Beatles – Nowhere Man

This song’s harmonies are great and so is the incredibly treble solo in the middle. John wrote this song. John wrote this song after he spent all night trying to write a song. He eventually gave up and laid down and then the song came to him. The song peaked at #3 in the Billboard 100 in 1966.

John: “I’d spent five hours that morning trying to write a song that was meaningful and good, and I finally gave up and lay down.  Then ‘Nowhere Man’ came, words and music, the whole damn thing, as I lay down…So letting it go is what the whole game is.  You put your finger on it, it slips away, right?  You know you turn the lights on and the cockroaches run away.  You can never grasp them.”

The guitar solo was performed by both John and George in unison on their identical Sonic Blue Fender Stratocasters. George: “I decided I’d get a Strat, and John decided he’d get one too.  So we sent out our roadie, Mal Evans, said go and get us two Strats.  And he came back with two of them, pale blue ones.  Straight away we used them on the album we were making at the time, which was ‘Rubber Soul.’  I played it a lot on that album, (most noticeably) the solo on ‘Nowhere Man’ which John and I both played in unison.”

The Beatles pushed the engineers to add treble to the solo that John and George were playing. Run it through and put the treble on it again and again. The Engineers said, “We can’t do that”…Paul told them that it was ok…if it is terrible we simply won’t use it…they kept on pushing and it worked perfectly. The engineers were also afraid of getting fined by EMI for doing things against regulations…with the Beatles though it soon became commonplace.

This shows how the Beatles were changing the rules as they were going along. Not only in writing superb songs but pushing the limits of the studio as well as doing things that pop stars just didn’t do before them…

From Songfacts

John Lennon came up with this after struggling to write a song for the album. Said Lennon: “I thought of myself sitting there, doing nothing and getting nowhere.”

This was used in the animated Beatles movie Yellow Submarine. They sing it to Jeremy Hillary Boob, Ph.D., who describes himself as an “eminent physicist, polyglot classicist, prize-winning botanist, hard-biting satirist, talented pianist, good dentist too.” The Beatles decide to take him Somewhere, and he eventually helps them to defeat the Blue Meanies. >>

This starts with a three-part harmony sung by Lennon, Harrison, and McCartney.

This is probably the first Beatles song that has nothing to do with love.

Typical of many John Lennon compositions are the “falling” melodies, which can be heard in “Nowhere Man.” Folk music often has falling melodies, indicating melancholy. In Baroque music, a falling melody means sadness. 

There is a very audible feedback 38 seconds into the song after the word “missin’.”

Natalie Merchant performed this at the 2001 special, Come Together: A Night For John Lennon’s Words And Music. She did a mellow version, as the show was also a tribute to victims of the terrorist attacks on America.

In a 1971 interview with Rolling Stone, Lennon recalled the background to this song: “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 to not write and then this came out, the whole thing came out in one gulp.”

In 2003, John Lennon’s original handwritten lyrics to this song were auctioned at Christie’s of New York for $455,500. 

One of the many songwriters influenced by The Beatles is Graham Gouldman of 10cc, who toured with Ringo’s All-Starr Band in 2018. According to Gouldman, this song is an example of how they would create a two-part harmony, but leave out third part, which is implied. “That’s screaming out for the third harmony, but they never did it,” he told Songfacts. “And in your head, you sing along, if you’re musical, the third harmony.”

Nowhere Man

He’s a real nowhere man
Sitting in his nowhere land
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody

Doesn’t have a point of view
Knows not where he’s going to
Isn’t he a bit like you and me?
Nowhere man please listen
You don’t know what you’re missing
Nowhere man, The world is at your command

He’s as blind as he can be
Just sees what he wants to see
Nowhere man, can you see me at all
Nowhere man don’t worry
Take your time, don’t hurry
Leave it all till somebody else
Lends you a hand
Ah, la, la, la, la

Doesn’t have a point of view
Knows not where he’s going to
Isn’t he a bit like you and me?
Nowhere man please listen
You don’t know what you’re missing
Nowhere man, The world is at your command
Ah, la, la, la, la

He’s a real nowhere man
Sitting in his nowhere land
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody

Author: badfinger20

Guitar, Bass, song writer,

18 thoughts on “Beatles – Nowhere Man”

  1. Another one of those great, slightly forgotten Beatles songs. With most bands this one would be in my top3 (if they’d done it), but might not even make my top 10 of their tunes. Great though!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Very enjoyable back story on this. How John tried so hard to write a song, but when he let go and laid down it came to him, whole. I like the idea of the twin guitars put through the fire of reverb again and again. I like the 3 singing their beautiful harmony together and leaving a space for the audience to join in with them.

    Liked by 1 person

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