John Lennon – How Do You Sleep?

How Do You Sleep? is very powerful…but you do feel for Paul McCartney. Paul did have lyrics on the Ram album about John and Yoko but you had to look for them. In this song…there is no looking…even the average fan would know exactly who he was singing about. To me, the most vicious line is The sound you make is muzak to my ears. 

The song is on the album Imagine. This John Lennon song is direct and to the point. His feud with Paul was in the papers and after what John took as lyrics aimed at him and Yoko from Paul’s album Ram…it culminated with this song.

John has said that “How Do You Sleep” was like one of Dylan’s nasty songs and mentioned, “Like a Rolling Stone.” The big difference though was that Bob veiled the identity of his target. This song was vicious but not as vicious as it could have been if Ringo and other musicians hadn’t intervened.

Yoko and Allen Klein were feeding some lines about Paul to John during the recording. Ringo was upset with the content and simply said: “That’s enough, John”. Alan White ended up playing the drums on the track.

This song can be hard to listen to as a Beatle fan but it is a catchy dark gritty pointed song. I have always liked it. George Harrison’s slide guitar cuts through and doesn’t have the sweet sound he uses for his songs. It also shows you where George was at the time with Paul. This is not John’s best song by any measure but the music has an intensity about it and is very powerful. It’s ironic, but even without Paul being there he helped pull it out of John.

Paul did later admit that a few lyrics on “Ram” were pointed at John and Yoko but John, never one to hint…went for the throat. He would later soften and say the song was more about himself than Paul.

John and Paul would later repair the relationship…never to the point of working together again but on a friendly basis. They would keep in touch over the years by talking on the phone, in letters, and face to face at times.

John Lennon: “It’s not about Paul, it’s about me. I’m really attacking myself. But I regret the association, well, what’s to regret? He lived through it. The only thing that matters is how he and I feel about these things and not what the writer or commentator thinks about it. Him and me are okay.”

John Lennon: “You know, I wasn’t really feeling that vicious at the time,” “But I was using my resentment toward Paul to create a song, let’s put it that way. He saw that it pointedly refers to him, and people kept hounding him about it. But, you know, there were a few digs on his album before mine. He’s so obscure other people didn’t notice them, but I heard them. I thought, well, I’m not obscure, I just get right down to the nitty-gritty. So he’d done it his way and I did it mine.

Paul McCartney: “You hear the stories from various angles and apparently people who were in the room when John was writing that, he was getting suggestions for the lyrics off Allan Klein,” he said. “So, you see the atmosphere of ‘Let’s get Paul. Let’s nail him in a song…’ And those things were pretty hurtful.”

How Do You Sleep

So Sgt. Pepper took you by surprise
You better see right through that mother’s eyes
Those freaks was right when they said you was dead
The one mistake you made was in your head

Ah, how do you sleep
Ah, how do you sleep at night

You live with straights who tell you, you was king
Jump when your momma tell you anything
The only thing you done was yesterday
And since you’re gone you’re just another day

Ah, how do you sleep
Ah, how do you sleep at night

Ah, how do you sleep
Ah, how do you sleep at night

A pretty face may last a year or two
But pretty soon they’ll see what you can do
The sound you make is muzak to my ears
You must have learned something in all those years

Ah, how do you sleep
Ah, how do you sleep at night


Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

13 thoughts on “John Lennon – How Do You Sleep?”

  1. Bizarre it was on the same album as ‘Imagine’ … quite a range of feelings and emotions going on there. I knew of this song and the supposed feud which made ‘Get Back’ really surprising to me – I figured John and Paul would be at each other’s throats, yelling and screaming and everything but poking each other in the eye by then. Instead… like old buddies. Go figure.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. This probably capped it off….after this they were pretty much for the most part…fine with each other. It was only intense for just a short time…this was in that tense period lol…obviously…
      I like the song…without the other stuff.


  2. I reckon after the breakup John- never the most c’est la vie easy goin’ laid-back Liverpudlian in the world- was in no mood to hide his wounds, wether some were his own fault or self-inflicted anyway. ‘Mother’ and a few others of the time show him at his most exposed.
    Whether Paul deserved all the vitriol is debatable, but with the less than saintly Allen Klein whispering darkly in Johns ear you were never going to get anything close to a balanced critique of Pauls music anyway. Trust Ringo to try to bring some kind of reason to the session though.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The lyrics of that song are really pretty brutal. As magic as music can be, oftentimes, it involves strong egos, especially among “sophisticated artists”, and if they clash, it can get ugly pretty quickly.

    I’m glad John and Paul made up, though it’s a pity they didn’t work with each other again. I think it may have happened eventually, had John not been killed!

    Also, the music in the chorus of “How Do You Sleep” closely sounds like “Steel and Glass”, a tune Lennon recorded for his “Walls and Bridges” from ’74. In fact, I know “Steel and Glass” before I heard “How Do You Sleep?” for the first time and still remember I got confused!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I do think they would have worked with each other….Paul called John to work on a Ringo song during Double Fantasy….I do think it would have happened.

      Yea Steel and Glass is about Klein right? I do like this song.

      Liked by 2 people

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