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)”
10 thoughts on “A new Beatles video: “I’m only sleeping””
I LOVE this video, and I have always loved this song. It actually was also one of my daughter’s favorite songs when she was about 4 or 5 years old, which is funny, because she was never a sleepy child, and still isn’t. I always feel like this is almost a bookend with “I’m So Tired,” also by Lennon. That’s what happens when he can’t stay only sleeping.
Here’s a cover I trust will have some modest merit.
Thanks for this! A remarkable achievement.
I never thought to sing this song to my daughters (or now, 2.5 year old granddaughter). My Beatles’ go-tos were “Golden Slumbers” and “Til There Was You.” Oh, and “World Without Love,” written by Lennon/McCartney.
I also always see this song and “I’m So Tired” as bookends, though the latter is acerbic. In “I’m Only Sleeping,” I love the way Lennon transitions from the final “taking my time” into “When … I’m in the middle…” That half skip of a beat is the hook I always wait for…
I have always loved this song. Although, if I’m honest, there are very few Beatles songs I don’t love, or at least like very much. This song works for me since I feel so low so often and only want to withdraw from the world and stay in bed with a book and coffee or perhaps some beer or wine. Depression and social anxiety often strike me and bed is the place where I feel the most safe. It would not surprise me one bit of John did so for similar reasons. He certainly had his mental gremlins, and overwhelming fame probably didn’t help them much.
I can definitely empathize with your feelings. Often I wish I could laze away the day in bed, sleeping or reading or whatever, but I’ve got work and other responsibilities, including feeding my feline companions, one of whom gets in my face if I don’t get up out of bed at my usual time to provide him some canned food.
Revolver is a fantastic album and I’d rate it as my favorite by the Beatles, but I love all their lps.
Always loved this song. Finally learned to play it on guitar. Arcana: chords are the same as those in Radiohead’s song “Lucky” from OK Computer – also great. Yet the songs are completely different.
For anyone curious, here’s the Radiohead video … apparently done in support of “The Help Album,” a charity album by War Child for kids affected by Bosnian War. (Paul McCartney appears in it briefly.)
John was lazy and Paul was a workaholic.
Here’s a street performer in Dublin with a nice take on what may be John’s best song – “Strawberry Fields Forever”.
There’s a new remix of Revolver available, and I’ve added it to my ‘Christmas List’. I ‘lived through’ the Beatles and developed a liking for the later albums but I and coming around to the realisation that the earlier albums are, at least, equally worthy.
Ironically, I missed the Artemis launch because I was only sleeping
The animation style really does have a dreaming quality about it, nice.
I love this whimsical song.