Song facts: Nowhere Man

The Beatles recorded Nowhere Man on October 21st, 1965 at Abbey Road. The song was written by John Lennon, credited to Lennon/McCartney.

"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." - Paul McCartney

According to Lennon he wrote the song about himself after five hours of writer's block, trying to come up with something meaningful for the band's forthcoming Rubber Soul album. As dawn approached he finally happened upon Nowhere Man from deep within himself.

"I was just sitting, trying to think of a song, and I thought of myself sitting there, doing nothing and going nowhere. Once I'd thought of that, it was easy. It all came out. No, I remember now, I'd actually stopped trying to think of something. Nothing would come. I was cheesed off and went for a lie down, having given up. Then I thought of myself as Nowhere Man - sitting in his nowhere land." - John Lennon

John, Paul and George sang three part harmony, while George and John played identical Fendor Stratocasters; John on the verses and George on the solo.

Release

Nowhere Man was released on The Beatles' Rubber Soul album on December 3rd, 1965.

Although it was never released as a single in the UK; on February 21st 1966 a single was issued in the US, Canada and Australia with What Goes On as the B-side. It peaked at number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 but reached number one in Canada and Australia.

Nowhere Man was performed live by The Beatles during their final year of touring in 1966. 

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John Lennon, 1966. 

John Lennon, 1966. 

"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" - John Lennon
"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." - Paul McCartney  

Personnel

  • John Lennon – double-tracked vocal, acoustic rhythm guitar, lead guitar (in the verses)
  • Paul McCartney – bass guitar, harmony vocal
  • George Harrison – lead guitar (in the solo), harmony vocal
  • Ringo Starr – drums
"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
Nowhere Man single sleeves, 1965. 

Nowhere Man single sleeves, 1965. 

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