100 Greatest Beatles Songs

From 'Helter Skelter' to 'Sgt. Pepper's,' ranking of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison's output

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'I'm Only Sleeping'
Keystone Features/Getty Images57/100

57. 'I'm Only Sleeping'

Main Writer: Lennon
Recorded: April 27 and 29, May 5 and 6, 1966
Released: June 20, 1966
Not released as a single

Though some hear "I'm Only Sleeping" as another drug ode, Lennon may have simply been expressing irritation at being woken up by McCartney for a songwriting session. Lennon was known to be a sedentary sort. In March 1966, he confessed that "sex is the only physical thing I can be bothered with anymore."

Harrison's eight-measure guitar solo on "I'm Only Sleeping" was inspired by a mistake — after an engineer threaded the multitrack tape incorrectly, the musicians heard that now-familiar blurred, slurping sound. McCartney recalled later that everyone was floored: "'My God, that is fantastic! Can we do that for real?'"

Harrison played a line inspired by Indian music and asked George Martin to transcribe it in reverse. Martin had to conduct Harrison beat by beat, resulting in what engineer Geoff Emerick described as "an interminable day," lasting nine hours. "I can still picture George hunched over his guitar for hours on end," Emerick wrote in 2006, "headphones clamped on, brows furrowed in concentration."

Appears On: Revolver

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