John Lennon confronts the green-eyed monster in this song, where he sings about the fits of jealousy that controlled him. At the time, he was married to Yoko Ono, who believes the jealousy Lennon describes is not sexual, but more an unfounded feeling of inadequacy. "He was jealous about the fact that I had another language in my head, you know, Japanese, that he can't share with me," she told Uncut in 1998. "It was almost on a very conceptual, spiritual level. It wasn't on a level of physical or anything 'cause I just would never give him a reason for that."
Lennon wrote this when he was in The Beatles. They recorded it as a demo called "Child of Nature," which he'd written about their trip to India to study with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It didn't make it onto any Beatles albums, so Lennon used it on his Imagine album with the lyrics changed to reflect on his relationship with Yoko, and how possessive he became of her while The Beatles were breaking up.
Paul McCartney stated in the February 1985 issue of Playgirl
: "He (John) used to say, 'Everyone is on the McCartney bandwagon.' He wrote 'I'm Just a Jealous Guy,' and he said that the song was about me. So I think it was just some kind of jealousy."
Speaking with Rolling Stone months after Lennon's death, she said that he made her write out a list of all the men she slept with before they met. "He wrote a song, 'Jealous Guy,' that should have told people how jealous he was," she said. "After we started living together, it was John who wanted me there all the time. He made me go into the men's room with him. He was scared that if I stayed out in the studio with a lot of other men, I might run off with one of them."
Klaus Voormann played bass on this track. He was an old friend of the Beatles and designed the cover of Revolver
. Other musicians were Jim Keltner on drums, Alan White on vibes and John Barham on harmonium.
In 1981 Roxy Music recorded this as a tribute to Lennon, who was murdered on December 8, 1980. Their version went to #1 in the UK. Many other groups have covered it as well, including The Faces and The Black Crowes.
Joey Molland and Tom Evans of the band Badfinger both played acoustic guitar on this track. Badfinger were signed to the Beatles-run Apple label and George Harrison recommended to Lennon, "if you need some guitar players on Imagine, use the Badfinger guys."
Joey Molland recalled working with Lennon in an interview with Gibson.com, "It was great! He was just a plain-talking, regular guy. No b.s. at all. Now, of course, he was John Lennon, so he had that energy about him; he kind of lit up the room, you know? But he welcomed us, said he was thrilled to have us, and then he said, 'The first song we're going to do is something called 'Jealous Guy.'' It was pretty amazing, sitting there with your headphones on, hearing John Lennon singing this fantastic song. Totally remarkable."