The Paul McCartney Project

Nowhere Man

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Album This song officially appears on the Rubber Soul (UK Mono) Official album.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1965
Sessions This song has been recorded during the following sessions

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Song facts

From Wikipedia:

Nowhere Man” is a song by the Beatles, from the British version of their album Rubber Soul. The song was written by John Lennon (credited to Lennon–McCartney).

Recorded on 21 and 22 October 1965, “Nowhere Man” is one of the first Beatles songs to be entirely unrelated to romance or love, and marks a notable instance of Lennon’s philosophically oriented songwriting. It was released as a single (although not in the United Kingdom) on 21 February 1966, and reached number 1 in Australia and Canada and number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. Similar to what happened a year earlier (“Eight Days a Week” and “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party” were on Beatles for Sale but not on Beatles ’65), “Nowhere Man” and “What Goes On” were not on the U.S. version of Rubber Soul (released in December around the same time as the British version), but were back-to-back on a subsequent single and later (in June) on an album (Yesterday and Today).

Lennon, McCartney, and George Harrison sing the song in three-part harmony. The song appears in the film Yellow Submarine, where the Beatles sing it about the character Jeremy Hillary Boob after meeting him in the “nowhere land“.

George and John play identical “sonic blue” Fender Stratocasters—John plays in the verses and George on the solo.

Background

Lennon claimed that he wrote the song about himself. He wrote it after racking his brain in desperation for five hours, trying to come up with another song for Rubber Soul. Lennon told Playboy magazine: “I’d spent five hours that morning trying to write a song that was meaningful and good, and I finally gave up and lay down. Then ‘Nowhere Man’ came, words and music, the whole damn thing as I lay down.

McCartney said of the song: “That was John after a night out, with dawn coming up. I think at that point, he was a bit…wondering where he was going, and to be truthful so was I. I was starting to worry about him.

Musical structure

The song begins with E (I tonic) chord (“He’s a real”) and then involves a 5-4-3-2-1 pitch descent between the B (V dominant) chord (“nowhere man“) and A (IV subdominant) chord (“sitting in“); a twist comes where Am (iv minor) replaces A in the final verse (“nowhere plans“) and the simultaneous G# note melody creates a dissonant Am/major 7. The refrain, which appears three times, seesaws on a G# minor/A major sequence before falling back on an F# minor and leading back to the verse on a B7. […]

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

When I came out to write with him the next day, he was kipping on the couch, very bleary-eyed. It was really an anti-John song. He told me later, he didn’t tell me then, he said he’d written it about himself, feeling like he wasn’t going anywhere. I think it was actually about the state of his marriage. It was in a period where he was a bit dissatisfied with what was going on; however, it led to a very good song. He treated it as a third-person song, but he was clever enough to say, ‘Isn’t he a bit like you and me?’ – ‘Me’ being the final word.

Paul McCartney, in The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, by Mark Lewisohn:

We were always forcing [the Abbey Road staff] into things they didn’t want to do. Nowhere Man was one. I remember we wanted very treble-y guitars, which they are, they’re among the most treble-y guitars I’ve ever heard on record. The engineer said, ‘All right, I’ll put full treble on it,’ and we said, ‘That’s not enough’, and he said, ‘But that’s all I’ve got, I’ve only got one pot and that’s it!’ And we replied, ‘Well, put that through another lot of faders and put full treble up on that. And if that’s not enough we’ll go through another lot of faders’…

Anyway you’d then find, ‘Oh, it worked!’ And they were secretly glad because they had been the engineer who’d put three times the allowed value of treble on a song. I think they were quietly proud of all those things.

From The Usenet Guide to Beatles Recording Variations:

  • [a] mono 25 Oct 1965.
    UK: Parlophone PMC 1267 Rubber Soul 1965.
    US: Capitol 5587 single 1966, Capitol T 2553 Yesterday & Today 1966.
    CD: EP Box set 1991.
  • [b] stereo 26 Oct 1965.
    UK: Parlophone PCS 3075 Rubber Soul 1965, Apple PCSP 717 The Beatles 1962-1966 1973.
    US: Capitol ST 2553 Yesterday & Today 1966, Apple SKBO-3403 The Beatles 1962-1966 1973.
  • [c] stereo 1987.
    CD: EMI CDP 7 46440 2 Rubber Soul 1987, EMI CDP 7 97036 2 The Beatles 1962-1966 1993..

The original stereo mix [b] has all sound either far left or far right. The new CD mix [c] has rhythm (drums, bass, rhythm guitar) at left center and only lead guitar at far left; the lead guitar moves to far right for solo as in [b]. [c] has John’s lead vocal at right center and his second vocal with the others at far right.

Paul refers to the guitars as extremely trebly in the interview in Lewisohn’s Recording Sessions. The only release that seems to show this is the MFSL half-speed master cassette tape.

Last updated on March 27, 2016

Lyrics

He's a real Nowhere Man
Sitting in his Nowhere Land
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody

Doesn't have a point of view
Knows not where he's going to
Isn't he a bit like you and me?

Nowhere Man, please listen
You don't know what you're missing
Nowhere Man, the world is at your command

He's as blind as he can be
Just sees what he wants to see
Nowhere Man, can you see me at all?

Nowhere Man, don't worry
Take your time, don't hurry
Leave it all 'til somebody else lends you a hand

Doesn't have a point of view
Knows not where he's going to
Isn't he a bit like you and me?

Nowhere Man, please listen
You don't know what you're missing
Nowhere Man, the world is at your command

He's a real Nowhere Man
Sitting in his Nowhere Land
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody

Officially appears on


Rubber Soul (UK Mono)

Official album • Released in 1965

2:40 • Studio versionA • Mono

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Harmony vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums
John Lennon:
Acoustic rhythm guitar, Lead guitar, Vocals
George Harrison:
Harmony vocals, Lead guitar
George Martin:
Producer
Norman Smith:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Oct 21, 1965
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Recording:
Oct 22, 1965
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Oct 25, 1965
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Rubber Soul (UK Stereo)

Official album • Released in 1965

2:40 • Studio versionB • Stereo

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Harmony vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums
John Lennon:
Acoustic rhythm guitar, Lead guitar, Vocals
George Harrison:
Harmony vocals, Lead guitar
George Martin:
Producer
Norman Smith:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Oct 21, 1965
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Recording:
Oct 22, 1965
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Oct 26, 1965
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Yesterday and Today (Mono)

Official album • Released in 1966

2:44 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Harmony vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums
John Lennon:
Acoustic rhythm guitar, Lead guitar, Vocals
George Harrison:
Harmony vocals, Lead guitar
George Martin:
Producer
Norman Smith:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Oct 21, 1965
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Recording:
Oct 22, 1965
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Oct 25, 1965
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Yesterday and Today (Stereo)

Official album • Released in 1966

2:45 • Studio versionB

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Harmony vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums
John Lennon:
Acoustic rhythm guitar, Lead guitar, Vocals
George Harrison:
Harmony vocals, Lead guitar
George Martin:
Producer
Norman Smith:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Oct 21, 1965
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Recording:
Oct 22, 1965
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Oct 26, 1965
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Nowhere Man

EP • Released in 1966

2:45 • Studio versionA • Mono

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Harmony vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums
John Lennon:
Acoustic rhythm guitar, Lead guitar, Vocals
George Harrison:
Harmony vocals, Lead guitar
George Martin:
Producer
Norman Smith:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Oct 21, 1965
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Recording:
Oct 22, 1965
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Oct 25, 1965
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Yellow Submarine Songtrack

Official album • Released in 1999

2:44 • Studio version

Bootlegs


Revolver Sessions

Unofficial album

2:44 • Alternate take • RS From Take 3 V2 stereo


Rubber Soul - Studio Sessions - Back To Basics

Unofficial album • Released in 2012

2:44 • Alternate take • (RS from Take 3 V1) Rough Movie Mix (stereo)


Rubber Soul - Studio Sessions - Back To Basics

Unofficial album • Released in 2012

2:45 • Alternate take • (RS from Take 3 V2) YS Soundtrack (stereo)


Rubber Soul - Studio Sessions - Back To Basics

Unofficial album • Released in 2012

0:19 • Alternate take • (RS from Take 3 V3) Anthology DVD (stereo)


Rubber Soul - Studio Sessions - Back To Basics

Unofficial album • Released in 2012

2:50 • Alternate take • (Rockband Mix) (stereo)


Live performances

“Nowhere Man” has been played in 51 concerts.

Latest concerts where “Nowhere Man” has been played








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