The Paul McCartney Project

I'm Only Sleeping

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Album This song officially appears on the Yesterday and Today (Mono) Official album.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1966
Sessions This song has been recorded during the following sessions

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Song facts

From Wikipedia:

I’m Only Sleeping” is a song by English rock group the Beatles from their 1966 studio album Revolver. It was released two months earlier on the US-only album Yesterday and Today and was not included on the US version of Revolver. Credited as a Lennon–McCartney song, it was written primarily by John Lennon.

Recording

The recording of the song began in EMI Studios on 27 April 1966 with eleven takes of the rhythm track. Five further takes of the song were recorded but none were used. Take 11 was chosen as the master and two days later Lennon added his lead vocals. On 5 May, George Harrison wrote and recorded the double guitar part. The next day the recording was completed by Lennon, McCartney and Harrison’s backing vocals. The acoustic guitar, played by Lennon, was digitally compressed in the mixing process.

The song features the then-unique sound of a reversed guitar duet played by Harrison in a five-hour late-night recording session with producer George Martin. Harrison perfected the part with the tape running backwards so that, when reversed, it would fit the dreamlike mood. One guitar was recorded with fuzz effects, the other without. Engineer Geoff Emerick described the meticulous process as “an interminable day,” lasting nine hours. “I can still picture George hunched over his guitar for hours on end,” Emerick wrote in 2006, “headphones clamped on, brows furrowed in concentration.

During the break before the second bridge, at about 1:57 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.

Interpretation

The first draft of Lennon’s lyrics for “I’m Only Sleeping“, written on the back of a letter from 1966, suggests that he was writing about the joys of staying in bed rather than any drug euphoria sometimes read into the lyrics. 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.’

Release

The song was first released on 20 June 1966 as track 2 on the US album Yesterday And Today and on 5 August 1966 as track 3 on Revolver, the album for which the song was originally intended. The US version of Revolver did not feature the song as it had already been released: US Beatles releases frequently differed from the British versions.

The mono and stereo versions of “I’m Only Sleeping” differ in the positioning of the backwards guitar:

Since the release of The Beatles’ music on CDs in 1987, the UK stereo version of the album has become the standard version in the US.

Part of an instrumental rehearsal of the song featuring a vibraphone and the first take of the song from 29 April 1966 were 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.

Paul McCartney in "Many Years From Now", by Barry Miles:

[The tape] 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.

From The Usenet Guide to Beatles Recording Variations:

  • [a] mono 12 May 1966.
    US: Capitol T 2553 Yesterday & Today 1966.
  • [a1] mock stereo made from [a] 1966, by Capitol.
    US: Capitol ST 2553 Yesterday & Today 1966 first issue.
  • [b] stereo 20 May 1966.
    UK: Parlophone PCS 7009 Revolver 1966.
    US: Capitol SHAL-12060 Rarities 1980.
    CD: EMI CDP 7 46441 2 Revolver 1987.
  • [c] stereo 20 May 1966.
    US: Capitol ST 2553 Yesterday & Today some later issues, c.1973.
  • [d] mono 6 Jun 1966.
    UK: Parlophone PMC 7009 Revolver 1966.

The backwards guitar effect is heard in different places in the four mixes, and a lead guitar track is mixed differently throughout the solo and at the end. An alleged fifth mix, the “French EP”, is just [d].

  • verse 1:
    no backwards guitar (BG) on any mix
  • verse 2:
    [a] no BG
    [b] BG on “everywhere at such a speed” and “find there’s no need”
    [c] BG on “running everywhere at such a speed” and “till they find there’s no need”
    [d] BG on “where at such a speed” and “there’s no need”
  • verse 3:
    [a] BG on “time” and “ceiling”
    [b][c] no BG
    [d] BG on “staring at the ceiling”
  • solo:
    [a] guitar continues into words “please don’t” at end of solo
    [b][d] guitar ends at end of solo
    [c] guitar fades in 2 bars later, continues into “please”
  • verse 4:
    no BG on any mix
  • end:
    [a] guitar starts 4 beats after the last word “sleeping”
    [b][c][d] guitar starts immediately after last word “sleeping”

The “some later issues” of Yesterday & Today that have the US stereo mix are (1) all tape format copies since 1966 [reel-to-reel YT-2553, eight-track 8X2T-2648 and later 8XT-2553, cassette 4XT-2553, and even the four-track 4CL-2553!], (2) Capitol record club LP copies beginning in 1968, (3) many general release LPs pressed at the Winchester plant [indicated by -<| the sideways wine glass] since 1973, the date I use for the LP reissue. The use of old LP stampers with fake stereo, however, continued as late as 1988, the end of LPs.

Last updated on March 29, 2016

Lyrics

When I wake up early in the morning
Lift my head, I'm still yawning
When I'm in the middle of a dream
Stay in bed, float upstream

Please don't wake me
No don't shake me
Leave me where I am
I'm only sleeping

Everybody seems to think I'm lazy
I don't mind, I think they're crazy
Running everywhere at such a speed
Till they find, there's no need

Please don't spoil my day
I'm miles away
And after all
I'm only sleeping

Keeping an eye on the world going by my window
Taking my time

Lying there and staring at the ceiling
Waiting for a sleepy feeling

Please don't spoil my day
I'm miles away
And after all
I'm only sleeping

Keeping an eye on the world going by my window
Taking my time

When I wake up early in the morning
Lift my head, I'm still yawning
When I'm in the middle of a dream
Stay in bed, float upstream

Please don't wake me
No don't shake me
Leave me where I am
I'm only sleeping

Officially appears on


Revolver (UK Mono)

Official album • Released in 1966

3:00 • Studio versionD • Mono

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass
Ringo Starr:
Drums
John Lennon:
Acoustic rhythm guitar, Vocals
George Harrison:
Backing vocals, Lead guitar
George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Apr 27, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Apr 29, May 5, May 6, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Jun 06, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road


Yesterday and Today (Mono)

Official album • Released in 1966

3:03 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass
Ringo Starr:
Drums
John Lennon:
Acoustic rhythm guitar, Vocals
George Harrison:
Backing vocals, Lead guitar
George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Apr 27, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Apr 29, May 5, May 6, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
May 12, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road


Yesterday and Today (Stereo)

Official album • Released in 1966

3:02 • Studio versionA1 • Mock stereo made from [A]

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass
Ringo Starr:
Drums
John Lennon:
Acoustic rhythm guitar, Vocals
George Harrison:
Backing vocals, Lead guitar
George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Apr 27, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Apr 29, May 5, May 6, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Recording:
May 12, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road


Revolver (UK Stereo)

Official album • Released in 1966

3:00 • Studio versionB • Stereo

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass
Ringo Starr:
Drums
John Lennon:
Acoustic rhythm guitar, Vocals
George Harrison:
Backing vocals, Lead guitar
George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Apr 27, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Apr 29, May 5, May 6, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
May 20, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio One, Abbey Road


Anthology 2

Official album • Released in 1996

0:41 • RehearsalE • A brief instrumental rehearsal - distinguished, unusually, by a vibraphone part being played along with the acoustic guitar and drums. This recording nearly didn't survive: the session tape was spooled back after the Beatles had finished rehearsing and five proper, numbered takes were recorded anew form the top, wiping over the earlier sounds. The last of these stopped just short of where the rehearsals had concluded, leaving the final minute intact.

George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Apr 29, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road


Anthology 2

Official album • Released in 1996

2:59 • OuttakeF • Take 1. The other version presented here (in mono, because it was taped that way) is the first of these proper, numbered takes - recorded, curiously, two days after the Beatles had already cut takes 1 to 11, the last of which led to the Revolver master. None of these five further takes (acoustic guitar, simple percussion and joint John and Paul vocals) was used.

George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Apr 29, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Bootlegs


Revolver Sessions

Unofficial album

0:41 • Alternate take • Rehearsal Take Partial mono


Revolver Sessions

Unofficial album

3:00 • Alternate take • Remake Take 1 mono


Revolver Sessions

Unofficial album

3:03 • Alternate take • RM5 From Take 13 mono


Revolver Sessions

Unofficial album

3:07 • Alternate take • RS From Take 13 V1 fake stereo


Revolver Sessions

Unofficial album

2:59 • Alternate take • RS1 From Take 13 stereo


Live performances

Paul McCartney has never played this song in concert.


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