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“I’m Only Sleeping”

Listen to “I’m Only Sleeping”
  • Published on 1966
  • Author: Lennon/McCartney
  • Track 3 on “Revolver

JOHN 1980: “It’s got backwards guitars… that’s me dreaming my life away.”

PAUL circa-1994: “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.”

About “I’m Only Sleeping”

Credited as a Lennon–McCartney song, “I’m Only Sleeping” was written primarily by John Lennon. This track features the first backwards lead guitar part ever recorded on a pop album, played by George Harrison.

The song has appeared on Revolver in North America since the Beatles’ catalog was standardized for international CD releases in 1987. Outtakes from the Revolver sessions are included on the 1996 Anthology 2 compilation, including a vibraphone instrumental version. Time Out London ranked “I’m Only Sleeping” number 12 on their list of the best Beatles songs of 2018.

In the first draft of his lyrics for “I’m Only Sleeping”, Lennon appears to have been talking about the joys of sleeping rather than drug euphoria sometimes portrayed in the lyrics. When Lennon wasn’t on tour, he often slept, read, wrote, or watched television, often under the influence of drugs, and was woken up by McCartney for their songwriting sessions. A friend of Lennon wrote in the London Evening Standard on 4 March 1966: “He can sleep almost indefinitely, is probably the laziest person in England. ‘Physically lazy,’ he said. ‘I don’t mind writing or reading or watching or speaking, but sex is the only physical thing I can be bothered with any more.’”

Meaning of “I’m Only Sleeping”

The lyrics of “I’m Only Sleeping” convey a sense of lethargy, daydreaming, and a desire for solitude. The narrator expresses a strong preference for staying in bed and taking things easy, valuing the introspective and creative moments that come with relaxation. The song suggests a need for mental rest and a break from the demands of everyday life.

Here are the opening lines of the song:

When I wake up early in the morning
Lift my head, I’m still yawning
When I’m in the middle of a dream
Stay in bed, float up stream

Overall, “I’m Only Sleeping” is often seen as an ode to the benefits of taking time for oneself, allowing for contemplation and imagination to flourish. The song’s dreamy and introspective nature has made it a favorite among many Beatles fans.


  • 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

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