I'm Only Sleeping

Album: Revolver (1966)
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  • John Lennon wrote this as a tribute to staying in bed, which he liked to do even when he wasn't sleeping.

    The song is discussed in the DVD Composing the Beatles Songbook where they mention a theory that it's John's attack on "straight society," but conclude that the song IS about sleeping. John loved laying around in bed, sleeping, reading, watching telly or lovemaking. Didn't matter. He loved being in bed.

    Maureen Cleave wrote of John Lennon: "He can sleep almost indefinitely, is probably the laziest person in England." She clarifies that she means physically lazy, not intellectually lazy.
  • The yawning effect is a guitar recorded backward. A few seconds before the yawn comes in, you can hear John Lennon say, "Yawn Paul."
  • Perhaps the greatest legacy to this song was the famous "bed-in" protests staged by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. They invented the term as a derivative of "sit-in" protests. Their first was in March of 1969, subsequent to their marriage, in which they invited the press into their motel room while they advocated for world peace. Others soon copied the motif. It does bring to mind the old quote (variously attributed) "All man's miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone." Hey, if you stay in bed, you're not out fighting wars and making the world an uncool place, and if you've got someone with you, you're promoting more love in the world, right?
  • Musically, "I'm Only Sleeping" is known for its backwards guitar. It was conceived by George Harrison in a late-night session, inspired when a studio engineer accidentally flipped a tape and Harrison was amazed at the effect and decided to "do it for real." So he wrote down a solo and then played it twice, once forwards and once backwards, with fuzz effects on one track.
  • This song also marks the embracing of pure psychedelic music by The Beatles, as do the majority of tracks on the Revolver album. The lyric about "keeping an eye on the world going by my window" also gets called back later in Lennon's later solo hit "Watching The Wheels," which is also about passively being entertained by the busy goings-on of the world.
  • American audiences got to hear this first, as it was included on the Yesterday... And Today album in June 1966. When Revolver was issued in August, this song was left off American pressings. This was also the case with "Doctor Robert" and "And Your Bird Can Sing."

Comments: 58

  • Ken from Philadelphia, PaThis was definitely written, in some part, as a message to Paul, who would invariably arrive at John's house for planned writing sessions and, no matter what time he arrived, would find him sleeping. Paul, being the workaholic, could only cool his heels so long before rolling John out of bed. I've never been clear on how much of it was tongue-in-cheek and how much was John seriously telling Paul to back the eff off.
    As an aside, it should surprise no one that Paul felt so much sympathy for Cynthia and Julian after John left that he spent one of his rare days off during the White Albums sessions driving out to visit them (and karma being what it is, was rewarded with "Hey Jude" for his trouble). After all, he'd spent a great deal of time at John's house bonding with Cynthia and playing with Julian while waiting for John to get his butt out of bed.
    And how can we end a discussion of John's sleep habits without reminding everybody that Paul wrote "Here, There and Everywhere" at John's house.... while waiting for John to wake up and start one of their writing sessions.
  • Jennifur Sun from RamonaAlways loved this tune. And every teenager and collage student will say the same thing: "please don't wake me/no don't shake me leave me where I am/ I'm only sleeping.
  • Chris from Connecticut, UsaTo Susan from Toronto - yes! I think of Ben Kweller every time I hear this song! His harmonies on that Family Tree (and many others) seem to have roots here and with the Beach Boys.
  • Ken from League City, TxThis song expresses an idea that can be found in the lyrics of many Beatles songs, the belief that life is about independent thinking, not socialized doing. Songs such as “Inner Light,” “Revolution,” and “Fixing a Hole” also convey this understanding.
  • Carl from Apg, MdI see "I think that Revolver is their best with Sgt. Pepers."; notice that this among the comments for "I'm Only Sleeping", which along with 2 other Lennon songs was NOT on the U.S. "Revolver" but on the earlier "Yesterday & Today". So the U.S. "Revolver" was left with only 2 Lennon songs.
  • Barry from New York, NcAlthough this is another great lyrical classic from John, I have one bone to pick..... The song contains the rhyme of "lazy" and "crazy," which might be pop music's most cliched song rhyme. Literally hundreds of pop songs have "lazy" and "crazy" in its lyrics. Songs by greats from Billy Joel to Eagles. They all can do better than that!!
  • Icy from Narnia, Mi"waiting for a sleepy feeling" is actually a lsd reference.
  • Mrcleaveland from Cleveland,I've always liked to think of this song as a companion/opposite piece of another John song, "I'm So Tired." Oddly enough, in the alphabetical listing of all Beatles songs, these two songs are right next to each other.
  • Ted from Phoenix, Az"I'm Only Sleeping," was released in the UK on the Revolver album. However, a pseudostereo version was released in the U.S. on the Beatles Yesterday and Today album. It wasn't until the 1980 Rarities album that a full stereo version (with a slightly different guitar part at the end) was made available to the American public. When the Beatles Revolver album was transferred to CD during the mid-1980s, it was the Brittish version that was released.

    Ultimately, this is one of my favorite Beatles' songs. The 2nd verse, "I think they're crazy. Running everywhere at such a speed Till they find there's no need." quite accurately portrays the U.S. mindset.
  • Nick from Seattle, AlbaniaThis must have been John's anthem during the whole "bed peace" thing with Yoko!
  • Britt from Boston, MaStay in bed, float upstream.

    John's lyrics are brilliant.

    Long live the Beatles.
  • Fred from Sweet Home Chicago,This is my second favorite beatles song behind a day in the life
  • Daniel from New York, NyI think that song is about masturbation and how when your mom knocks on the door you tell her youre sleeping.. the lines "Lift my head, I'm still yawning
    When I'm in the middle of a dream
    Stay in bed, float up stream (float up stream)" talk about how sometimes you start masturbating while youre half asleep..
  • Dane from Vancouver, BcEasily my favorite John Lennon song as a member of The Beatles. Cheers.
  • Modernrocker79 from Kearny, NjThe song guitar solo features a twin backward guitar solo as does the fadeout. Most likely another first for the Beatles.
  • Derek from Salem, OrIsn't interesting that he wrote this midway through the Beatles high point, and the midway through his own high point he wrote "Watching the wheels go round" Very similar themese going on..

    Everybody seems to think I'm lazy I don't mind I think they're crazy

    People say I'm lazy dreaming my life away
    Well they give me all kinds of advise designed to enlighten me

    People think I'm crazy doing what I'm doing
    Well they give me all kinds of warning to save me from ruin..

    Interesting ole John was just a mellow dude it seems.
  • Amr from Ismailia, EgyptI think that Revolver is their best with Sgt. Pepers.
  • Audrey from Laurel, MdCan you really hear john say "Yawn Paul"?
    I've been trying to hear it and I can't!
    Anyway, probably my favorite song on Revolver, along with Good Day Sunshine, Eleanor Rigby, Taxman, and For No One
  • Hannah from Hampshire, England, United KingdomGreat song. I always thought this inspired Oasis's The Importance of being Idle...
  • Susan from Toronto, CanadaA song that was VERY VERY VERY influenced by this song is "Family Tree" by Ben Kweller.
  • Susan from Toronto, CanadaPaul used to drive from London to John's house in Weybridge for song writing sessions, and even if Paul arrived at noon, John would still be in bed. So John wrote this song in particular about his still being asleep when Paul would arrive.
  • Max from Vancouver, Canadathis song is my life story
  • Ryan from Penticton, CanadaI was singing this song when we got back from a roadtrip this night, and my dad was waking me up, so I sang the chorus. HE laughed, he's a HUGE Beatles fan.
  • Liam from New York, NyThis with a few other songs in Revolver sound like nothing else in rock music at the time.
  • Kyven from Cedar City, UtThis song sounds like one of those sad, newer songs. Anyway, great song!
  • Jesse from Seattle, WaRevolver was probably the best Beatles album and this is surely one of the diamonds in that crown
  • Krista from Elyria, Ohya this song describes me definatly! I have trouble sleeping, so I sleep in a lot. I cant do that once school starts though! >.<
  • Linda from London, AlI love this song! I relate to the whole 'Leave me alone, I'm sleeping!' thing. I'm like John, I like to lay in bed even when I'm not sleeping. Go Beatles, you rock!
  • Ross from Hamilton, ScotlandOasis used this song as the basis for their song 'the importance of being idle'.If you like this song I can recommend that song too.Amazing!
  • Sal from Bardonia , NyEarly pyschedelic song with Indian sounding backward guitars with slowed down vocals and drums and backwards guitars in the fadeout.Also the solo has two different backward guitar solo's
    Sal,Bardonia, NY
  • Ron from Woodbridge, VaThe line 'Keeping an eye on the world going by my window' has wonderful harmony of John by Paul.

    The 'ooooooohs' are by Paul and George. The rest of it is double tracking by John.

    This song is complex, and represents some of the best work of the Beatles. Each of the members of the group contribute their bits to the song without overwhelming it. Essentially, the Beatles were three terrific front men and a drummer who could all back up the others.
  • Vickie from Sydney, AustraliaThis song was written around the time that John seriously started taking drugs, in particular LSD and Cannabis. He was doing a lot of sleeping after his drug "hangovers".
  • Addison from Versailles, KyOne of the best songs ever written hands down.
  • Alisa from Franklin, WiAll the artists on iTunes ruined this song. It's an awesome song from the Beatles and people just have to ruin it. Stereophonics and The Vines were the best to cover this song.
  • Joe from Lethbridge, CanadaDefinitely my favourite Beatles song. I'm not sure why. Maybe because it hasn't been played to death. I don't know. I'll have to give it some more thought. All I know is that the first time I heard this song was when I bought the rarities album, and since then I've had a favourite Beatles song. This is it.
  • Serge from Bayonne, NjIf I may chime in about the backwards guitar part, George Harrison wrote out a guitar solo, then asked George Martin to write it out backwards so he can play it, then when they mixed it he had the solo that was recorded played backwards, because he wanted his solo to have a backwards quality to it.
  • Joe from West Chester, PaTO Dirk, from Nashville: You obviously never played guitar or recorded tracks on a 4-track. That is a complete bs story about learning to play solos to sound backwards. Don't believe everything you hear in bars at 1:30 in the morning.
  • Helen from Oxford, Englandthe vines cover is reeeaally good.
  • Lee from Clearwater, FlThis one makes me soooooooo sleepy. I like it.
  • Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, ScPat: The vocals aren't done by George. They are done by John with some harmony from Paul. At least it sounds like Paul is singing the harmonies.
  • C from Los Angeles, CaThe guitar sounds that we hear ARE BEING PLAYED BACKWARDS, John said it himself in "The Playboy Interviews" in 1980
  • John from Dublin, United StatesI think the version of this on Anthology 2 is a better version than the album version. It conveys the mood better. The album version is a little too forced. John's vocals often sound better on early takes. Still, it's an amazing song...
    "lying there, staring at the ceiling, waiting for that sleepy feeling"
  • Dirk from Nashville, TnThe common belief is that those are "backwards" tapes of guitar solos at the end of the song. In fact, Lennon and Harrison first recorded the guitars together, then played the tapes backwards for the record. But they weren't satisfied with that sound. So they spent about a day actually learning to play their solos to sound like the backwards tapes. (!) In other words, what we hear on the record is Harrison and Lennon actually playing their guitars live to sound like themselves playing backwards... (Thank God somebody was taking notes of these goings-on, otherwise it would be lost to history.)
  • Corey from Newark, Ohin the beatles anthology i read this book is about Johns favorite place his bed
  • Pat from Wollongong - Australia, AustraliaThis is my all time favourite Beatles song - gives me shivers everytime I hear it - Is the vocals done by George??
  • David from Ann Arbor,, MiThis song and Nowhere Man seem similar to me. And they're both great.
  • Nessie from Sapporo, JapanThis song really captures a mood. It was covered quite capably by Stereophonics.
  • Al from On, CanadaThis is one of my all time favorite Beatles (Lennon specifically) songs. The lyrics and (more impressively) the music really convey the feeling of being tired or being half awake. When Harrisons backwards solo comes in it feels like your head's hitting the pillow.

  • Brett from Watertown, Sd"Please don't spoil my day, I'm miles and after all I'm only sleeping" what a great line
  • Ryan from Minneapolis, MnThis song arose from Paul's frustrations at John's always sleeping every time Paul came over EARLY in the morning to work on song writing.
  • Natasha from Chico, CaI agree ellen, awesome line. great song, very calming. Luv It!
  • Ellen from Nashville, Tni love the line "everybody seems to think im lazy. i dont mind, i think they're crazy"
  • Dave from Cardiff, WalesMadness' lead singer Suggs scored his first solo hit in late 1995 with a cover of this song
  • Angelica from La Puente, CaThe theme song for every teenager.
  • Veronica from West Covina, CaThis is my mom's theme song! Actually mine too!
  • Ben Russell from Durham, Ncprobably my favorite song on revolver.
  • Patrick from Durham, NcThe Vines are awesome and I didn't know that. Cool Fact! Anyway. The best song to listen to if you are really tired after work. Trust Me!
  • Carolyn from P'ville, Ca(2001) The Vines sang this song for the I Am Sam soundtrack.
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