“Nowhere Man,” written by John Lennon, was released in 1965 on the wonderful “Rubber Soul” album. It’s ranked at #66 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs, and it’s one of their first songs to deal with issues besides romance—existential angst in this case.
One of the pivotal songs of Lennon’s early Beatle years arrived when he least expected it. “The whole thing came out in one gulp,” he told Rolling Stone in 1970. “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 not to write and then this came out.” What emerged was an expression of the boredom and frustration Lennon was feeling in his cocoonlike existence as a Beatle. The references to a man who’s “making all his nowhere plans for nobody” and “knows not where he’s going to” were, Lennon admitted, “probably about myself.”
But they forgot the line, “The world is at your command”!
Songwriting mystifies me: it’s a talent that seems to either be there or not, one not amenable to developing. And I don’t understand how a human can just lie down and disgorge a song this beautiful at one gulp.
Wikipedia adds a bit more:
McCartney said of the song:
More from Rolling Stone:
In the studio, the weariness in Lennon’s voice and the dirgelike melody didn’t deter the band from reaching for new sounds. Lennon, McCartney and Harrison stacked a wall of sumptuous harmonies, and the beautifully spare solo — played in unison by Lennon and Harrison on their Sonic Blue Fender Stratocasters — cut through the ennui like a machete.
“‘Nowhere Man’ is such a beautiful pop song with a groundbreaking, existential lyric,” says Billy Corgan, who covered it with the Smashing Pumpkins. “It lets you see that moment of discovery.”
Here’s a live version, said to be recorded in Munich in 1966. It’s surprisingly good for a band that I always thought was much better in the studio than live. The three-part harmony is excellent, although it’s a bit drowned out by the guitars:
I never saw the Beatles live, for, after they became famous, they played mainly in large venues like sports arenas. I wasn’t keen on seeing four antlike figures as a distance, with their music drowned out by the incessant screaming of fans.
Just to remind you of the greatness of “Rubber Soul,” which to me marks a real break between the early rocking Beatles and the later, greater artistic ones, here’s a list of its songs.
The only ones I’m not keen on are “Think for Yourself” and “What Goes On”.
|1.||“Drive My Car“||McCartney and Lennon||2:25|
|2.||“Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)“||Lennon||2:01|
|3.||“You Won’t See Me“||McCartney||3:18|
|4.||“Nowhere Man“||Lennon, McCartney and George Harrison||2:40|
|5.||“Think for Yourself“ (Harrison)||Harrison||2:16|
|6.||“The Word“||Lennon, McCartney and Harrison||2:41|
|1.||“What Goes On“ (Lennon–McCartney–Richard Starkey)||Starr||2:47|
|3.||“I’m Looking Through You“||McCartney||2:23|
|4.||“In My Life“||Lennon||2:24|
|5.||“Wait“||Lennon and McCartney||2:12|
|6.||“If I Needed Someone“ (Harrison)||Harrison||2:20|
|7.||“Run for Your Life“||Lennon||2:18|