This is one of those Beatles songs that I’ve grown to appreciate more with age. Originally I thought it was a George Harrison song—probably because of the psychedelic “backwards guitar” stuff and because it reminds me of “Tomorrow Never Knows“, which I long thought was also a Harrison song containing weird backwards music.(Both songs have an Eastern flavor.) It turns out that both songs were written largely by John Lennon. I should have known that because Lennon sings lead on both, and in the Beatles the lead singer was usually the lead writer.
Anyway, here’s a new music video made for “I’m only sleeping.” This isn’t a video in the sense that it shows real people, but an artistic rendition of a Lennon-McCartney song that appeared on two different albums at two different times. As Wikipedia notes:
“I’m Only Sleeping” is a song by the English rock band the Beatles from their 1966 studio album Revolver. In the United States and Canada, it was one of the three tracks that Capitol Records cut from the album and instead included on Yesterday and Today, released two months before Revolver. Credited as a Lennon–McCartney song, it was written primarily by John Lennon. The track includes a backwards (or backmasked) lead guitar part, played by George Harrison, the first time such a technique was used on a pop recording.
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 “interminable”. “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, the sound of a yawn can be heard, preceded by Lennon saying to McCartney, “Yawn, Paul.”
And the genesis of the song:
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, Lennon would usually spend his time sleeping, reading, writing or watching television, often under the influence of drugs, and would have to be woken by McCartney for their songwriting sessions. In a London Evening Standard article published on 4 March 1966, Maureen Cleave, a friend of Lennon, 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.'”
From The Laughing Squid:
An official music video for “I’m Only Sleeping” by The Beatles was released as part of the newly remixed stereo release of their album Revolver. The wonderful oil paint animated video was directed by Emmy-nominated animator Em Cooper, who skillfully combines traditional oil techniques with modern animation tools and used the lyrics to guide her art.
Artist and director Em Cooper explored the space between dreaming and wakefulness, working on an animation rostrum on sheets of celluloid. She painted every frame individually in oil-paint, a labourious process which took many months.
What can I say except that this is a lovely video. Watch it and match the images with the music.
“Running everywhere at such a speed
Till they find, there’s no need (there’s no need)”