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 a Loser'
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images71/100

71. 'I'm a Loser'

Main Writer: Lennon
Recorded: August 14, 1964
Released: December 15, 1964
Not released as a single

Looking back on "I'm a Loser" in a 1980 interview, Lennon said, "Part of me suspects I'm a loser, and the other part of me thinks I'm God Almighty." Country music and Bob Dylan were catalysts for the song. The country is in the fingerpicking, guitar twang and downhearted words; in 1964, the Beatles were listening to songs by Buck Owens and George Jones that McCartney said were "all about sadness." The Dylan flavor is in Lennon's lead vocal and in the hooting, rack-mounted harmonica — and Lennon said he'd decided that if Dylan could use "clown," a word Lennon had previously considered "artsy-fartsy," then so could he. But the Beatles' stamp is everywhere: in the exuberant vocal-harmony intro, in a melody that suddenly dives way down, in Harrison's pointed Carl Perkins fills and in Lennon's psychological acuity: "Is it for her or myself that I cry?"

Years later, upon reflection, McCartney heard something else in the song. He suggested that "I'm a Loser" and "Nowhere Man" were "John's cries for help."

Appears On: Beatles for Sale

Photos: The World Remembers John Lennon
Special Tribute: John Lennon's Last Days
John Lennon: The Rolling Stone Interview

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