The Beatles had attempted to record Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) on 12 October 1965, but were dissatisfied with the results. On this day they completed the song, and recorded an early attempt at John Lennon‘s Nowhere Man.
There were two scheduled sessions at Abbey Road’s Studio Two. The first lasted from 2.30-7pm and was dedicated to Norwegian Wood. The Beatles recorded three takes, numbered 2-4, the last of which was deemed to be the best.
The rhythm parts were recorded onto two tracks of the four-track tape: Lennon’s Gibson Jumbo acoustic guitar and Ringo Starr‘s bass drum was on the first, while Paul McCartney‘s bass and George Harrison‘s 12-string acoustic were on the second.
The sitar melody, played by Harrison, was recorded onto track three. The song was completed with the addition of Lennon’s lead vocals, McCartney’s harmonies, and Starr’s tambourine part.
George had just got the sitar and I said, ‘Could you play this piece?’ We went through many different sort of versions of the song, it was never right and I was getting very angry about it, it wasn’t coming out like I said. They said, ‘Just do it how you want to do it,’ and I said, ‘I just want to do it like this.’ They let me go and I did the guitar very loudly into the mike and sang it at the same time, and then George had the sitar and I asked him could he play the piece that I’d written, dee diddley dee diddley dee, that bit – and he was not sure whether he could play it yet because he hadn’t done much on the sitar but he was willing to have a go, as is his wont, and he learnt the bit and dubbed it on after. I think we did it in sections.
Lennon Remembers, Jann S Wenner
The Beatles continued recording in the day’s second session, without breaking for an evening meal. Between 7pm and midnight a rhythm track for Nowhere Man was recorded in two takes, although the first of these was a false start.
This first version of Nowhere Man contained just electric guitars and a harmony vocal introduction, but the recording was scrapped and the song remade the following day.