Song Facts: The Beatles — "Nowhere Man"

John Lennon wrote this gentle folk-rock ballad in the autumn of 1965 at his home in Kenwood, St. George’s Hill Estate, Weybridge, Surrey.

Just as "Yesterday" mysteriously came to Paul McCartney, "Nowhere Man" simply came to Lennon at dawn after he'd stayed up all night, struggling to come up with a new song for Rubber Soul. He happened upon a phrase, "nowhere man," which, he felt, described his own fears about himself. "I thought of myself sitting there, doing nothing and getting nowhere," he later said.

The song, a quasi-biographical composition in the vein of "I'm A Loser" and "Help!," was recorded on October 22, 1965, after several failed attempts the day before. Apart from its beautiful, ethereal vocal harmonies, the song is also striking for the parts played by McCartney and George Harrison.

Besides gracing the track with his most melodic bass part to date, McCartney was instrumental in wringing an ultra-trebly sound out of Harrison's and Lennon's newly acquired Sonic Blue Fender Stratocasters, especially for Harrison's joyous, verse-based guitar solo.

"We wanted very trebly guitars, which [Stratocasters] are. They're among the most trebly guitars I've ever heard on record," McCartney said. "The engineer said, 'All right' … and we said 'That's not enough,' and he said … 'I've only got one pot and that's it!' We replied, 'Well, put that through another lot of faders and put the treble up on that."

It can be argued that the high-E harmonic note that ends Harrison's guitar solo also sounds the death knell for The Beatles' reliance on their once-ubiquitous Beatlemania-era instruments, namely their Gretsches and Rickenbackers (excluding McCartney's 4001S, which he'd use well into the late Wings era).

Damian Fanelli is the online managing editor at Guitar World.

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Damian Fanelli
Editor-in-Chief, Guitar World

Damian is Editor-in-Chief of Guitar World magazine. In past lives, he was GW’s managing editor and online managing editor. He's written liner notes for major-label releases, including Stevie Ray Vaughan's 'The Complete Epic Recordings Collection' (Sony Legacy) and has interviewed everyone from Yngwie Malmsteen to Kevin Bacon (with a few memorable Eric Clapton chats thrown into the mix). Damian, a former member of Brooklyn's The Gas House Gorillas, was the sole guitarist in Mister Neutron, a trio that toured the U.S. and released three albums. He now plays in two NYC-area bands.