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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'Nowhere Man'
Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images66/100

66. 'Nowhere Man'

Main Writer: Lennon
Recorded: October 21 and 22, 1965
Released: February 21, 1966
9 weeks; No. 3

One of the pivotal songs of Lennon's early Beatle years arrived when he least expected it. "The whole thing came out in one gulp," he told Rolling Stone in 1970. "I remember I was just going through this paranoia trying to write something and nothing would come out, so I just lay down and tried not to write and then this came out." What emerged was an expression of the boredom and frustration Lennon was feeling in his cocoonlike existence as a Beatle. The references to a man who's "making all his nowhere plans for nobody" and "knows not where he's going to" were, Lennon admitted, "probably about myself."

In the studio, the weariness in Lennon's voice and the dirgelike melody didn't deter the band from reaching for new sounds. Lennon, McCartney and Harrison stacked a wall of sumptuous harmonies, and the beautifully spare solo — played in unison by Lennon and Harrison on their Sonic Blue Fender Stratocasters — cut through the ennui like a machete.

"'Nowhere Man' is such a beautiful pop song with a groundbreaking, existential lyric," says Billy Corgan, who covered it with the Smashing Pumpkins. "It lets you see that moment of discovery."

Appears On: Rubber Soul

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