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I'm Only Sleeping

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"I'm Only Sleeping"
Song by The Beatles
Album Revolver
Released 5 August 1966
Recorded 27 and 29 April, 5 and 6 May 1966
Abbey Road Studios, London
Genre Psychedelic rock
Length 3:01
Label Parlophone
Writer Lennon/McCartney
Producer George Martin
Revolver track listing
It's got backwards guitars ... that's me dreaming my life away.

—John Lennon, The Playboy Interviews, p.167, 1980

We tried to get the vocals to sound like somebody's asleep, which is very difficult.

—George Harrison, 1966

It was a nice idea — 'There's nothing wrong with it. I'm not being lazy, I'm only sleeping, I'm yawning, I'm meditating, I'm having a lay-in.' The luxury of all that was what it was all about. The song was co-written but from John's original idea. [...] It 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 George Martin, give him his due, being amenable to ideas like that, being quite experimental for who he was, a grown-up, said, 'Yes. Sure, I think we can do that.' 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 McCartney, Many Years From Now by Barry Miles, 1994

The Beatles decided to adorn 'I'm Only Sleeping' with the sound of backwards guitars. There are two ways of recording backwards instruments, one asy, one difficult. The easy way is to play the instrument normally and then turn the tape around. The other involves working out the notation forwards, writing it out backwards, then playing it as the notation says, so that it comes out back to front. This way, although the sound still has the aural attraction of a backwards tape tape, the instrument is actually playing a melodic run of notes. The Beatles, of course, chose the latter alternative, hence this near six-hour session for just the guitar overdub. In fact, they made it doubly difficult by recording two guitar parts — one ordinary, one a fuzz guitar — which were superimposed on top of one another. Geoff Emerick recalls that this was all George Harrison's idea and that he did the playing.

—Mark Lewisohn, The Beatles Recording Sessions, p.78, 1988

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