I’m Only Sleeping (Lennon/McCartney)
Written by John during a point in his life where he was admittedly very “physically lazy”. I’m Only Sleeping is notable for featuring a unique dual backward guitar solo.
Different mixes, different backward guitar
The backward guitar sound which comes in and out throughout the song is different on different versions of the song:
- US mono mix: No backwards track during the second verse but a quick fragment is heard on the “time” in “taking my time” and “ceiling” in “lying there and staring at the ceiling”. The track is fully intact during the instrumental break and continues into the words “please don’t” in “please don’t spoil my day”. Near the end of the song the backwards track starts four beats after the last word “sleeping”.
- US rechannelled stereo mix: This version was mixed from the US mono version of the song but has far more reverb.
- US stereo mix: Backwards track on “everywhere at such a speed” and “find there’s no need”. The track stops at the end of the solo and at the end of the song, starts immediately after the word “sleeping”.
- UK mono mix: Backwards track on “…where at such a speed,” “there’s no need” and “staring at the ceiling”. The track stops at the end of the solo and at the end of the song, starts immediately after the word “sleeping”.
- UK stereo mix: Backwards track on “running everywhere at such a speed” and “till they find there’s no need”. The track fades in two bars into the solo but continues into the word “please” in “please don’t spoil my day”. At the end of the song, the track starts immediately after the word “sleeping”.
The French EP version commonly reported to be a different mix available nowhere else is actually the exact same as the UK mono mix, but with sharper guitars due to EQ trimming. Matching the EQ levels of the two sources makes them identical.
“I can still picture George hunched over his guitar for hours on end, headphones clamped on, brows furrowed in concentration.” – Geoff Emerick commenting on the nine-hour session in which George worked on perfecting the guitar part so it sounded right when played backward
“(The tape) played backwards, and, ‘What the hell is going on?’ Those effects! Nobody knew how those sounded then. We said, ‘My God, that is fantastic! Can we do that for real?’… So that was what we did and that was where we discovered backwards guitar. It was a beautiful solo actually. It sounds like something you couldn’t play.” – Paul on the origins of the backward guitar, discovered when John put the tape in backward and played it
- John Lennon – lead and harmony vocals, acoustic guitar
- Paul McCartney – bass, harmony vocals
- George Harrison – acoustic guitar, backwards lead guitars, harmony vocals
- Ringo Starr – drums