most of them are as a result of something that has happened to the songwriter, love, death, birth, divorce, etc. These 2 master songwriters have mined this vein on many songs. I don't know how much faith I would put into the comments about John and Paul hating each other or despising one another. I think they just used a little rift between them as material for songs. Here we are 40 years later still debating. I think that fact alone makes these two songs (HDYS and TMP) great.Brog - Jacksonville, Fl
Ruth, "You live with straights who tell you you was king" has nothing to do with straight and gay in terms of sexuality. Believe it or not, only two years after the Stonewall Riot, when IMAGINE came out, most Americans didn't use the term "gay" to describe homosexuals, though that usage goes back hundreds of years in Europe. No, the "straights" Lennon was talking about were folks in "the straight world," like in beatnik jargon of the 1950s. Lennon is also adopting here a Midwestern/Southern idiom with that "was", like Yellow Springs, Ohio-born Richie Furay on Poco's "I Guess You Made It" (which is about Neil Young leaving Buffalo Springfield for the second time, by the way) when he sings "There you was standing...") or on any number of songs by, say, Muddy Waters. "You live with straights who tell you you was king" would roughly translate today as "You live with civilians [i.e. non-musicians or non-entertainment business people] who tell you you were awesome."Tom - California
John had anger issues. I read in a few places that he beat Cynthia. It's ironic and a bit frustrating how John was all about peace, but he beat his wife. Hypocrite.Olivia - Philadelphia, Pa
Poor Paul. George played on this and so did Voorrman. He must have felt so betrayed and hurt. Why did Geroge argee to do this knowing it was smacking Paul?????Olivia - Philadelphia, Pa
I'm huge fan of Paul's, but this song is just amazing...better than 'Too many People' too.Andrew - London, United Kingdom
John was a dick at that time. But he didn't see anything. took years to clear his mind...Gee - Vienna, Austria
This isn't actually that big of a deal. They finally patched things up before Lennon died. Sure, John definitely was to harsh in this song, but Paul should have known how John would react. And George shouldn't have participated in this. Really the only Beatle that didn't make a mistake here was Ringo. But so what? Everyone makes mistakes. All that matters is that John and Paul were friends till the end, and all friends have fights.Rose - Boston, Ma
Once these guys egos got too big, they wouldn't listen to their advisors anymore. Think of how the Beatles would have ended if George Martin hadn't taken control for Abbey Road. They would have followed up the White Album with the "Gray Album" where all of their instruments were out of tune because they were too stoned to know the difference. It's like Paul's latest work. He's letting people actually "produce" him again - and it helps.Ed - Austin, Tx
I love these guys, but just like Bono says, "All of that 60's hippy peace and love talk is socialist bulls--t". How true that is. They both wrote great songs apart from one another, but they needed strong management, strong production, and each other to rise above it all. Give peace a chance my ass. Yeah right. I can't help but think of Lennon's temperature controlled Manhattan flat full of nothing but fur coats sitting out the summer at a chilly 60 degrees as he wrote "imagine no possessions"Ed - Austin, Tx
Did you know that Paul didn't actually know that the beetles on the back of ram were screwing each other, he just thought they were some cute little bugs. Paul doesn't deserve this song.Claire - Colorado Springs, Co
At least they where able to make up before John died. And good old Ringo, always standing up for his friends.
"That's enough, John."
Addie - Portland, Mi
I have seen few, if any, interpretions the opening lyrics of the song, "So Sgt. Pepper took you by surprise/You better see right through that mother's eyes..." I offer an interpretation based on McCartney's description of his first and only LSD experience with Lennon in the Barry Miles biography, "Many Years From Now" (excerpted below). In short, McCartney describes how LSD freaked him out, and Lennon elsewhere has described how LSD "profoundly disturbed" McCartney, whom he had also described as the "most stable" of The Beatles. With Sgt Pepper being synonymous for LSD or psychedelia, I suggest the opening lyric describes how LSD affected McCartney. Further, McCartney describes below how he and Lennon would look into each other's eyes while on LSD, see themselves, and how "blown away" he was by it ("You'd better see right through that mother's eye"). I think these lyrics may be Lennon's attempt to knock McCartney off balance, as LSD clearly did, and make him feel psychologically insecure. (McCartney also describes the peer pressure that led him to experiment in the first place, saying the band members said,'Hey, man, this whole band's had acid, why are you holding out? What's the reason, what is it about you?').

I believe you will accept this interpretation of the lyrics if you read the excerpt below and the biography itself, which is largely based on interviews with McCartney.

PAUL: I thought, Maybe this is the moment where I should take a trip with him. It's been coming for a long time. It's often the best way, without thinking about it too much, just slip into it. John's on it already, so I'll sort of catch up. It was my first trip with John, or with any of the guys. We stayed up all night, sat around and hallucinated a lot.

Me and John, we'd known each other for a long time. Along with George and Ringo, we were best mates. And we looked into each other's eyes, the eye contact thing we used to do, which is fairly mind-boggling. You dissolve into each other. But that's what we did, round about that time, that's what we did a lot. And it was amazing. You're looking into each other's eyes and you would want to look away, but you wouldn't, and you could see yourself in the other person. It was a very freaky experience and I was totally blown away.

There's something disturbing about it. You ask yourself, 'How do you come back from it? How do you then lead a normal life after that?' And the answer is, you don't. After that you've got to get trepanned or you've got to meditate for the rest of your life. You've got to make a decision which way you're going to go.

I would walk out into the garden - 'Oh no, I've got to go back in.' It was very tiring, walking made me very tired, wasted me, always wasted me. But 'I've got to do it, for my well-being.' In the meantime John had been sitting around very enigmatically and I had a big vision of him as a king, the absolute Emperor of Eternity. It was a good trip. It was great but I wanted to go to bed after a while.

I'd just had enough after about four or five hours. John was quite amazed that it had struck me in that way. John said, 'Go to bed? You won't sleep!' 'I know that, I've still got to go to bed.' I thought, now that's enough fun and partying, now ... It's like with drink. That's enough. That was a lot of fun, now I gotta go and sleep this off. But of course you don't just sleep off an acid trip so I went to bed and hallucinated a lot in bed. I remember Mai coming up and checking that I was all right. 'Yeah, I think so.' I mean, I could feel every inch of the house, and John seemed like some sort of emperor in control of it all. It was quite strange. Of course he was just sitting there, very inscrutably.
Bryan - Washington, Dc, Dc
I hope I can add something to the understanding of this song. I have seen few comments on the "meaning" of the opening lyrics, "So Sgt. Pepper took you by surprise/You better see right through that mother's eye..." After reading the McCartney biography, Many Years from Now, which is based on many candid interviews between McCartney and a pal, I propose an interpretation. Lennon has said that McCartney was "profoundly disturbed" by his experiences on LSD. Sgt Pepper as you know is the Beatles album that is synonymous with LSD and psychedelia. Moreover in the McCartney biography McCartney describes in vivid detail his experience taking LSD with Lennon, where they would stare into each other's eyes ("you better see right through that mother's eye") and how McCartney became convinced that Lennon was controlling the Universe (or something like that) and how it nearly drove him insane. In short, I think these opening lines are Lennon's attempts to make the "stable" McCartney (as Lennon has described him), feel psychologically insecure. Check out the relevant sections from the biography and you too may agree with this interpretation.Bryan - Washington, Dc, Dc
Honestly, I believe that John was being a bit too overdramatic with the feud he had with Paul. Although John admitted he had a mean streak and had deep anger issues. He even once said he took some of the lyrics from "Getting Better" to heart. He quoted the line "I used to be cruel to my woman, I'd beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved" saying that line was truly about himself. John did have some deep issues he was dealing with at the time and always had some of his anger and drug issues, but I still think he was a little unnecessary with the whole feud thing.Austin - Oklahoma City, Ok
The beginning of beatlemania in the us.On their first trip to new york a large all girls school in the bronx was rented to meet them at the airport.Otherwise there may have been eight or nine people there.The a/p announced to the world that this was the beginning of "beatlemania."and so it was.Of course the rolling stones rented the same school on their first visit yet in the midwest played largely to empty houses.A sullen ed sullivan announced to an audience that was ripping his theater apart that that act(the $tones) would never appear again on his show.Rene - Biloxi, Ms
If John is attacking Paul, so much for "Give Peace A Chance"Tyler - Greeneville, Tn
No one said that Here Today had anything to do with this song. It's just another song where Paul talks about how he truly felt about John.Ruth - Indianapolis, In
but the song "here today" has nothing to do with "how do you sleep".mccartney wrote "here today" when john lennon was already shot as a tribute song to him.the time lennon died their relatioship was already increasing.so you cant accuse lennon for writing songs like "how do you sleep".they attacked each other at the timeKathrin - Berlin, Germany
I don't understand why people feel the need to compare Lennon and McCartney, yes they were in a band togehter but they have VERY different styles, both in lyrics and in music. I personally really like the melody on this track, and you don't HAVE to listen to this song and associate it with Paul, I know I just enjoy it for what it is. I can't remember my source but I reember hearing that the only part of this record that bothered Paul was the line 'the sound you make is musak to my ears'. I think John was mainly letting off some steam in this song, rather than trying to attack Paul. This is just my interpretation anyways.Charlotte - London, United Kingdom
Paul wrote 50 songs better than Yesterday? Are you kidding me? ....and I'm not praising it!Ryan - Warren Ohio,
1.) The line about "Mama" is most likely a reference to Linda whom John didn't really like. 2.) "Listen to straights" -- funny how a lot of their "ribbing" at each other in their solo works comes out as a bitter lovers' spat. You'd swear that the gay/bi rumors are true (especially considering "Let Me Roll It" and "Here Today"). 3.) Paul did not want to change the whole catalog to "McCartney/Lennon;" he wanted to change the songs that only he wrote. If George and Ringo get their own solo credits on the album, then why not John or Paul? Both Paul worshipers and John worshipers need to STFU. 4.) Please take off your tinfoil hats and stop the Paul/Faul nonsense.Ruth - Indianapolis, In
Britt from Boston: Even though I absolutely LOVE this song, I'd have to agree with you. Macca really does have a bad rap for things he didn't cause. He tried to mend the Lennon-McCartney friendship by writing "Let Me Roll It" and I think that John responded to that by writing "Watching The Wheels." When I listened to both songs, I was struck by the similarities between them. Apparently before John died, they started to mend the friendship. Isn't it a pity that it was tragically cut short?Julia - Richland, Wa
I think it was pretty childish for John to make a song about how much he disliked Paul. I don't really know much about the feud, but from my perspective, Paul is innocent and he is blamed for things, and John is the sarcastic one always finding ways to get back at Paul through music. This is coming from a huge Paul McCartney fan by the way.Britt - Boston, Ma
Thanks R.H. I really needed that. =)Julia - Richland, Wa
woah....thats really harsh. "jump when your mama tell you anything"- let it be was about paul's mom. "The sound you make is muzak to my ears"- a lot of his songs were made into muzak versions. "A pretty face may last a year or two"- he was commonly regarded as the best looking in the beatles. "Those freaks was right when they said you was dead"- well, we all know what that means. With all of those very unsubtle lines, how on earth could john claim its about himself?Chloe - St. Louis, Mo
Dave, there are stories that John played some guitar on a few tracks of George's All Things Must Pass album, but asked not to be credited in any way. This is plausable since both Plastic Ono Band and ATMP were recorded at Abbey Road at about the same time (the facility has 3 studios) and both had the same producer (Phil Spector).Ken - Louisville, Ky
You people need to read a book called "Lennon Remembers". It's a compilation of the 2-part interview Lennon gave with Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone magazine.R.h. - Pauls Valley, Ok
Julia from Richland, WA: The song "My Mummy's Dead" is on the 1970 "John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band" album. www.Allmusic.com can help you find obscure songs like that.R.h. - Pauls Valley, Ok
This Lennon and McCartney feud was nothing new. If you read about the various infighting that took place with many bands and lead to their disintegration the Beatles row is not unique. Look at CCR, The Byrds, The Stones i.e Brian Jones, the Beach Boys etc. Its human nature. When you live, travel and perform together night after night, week after week and year after year your going to wear on one another. Siblings feud, families , co-workers the list goes on and on. I noted some of you take sides, don't. We weren't there to see what really happened, its mostly hear say. Friends differ for any number of reasons its all part of life. The Beatles and any number of other bands broke up but they gave us great music, for that we should be grateful.Alan - Sault Ste. Marie, On
Somethings in this song arent just pointed at paul somethings john pointed as himself.Leigh - Ny, Ny
To Dave: George's final two shows in his 1974 tour were at Nassau Coliseum on Long Island and then, the next night, at MSG. John attended the Nassau show and met with George backstage. He offered to be a guest performer at the MSG show, like he'd done for Elton John the month before. George took that as an insult, that John was inferring that he NEEDED John because his (George's) show was weak. He then yelled and screamed at John for reneging on his promise to play at the 1971 Bangledesh concert. John didn't argue ("I could see George was in a lot of pain") and quietly left the building. John did not turn up at the MSG show the next night - which was when Paul did turn up, but in disguise in the audience. Paul didn't go on stage or was even introduced.Ken - Louisville, Ky
Another reason John was angry was because Paul had pretty much taken over the Beatles. And to Johnny,from LA, I think that Yoko was VERY brave because she has carried on all these years without John. She also helped introduce a new Ben & Jerry's ice cream called 'Imagine Whirled Peace' so if anyone's tried it, I'd like to hear your opinion. And I can never find John's song called 'My Mummy's Dead' if anyone can find it, I'd be extremely glad. Oh, & Ringo played drums on most of Lennon's solo albums. HA SO THERE,JOHNNY!!!!Julia - Richland, Wa
John Lennon is way better then Paul Mccartney.!Rider - Westminster, Md
I love the joke with the pig and the ram, it's so witty!Sibella - Pretoria, --
John admitted the first line "So Sergeant Pepper took you by surprise" was about HIM, and not Paul. Paul was the mastermind behind the "Sgt. Pepper" album and knew it would be a huge success. To John, it was just the Beatles' next album. John always said he was more of a "singles" guy, he rarely listened to anyone's albums straight through.Ken - Louisville, Ky
Ok people. I'm intrigued by how much we all care about these guys and their music. I love each individual member of the band. I'm keen on all of their distinct music, personalities, and styles. I was first familiarized with the Paul and John song feuding through "How Do You Sleep" What made me want to write this passage is regarding a few things. (1) The argument between who plays lead on this song. I think you guys are misunderstanding each other as to what lead guitar is. Yes Lennon plays his distorted Rhythm riffs throughout this song. I guess you could call that lead guitar. But, George Harrison plays the solo. I repeat George Harrison plays the guitar solo for the guitar solo part of the song. And yes, it is certainly is slide style which after reading his autobiography he George talks about how he learned a bit of slide guitar playing, "his own style" through sitar and Indian music. So yes George has the solo and John plays the rest. It is very easy to distinguish the playing if you know anything about or have a feel for how those guys play guitar. I love all of their lead styles including Paul's. I love the song "The End" which showcases all of the three playing together, taking turns, sometimes even intertwining riffs.
I am very interested in knowing more about all the songs back and fourth. "3 Legs" off of Paul's Ram album to me sounds directed to John. This is also Paul possibly mocking John's playing/guitar sound and rhythm. I didn't know about "Too Many People" or "let me roll it" which I am so glad to know. So I originally thought it was Paul starting the feud first with '3 legs" then the reply "how do you sleep", and then the reply "Dear Friend", and the "Steel and Glass". That was always my interpretation. We need to compile all interviews, knowledge, pictures, hearsay, songs, and make a big grand presentation and have Dylan, Donovan, Petty, Ray Davies, Paul, Jeff Lynn, Dhani and Sean review it. Thanks and Peace to all. All of the comments are good. Good to see no arguing. We all need music. All you need is love.
Drew - Grand Rapids, Mi
I love the line "The sound you make is Muzak to my ears" referring to Paul's sappy love songs. I really don't like Paul these days. I think the final straw for me a few years ago when Paul wanted to change the record labels to "McCartney/Lennon" instead of "Lennon/McCartney" because Paul felt he wrote more of the song than John did. Let the guy rest in peace already and get over yourself.Madison - Norway, Me
Awesome song! And this is coming from someone who adores McCartney.Ian - Lethbridge, Canada
John and Paul did write back and forth to each other through song during this period, and I've heard it mentioned many times that Paul's "response" to this song was "Dear Friend" and/or "Let Me Roll It". But I would submit that it is also quite likely that the song "Some People Never Know" (from the Wild Life album, released not long after the Imagine album) has a seeming answer to "How Do You Sleep?" with the lines "Some people can sleep at nightime/Believing that love is a lie/ I'm only a person like you, luv/ And who in the world can be right all the right time/ I know I was wrong, make me right". And despite all that has been made of the Lennon/McCartney feud, I think that lesser known is the friction between John and George. The Let It Be film seems to only show Paul and George at odds with one another, but in reading books that delve deeper like the "Get Back" book that goes from dialogue from the sessions, George was the most opposed to Yoko's presence in the studio (Paul didn't like it, but being the diplomat he tried to put on a good face for John's sake). In the movie we see George snap at Paul for telling him how to play his guitar, and then the next scene George was gone on his brief walkout. But in reality, that took place on a Friday and during that weekend the Beatles had a meeting and George laid out his grievances, and one was John's total detachment, not giving any input and, in fact, questions directed at John were answered by Yoko which, in effect, gave Yoko more say in the band than George. After Yoko spoke up in response (basically making his point), George walked out of the meeting. That Monday John can be heard in dialogue joking about putting an ad out for a new quitarist, or bringing in Eric Clapton to replace George. What is more interesting is George and John's relationship after the Beatles. George appeared on John's records and onstage for the Plastic Ono Supergroup. John never returned the favor - declining Bangla-Desh because George wasn't about to have Yoko yodeling onstage for the event. When John couldn't even be bothered to show up backstage for George's 1974 tour as it rolled through New York, George was miffed. Even Paul showed up (in disguise) at one of George's shows. I don't know how much contact they had the last half of the 70's, but John's comments in his last interview about being hurt by George's basically leaving him out of his autobiography is telling. Anyway, I've rambled enough. Just thought to put a different spin to the whole "which Beatle feuded with which" discussion. :)Dave - Huntington Beach, Ca
Was John singing to Paul or Faul? And who is this momma? John must have thought "Paul" had done something really bad to ask How Do You Sleep at night? I think there could be whole lot more to the real story, just like we never get the whole story behind Lennon's murder.D. Ray - Oklahoma City, Ok
I remember getting the album, going to my bedroom, putting the needle on it and hearing the noice of the orchetra tuning, putting the volume harder and all of a sudden being hit with the first line of this song: SO SGT PEPPER TOOK YOU.... BY SURPRISE!!! Hell, does it ever get any better, nooo,I shouldn't think so. This song has such a suggestive start you should not dismiss it whatsoever. The other thing I red about it was that John & Yoko actually wrote the lyrics more as a joke which I can easely imagine. Anyway, it is pretty lousy as it comes down to the lyrics. Finally on the matter of "The only thing you done was yesterday, & you proberbly pinched that b*tch anyway" not all has yet been said...Paul, if you read this,the song you pinched it from starts with a "B" (& ya know it, & so did John...
'LOVE YOU PAUL!!! jan.vanmarcke@hotmail.com
Yann - Ghent, Belgium
Is everybody forgetting that one of the main reasons Mister Lennon is still heard so much is because of his honesty and anger? Happy songs or bitter ones, we must accept it. Personally I love the song AND Paul McCartneyGreg - Alsip, Il
There was a comment made a while back about the "how do you sleep" video off the imagine film. It was regarding george harrison looking sad or even disapointed while he was playing lead on the song. I think this whole feud was really a "John lennon/Paul mccartney" thing, and each of them tried pulling the other 2 beatles on their sides just for reassurance. On Let it be it was obvious George wasn't getting along with paul, but he would never have took it to this level if it wasnt for john. Its just disapointing everyone got dragged into a childish thing.Jeremy - Michigan, Mi
Has a very similiar style to another solo John Lennon track "Steel And Glass", which has the same riff for the chorus but has a more reggae feel to it (played on brass instruments). It also contains a very similiar string part.Matt - Uk, England
It isn't to difficult to imagine John Lennon being bitter or childish and lashing out at Paul. They were quite used to doing that because they were the only ones they had available for so many years. After breaking up, they couldn't have a row face to face so they did it on records in songs. It is to bad that once it is out there it is too late to take it back. I believe John was truely sorry about ever recording it. In a way it's kind of a prelude to the modern day rap fueds that go on. It is a reminder to be carefull what you say because John could have easily been killed sooner and I would hate to think of this song as being the last think he ever said to Paul.Michael - Carbondale, Il
Actually, John remark that this was really about himself, something it seems he said in 1975, makes a lot of sense. I mean, he wrote it about Paul, but he later felt that subcontiously, it was about himself. It was John who was insecure, aand fearing that he wouldn't write anything good after The Beatles. He felt that maybe he "jumped" when his mamma (Yoko)told his anything.He was afraid that he might be more image than talent...
Anyway, he evidently regretted having written this song.
Cristina - Santiago, Chile
k so originally John wrote the song about Paul, later on after reflecting on it, he realized he was really talking about himself. i saw an interview from 1975 where he says that he and Paul are friends now and it really doesn't matter what anybody else says or thinks. good point there.Jenn - London, Canada
Lennon was just being Lennon. You can't really believe that they did not have a plan! The stir of a feud would have bolstered record sales for all,and did. Imagine.........
-JOHN, Bellingham, Wa.
John - Seattle, Wa
Oh, and who really cares how the beatles broke up? It's good that they broke up when they did. Look at all of the bands that are still together like The Who and The Rolling Stones. Are they making any good Albums? No, they aren't.George - Poopville, Ia
Umm, I don't know if anyone has already posted this, But John Lennon actually states that a lot of this song is more about him in a 1975 interview.George - Poopville, Ia
Of course john was always going to seem like he was the angry one---thats what he did --that was his part and why they worked so well..Paul was the sweet one and john gave it the edge.

So don't go thinking john was just some dispencable angry young man...
Paul has not to this day matched ( and why would he want to ) johns edge or vehement perspective.

allen klien bought jimmy millers royalties off of him whilst he was in need of heroin money in New York..true fkg fact!

for $30,000.ooUS dollars. Early eighties. what a nice guy!

wake up in rehab with your lifes work and future earnings

stolen. i think any judge would rule against klein because miller

was not able to act on his own behalf while additcted to heroin.

Heroin is a bad thing... it makes people constipated and then headachy and miserable.
China - Miami, Fl
to bad someone didn't shoot allen klein..

any votes on this--maybe the cia could do it ...

Just kidding...sort f...
China - Miami, Fl
please.
i know we don't want the song to be about paul, but the first line is "those freaks was right when they said you were dead". and we all know about the 'paul is dead' theory.
there's no way it could be about anything but paul.
Sarah - Pittsburgh, Pa
I like the childish nastiness this song slings. "Imagine" and "Give Peace a Chance" seem preachy (to me,that is). An attack (or counterattack) song is almost refreshing. Not his best work, but amusing.
"Those freaks were right when they said you were dead"- ouch! That John!
Jennifer - Los Angeles, Ca
Why do people think Yoko broke up the Beatles? They were all ready having bad times, with Bryan being dead and all, mbut the only thing that made it worse was that John wanted her their all the time. I know she gets a bad rap from many Beatles fans, but don't blame her for everything! I'm sure having her there only exasserbated things, but surely it didn't cause the breakup.Stefanie - Rock Hill, Sc
Just to correct Songfacts; George Harrisson did not play lead guitar on this, John did. George played slide guitar. (directly from the Imagine Cd booklet)John - Woburn, Ma
Okay so here's what I think. This may not be your opinion but it is mine. Let's deal with it friends have fights but John was a little too...harsh...and he practically did a profile of all the bad things Paul did, I consider this extreme hipocrisy and I only wish that John had been more mature mentally, however some things Paul did WERE downright wrong - so were some things John did. Yes it WAS a cruel attack John later distanced himself from. Again there's the thing about liking Johns music but not himself as a person, I just did not like the way he acted, etc. So anyways this is my opinion. And I don't agree that Yoko Ono broke up the Beatles because time passes. That time was especially a horrible time but it was unfair everyone was ganging up on Paul, if only they knew John would be shot...Imagine they would have kept the Beatles, and it's so sad how, yes, the peace loving guy would practically break up the Beatles then be shot...there's peace for you eh...now I'm getting off the subject, but this whole fight I find silly. I do think drugs made this whole matter worse, if only some people would think. Paul is my favourite Beatle...and please don't say I'm siding with him or anything but he was more mature than John in this thing. I feel sorry for poor Ringo, he never wanted to fight and I cannot imagine him in any expression which he is not smiling...and yes good old Ringo. Maybe he was just letting the steam out...maybe, but he could also have done that by divorcing Ono, and if he wrote that song...hey no need to get it recorded and all. I bet if John was still living and he wrote a song full of dirt they would record it. So this matter in my opinion was SILLY and IMMATURE.
Matthew from NY I cannot express how much I agree with you...these people just had huge prides and I can relate there cannot be two control freaks in a group it will fall apart sooner or later especially when the two disagree. Roddy from Southampton, I sometimes wonder how Paul could have done this!
Well that's basically it. I will come back if I ever have anything to add. Goodbye now y'all.
Kate Yoon - Hamilton, Canada
Go, Ste from Ireland, this is cruel enough and Ringo (my favourite Beatle) took some out. Go, Ringo! Oh ya, Gavin! How come George gets a credit for slide guitar on this album? He did a lot on Imagine. I kindof agree Paul from Chile. John said that to protect himself from the embaressment of having to admit how much he hated Paul for fear of having Paul do something. I don't know what he would do. The song is really obvious, the fact that they hated each other is really obvious. What's to hide? And how does Yoko sleep? She broke up the Beatles. Allen Klien sucks, but at least he replaced other people who were ripping the Beatles off, and at least go them better business deals. But he was still a b%st$rd. Wonder why that is, Chad from Florida (not a rhetorical question). What song is hey, Catherine from England. lol. i know. John was pretty immature to Paul. Paul wrote a lot more then Yesterday, as you said. Prynce, Paul doesn't deserve this much bad treatment. Josh from NY is right. I'm suprised too, geoff. Morteb, John died in 1980, Imagine came out in 1971. The Beatles break-up was still fresh, and they still had disputes. In 1980, they had settled their disputes [apparently not Paul & Yoko, who are still arguing to this day, but Yoko is not a Beatle (technicly) and therefore, does not count.) Plus, musicians lie to the press about their work all the time. Gary, I don't really like John as a person because he was so mean. I do like him as a singer. Yoko is quite the female dog, and I dislike her music too (Although John would hate me). Yasmin, Paul wanted the break-up too, but John and George wanted it very badly so Paul just gave up. Rey Quicilio (cool name), you are completely right. I like George more then Paul because George never got much respect. I agree with Lilliana, but Ringo was not neccisarily part of the song, except for wanting to change those parts. Frank from SC has it right, too. He knows what he's typing about. Lol Carissa, you r right too! Christian, Paul was very important to the band! He still wrote songs and played music! I consider that a official band member. Here's a little story: when the were having problems and Paul refused to talk to John and George, they sent
Ringo to his house to talk to him. Paul screamed at Ringo when he came in, and then threw him out! Jeez, guess John's not the only one with a mean streak! Anyway, back to comments. Alan from Boston, I guess John had a reason for being mean, although it was his Father who made him choose between living with him and his mother, and his mother running away when he reluctantly chose his father. His father left shorty after that, and didn't come back until the Beatles were famous. John was still unnecessarily mean, and Paul was still unneccessarily bossy, but I guess they both had their reasons. Tom from Laurel MD, how was Live and Let Die a shot at John. After I finish typing here I will go to that songfact. Kevin Murphy from Ridgewood NJ, that was great! I can't wait for people to start disecting that *well, John could see the soul of his future killer in his subconsious, and it came out in his lyrics!*. I can't believe you figured that out! Good job! Alejandro and Steve (with the cold hard truth) are right. Wow, I wrote and learned, a lot here. Thanks, people.
Johnny - Los Angeles, Ca
Brian Epstein never "led" the Beatles. He convinced them to wear suits and helped get them the recording contract. Other than that, he just took care of the business details. John Lennon led the Beatles until Paul proved John's equal. At that point they jointly lead the group. Paul was diplomatic enough to let John continue with the leader title, if you will. After John got so strung out on drugs that he couldn't lead the group any longer, Paul took the reins. John had difficulty accepting this. At some point, John felt like he could no longer keep up with Paul's prodigious pace of new compositions. Rather than accept an inferior role in the group, he chose to end the group. You could conceivably continue the Beatles without Ringo or George, but not without John or Paul. The Beatles all knew if John quit, that was the end of the group. It's not Paul's fault, unless you fault him for writing too many great songs the last year or two of the group. If it weren't for Paul driving the group, Abbey Road would probably never have been created. Think what a loss that would have been. I think had John lived, he and Paul would have reunited in some capacity after John got his life back in order (which he had by 1980). When Double Fantasy came out, John was optimistic again, his creativity was rejuvinated. He enjoyed music again...Steve - Fenton, Mo
Paul's song "Let Me Roll It" was also a response to "How Do You Sleep?". It has the same type of lead guitar, but a better melody. What could be a better response than that? It takes the highground, too. I'd say it's good natured, but needles John about introducing Paul to ways of "pleasing himself".Steve - Fenton, Mo
I like this song. But I prefer to ignore the lyrics. It is ridiculous to say that paul only wrote yesterday. He have easily 50 better songs than yesterday...

Paul is one of the best composers of all time. As well as john of course.
Alejandro - Mexico D.f., Mexico
Its like a divorce and everyone has a little guilt. Lennon and McCartney were a great songwriting team who co-existed happily until they had a falling out for a mirade of reasons. In time I believe had Lennon not been murdered they would have re-united. If Cream can re-unite anyone can, right Jack right Ginger!!Alan - Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada
Just an interesting little observation which by all means, I don't actually believe, but rather just noticed: A lot of the 'insults' Lennon sings to McCartney can also (in an entirely different context, of course) be consistent with that of Mark David Chapman. "So Sgt. Pepper took you by surprise", Chapman was staring at the picture of Lennon on the Pepper cover when he realized he wanted to kill him (ABC.com interview excerpts). "You live with straights who tell you you was king", Since childhood, Chapman suffered the grandios delusion that there were 'little people' living in the walls of his room who 'looked up to him' (interview excerpts). "The one mistake you made was in your head", self-explanatory. "Jump when your mama tell you anything", part of what drove Chapman mad was his mother's abnormal obsession with him; she'd push him to achieve the unachievable, or in her case, what she never accomplished for herself.

Let me emphasize again, I DO NOT believe this to be the true meaning of the song AT ALL. It's just an interesting coincidence and should be taken light-heartedly. For those of you who dissect the s--t out of Lennon/Beatle lyrics, this should be amusing, examining the fictitious possibility that Lennon had a subconscious premonitiion when writing this song....spooky, but no at all true! By no means does MDC deserve any refrerences in any songs. So please, do not label me as some Beatle heretic who puts false meanings into songs.
Kevin Murphy - Ridgewood, Nj
It is interesting to see how the jabs went back and forth between John and Paul, with John's "how Do You Sleep?" to Paul's "Live And Let Die".Tom - Laurel, Md
George was also angry with Paul. it can be seen in the film Let It Be that Paul was always giving instructions to George on how to do stuff. In the film Imagine, George was shown doing slide guitar on this song.Patrickman - Makati City, Other
george liked paul?!? are you kidding?Joe - Los Angeles, Ca
I've just finished reading "Many Years From Now," a book about the Beatles, especially Paul McCartney, by Barry Miles. It's an excellent book, and he goes to a lot of effort not only to verify facts but to try to cover the different statements regarding various controversies about the Beatles. I recommend it to anyone wanting a good understanding of "How Do You Sleep?" and the Beatles' breakup. The comments I'll make are largely based on that book, but on other ones as well.

John was frequently quite cruel to other people. But the people who understood him well knew a lot of extenuating factors, particularly that he had been essentially abandoned by his mother, who forced him to choose between her and his father, and then did not allow him to live with her. She then died when John was a teenager, just when he felt he was getting to know her better. John's uncle, the substitute father figure in his childhood, also died when he was young. It's easy to see why he turned into such an "angry young man". Add to that the fact that for years he was addicted to heroin (which makes people paranoid).

Paul admitted that, in retrospect, there were times when he had been bossy. But he felt that at many points he had taken a lead (musically and otherwise) because no one else was doing it.

As for bringing that suit, it was meant to get control of the Beatles' money away from Allan Klein, whom the other three initially sided with -- though later, they sued him, too. Paul knew that the suit would make him unpopular, but he did it anyway... and all the Beatles ended up better off.

Paul didn't think he'd announced the breakup of the Beatles any more than John had done previously (and it was really John who wanted most badly to be out of the group), but for various reasons, Paul's interview was seized as evidence that the Beatles were over, whereas John's hadn't been.

Indeed, as people point out above, Yoko and Allan Klein were involved in the writing of some of the crueler lines, and Ringo had a hand in blocking them.

Sorry to go on at such length, but I think it's pretty important to base comments on a good source, and Miles' book seems to be pretty thorough and even-handed.
Alan - Boston, Ma
George liked Paul so why would he play guitar on a song putting him down?Nathan - Defiance, Oh
I love this song, it proves John was human. Ok, so the man had a mean streak, but Paul deserved it, I mean he sued the other beatles to breakup the band. Also paul really wasn't that important to the band at the time, paul was writting lesser songs than john and george and also ringo was the only one to still like him.Christian - Richmond, Wi
I don't consider this as one of the best John Lennon made, but I can understand the feelings he had against MacCartney; after all Mac wanted to take all the decisions after Brian Epstein's dead. I always had the impression John Lennon
liked to provocate and sometimes said silly things, but now I think he was very sensible what
explains the lyrics of this song; dear, dear John.
Teresa - Mechelen, Belgium
Check out Paul's song "Dear Friend" on Wing's "Wildlife." It's a response to John's "How Do You Sleep?" and Paul seems to take the higher ground.Edward - Los Angeles, Ca
I agree it is very immature. Sure it was a way to get anger out but like this? Peace loving John eh? I applaud Ringo for protesting against some offensive remarks! Of course Paul also did some mean things but John takes the cake. Also to Gary from uk, United States (?) who cares if you dislike yoko? It doesn't mean you dislike John. And if John truly hated everyone who disliked yoko, then he sure died with a heart overflowing with hate.Carissa - La Mirada, Ca
Paul wrote the song, "Teddy Boy" about John. A teddy boy was England's version of a rebellious tough guy or what we used to call juvenile delinquents here in the USA. However, the first line goes, "This is the story of a boy named Ted; if his mother said, 'Ted, be good', he would!" This was a mockery of tough guy John and his 'mother', Yoko. John and Paul bickered back and forth via their music in the early 70s, but Paul was more subtle, whereas John got downright vicious.Frank - Westminster, Sc
this is such a bitter attack and typical john to speak his mind...it's so childish though, so i don't really admire this song. the ringo, george, and john were mad at paul for taking over and suing them but they didn't see then that paul was actually helping them. by officially breaking up, they would all get their rightful amount of money rather than it being shared by the four of them for anything they did. poor paul had to deal with the hardest thing, going against your friends to solve a problem. now, that must have been hell for him.Liliana - Huntley, Il
George Harrison to me, was also bitter to Paul, because all through his beatle career it seem to him, Paul was at his neck and bosses him around. Notice their (George and Paul) disagreement on the 'Let It Be' session. Hence, George participation in the 'How Do You Sleep' song was a Principal by Direct Participation. reyqtorontoRey Quilacio - Toronto, Canada
John's original line was "The only thing you did was Yesterday/And you probably pinched that bitch anyway" In British slang "pinch" means "stole". John was hinting that Paul plagerized the words and/or music. Allen Klein, John's manager at the time, demanded John re-write that line, fearing a defamation lawsuit by Paul.Ken - Louisville, Ky
I understand john's anger,but paul was angry too.Paul has written songs like DEAR FRIEND or HERE TODAY for john.I'm sad that a friendship like their ended that way.now I admire much more ringo for his protests about HOW DO YOU SLEEP lyrics.I think he was the only one who didn't want the brake up.Yasmin - Milan, Japan
anyone who slags of yoko cannot like john lennon and he would hate you.Gary - Uk, United States
John Lennon later said in an interview that this song was about him self and not Paul...Well if he says it it must be true,hehe, cause he wrote the song.Believe what you want, they were friends before John died anyway!Morteb - Stavanger, Norway
The line "Jump when your mama tell you anything" is a reference to Linda McCartney, not Paul's actual mother. I love this song, but was always surprised that Lennon would actually record it, and even more surprised that George would play on it.

In the "Imagine" movie, right at the end, John says "How do you sleep, you (expletive deleted)" He was obviously extremely angry and bitter with Paul.
Geoff - Greeley, Co
I think the "Jump when your mama.." line was a little below the belt if you will. I mean Paul's mother died when he was 14 so it seems a little cruel that he brings his mother into it. A little hypocritical as well. After all John's mother died when he was 17 and he wrote songs about her such as "Julia" and "Mother". Other than that the song isn't that bad he was just letting off some steam.Josh - Plainview, Ny
i thought this song was actually good to .. let his anger out.. haha, cuz they were going through a rough patch and needed their space. I actually liked some of the lines used like "Jump when your momma tell you anything" which is about Let It Be, and "The only thing you done was yesterday And since you?re gone you?re just another day".. just great lines! oh well if it's mean, john's a beautiful man!Erin Lennon - Toronto, Canada
Why do people down on this song so much? John was rightfully bitter. Show me a writer who writes only happy and positive songs and I'll show you a writer who doesn't write from the heart.

I think it's a good song. I've heard that it was actually just John getting rid of the 'silly' notions in his head instead of being an attack but either way, it's a great song.

-=The Prynce
The Prynce - Dillon / Hamer, Sc
I didn't know this tune existed till i found it on here. I read the lyrics and they're horrible. I love the Beatles and i'm suprised that John Lennon would be so immature. Anyway, Paul did one hell of a lot more than yesterday. He wrote heyCatherine - Glasgow, England
Yeah, George Harrison definitely did play lead. You can see for yourself in the Imagine movie. George really looks unhappy while recordingChad - Orlando, Fl
This is a tune I really dislike. Lennon had to apoligize later by saying 'I was talking about me' (What did he mean?), Yoko, as we Know now by Lennon's Anthology had a ton to do with this particular song. Lennon, as it is known, wrote this awfully childish lyrics as the result of his anger against Paul because of the Beatles' battle for the control of their business, Macca wanted Eastman and John and the rest wanted Klein to take control. In the end what happened?, they all did sue Klein...How do you sleep Yoko?.
Paul Jego, ConcepciÃ?n, Chile
Paul - ConcepciÃ?n, Chile
I read somewhere that Allen Klein suggested the line "And since you've gone you're just Another Day".Martin - London, England
Dear Gavin, Hampden - I hate to disagree with you on every point but:

1. George Harrison is credited on the album as having played slide guitar on this track (although he played it while he was still alive rather than "late").


2. The Beatles 'broke up' in 1969 and McCartney announced it in 1970, not 1971. [Effectively, McCartney was the last one to 'leave the group' just before he released his first solo album.]

3. "Give Peace A Chance" was not "obviously" after this song. "GPAC" was released by The Plastic Ono band in 1969. "HDYS" was released on the "Imagine " album in 1971.

4. Paul McCartney has a songwriting credit on "GPAC" but does not feature on it. McCartney later performed the song live as a tribute to John.

5. George and Ringo played on several Lennon tracks after the break up of The Beatles. Ringo most notably on "The Plastic Ono Band" album and George on the "Imagine" album.
Martin - London, England
in dissagreement to the above statement, "The late George Harrison played lead guitar on this". This is completly false. The other beatles would have nothing to do with this song. Anyways, the only Lennon song that any beatle ever played in after their 1971 break up was Payl McCartney on "Give Peace a Chance" and that(obviously) was after this song.Gavin - Hampden, Ma
this is my least favorite lennon song. I absolutly hate to see anyone be so mean to Paul, especially the idol that so many people loved who, at one time, was closer than a brother to paul. This is a horrible song, byt the tune isn't bad, i just can't stand to read the lyricsGavin - Hampden, Ma
During the recording of this song, Ringo and Allen Klein were present and everyone had a hand in writing some cruel remarks for the lyrics, however some very offensive remarks were removed following Ringos protests. Good ol Ringo!Ste - Dublin, Ireland
a cruel attack that John laetr distanced himself from.Danny - Grass Valley, Ca
The Line "Those freaks was right when they said you was dead" refers to a rumour that circulated which said that Paul McCartney had died.David - Toronto, Canada
Lennon was more pissed that Paul got to announce the break up of the band. He wanted to. Lennon felt he ended the band when he screamed "I want a divorce" and left the Abbey Road recording sessions. Therefore, he wanted to be the one to announce the break up.Matthew - New York, Ny
John was actually angry at Paul because Paul had announced the break up of the beatles at a press conference without having consulted the other 3. The fact that said press conference was also announcing Paul's solo album didn't help matters either - some felt Paul was cashing in on the Beatles' demise to sell his album.Roddy - Southampton, England