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Nowhere Man

The history of this classic Beatles song

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The original US 45 sleeve for

The original US 45 sleeve for "Nowhere Man"

source: rarebeatles.com

Nowhere Man

Written by: John Lennon (100%) (credited as Lennon-McCartney)
Recorded: October 21, 1965; October 22, 1965 (Studio 2, Abbey Road Studios, London, England)
Mixed: October 25, 1965; October 26, 1965
Length: 2:30
Takes: 4
Musicians: John Lennon: lead vocals, lead guitar (1961 Sonic Blue Fender Stratocaster), rhythm guitar (1964 Gibson J160E)
Paul McCartney: harmony vocals, bass guitar (1961 Hofner 500/1)
George Harrison: harmony vocals, lead guitar (1961 Sonic Blue Fender Stratocaster)
Ringo Starr: drums (Ludwig)
First released: February 15, 1966 (US: Capitol 5587)
Available on: (CDs in bold)
  • Yesterday and Today, (US: Capitol (S)T 2553)
  • Nowhere Man (EP), (UK: Parlophone GEP 8952)
  • Rubber Soul, (UK: Parlophone PMC 1267, Parlophone CDP 7 46440 2)
  • The Beatles 1962-1966, (UK: Apple PCSP 717, US: Apple SKBO 3403, Apple CDP 0777 7 97036 2 3)
Highest chart position: 3 (US: March 5, 1966)
History:
  • A gentle folk-rock ballad crafted entirely by John sometime in the fall of 1965 at his home in Kenwood, St. George’s Hill Estate, Weybridge, Surrey. In his recollection, he'd stayed up all night trying desperately to come up with another song for the band's new album. Then, around dawn, after giving up and laying down to sleep, he chanced upon a phrase, "nowhere man," which described how he felt about himself at that moment ("I thought of myself sitting there, doing nothing and getting nowhere"). He immediately came up with the first verse and bridge, which he finished later. Paul's contribution was, by most accounts, negligible.
  • Lennon was never particularly fond of this song, as with all his "works for hire" -- he preferred to wait for inspiration to strike rather than have it occur from a deadline. However, most fans and critics agree it's one of the best songs to emanate from the group's "middle period."
  • "Nowhere Man" was certainly recorded like an afterthought, coming at the end of two sessions for self-penned songs John liked much better: "Norwegian Wood" and "In My Life."
  • The twin chiming guitars on this song are identical "sonic blue" Fender Strats -- one played by John in the verses and one used by George for the solo. These were both sent to the band during the recording of Help! The solo here is considered one of George's best.
  • Although other songs from Rubber Soul dealt with social issues rather than romantic love ("Think For Yourself," "The Word"), this is notable as being the first Beatles single to make such a break from convention.
Live versions: June 24, 1966 (Circus-Krone-Bau, Munich, Germany), June 25, 1966 (Grugahalle, Essen, Germany), June 26, 1966 (Ernst Merck Halle, Hamburg, Germany), June 30 - July 2, 1966 (Budokan Hall, Tokyo, Japan), July 4, 1966 (Rizal Memorial Football Stadium, Manila, Philippines), August 12, 1966 (International Amphitheatre, Chicago, IL), August 13, 1966 (Olympia Stadium, Detroit, MI), August 14, 1966 (Municipal Stadium, Cleveland, OH), August 15, 1966 (Washington Stadium, Washington, DC), August 16, 1966 (Philadelphia Stadium, Philadelphia, PA), August 17, 1966 (Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Canada), August 18, 1966 (Suffolk Downs Racecourse, Boston, MA), August 19, 1966 (Mid-South Coliseum, Memphis, TN), August 21, 1966 (Crosley Field, Cincinnati, OH), August 21, 1966 (Busch Stadium, St. Louis, MO), August 23, 1966 (Shea Stadium, New York, NY), August 25, 1966 (Seattle Coliseum, Seattle, WA), August 28, 1966 (Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, CA), August 30, 1966 (Candlestick Park, San Francisco, CA)
Trivia:
  • Although Paul has suggested in interviews that the guitars for this track were put through more than one set of faders, to give them an ultra-trebly sound, the finished recording shows no evidence it worked. (The Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs release of Rubber Soul 1984, however, does, having been mastered at a slower speed than usual.)
  • The 1968 animated film Yellow Submarine -- a project backed by the Beatles but not featuring them personally -- contains a strange little character named Jeremy Hilary Boob, who leads the four "Beatles" around a place called "Pepperland." In the film, this song is used to define Jeremy as a lonely character.
  • This is rumored to be Bob Dylan's favorite Beatles song.
Covered by: Acker Bilk, The Carpenters, Vikki Carr, Dokken, Ofra Harnoy, The Mamas and the Papas, Natalie Merchant, R. Stevie Moore, Joe Pass, Marky Ramone, Sherbet, Tiny Tim, Randy Travis, Paul Westerberg, Yanni
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