I’m So Tired

The Beatles (White Album) artworkWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 8 October 1968
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Ken Scott

Released: 22 November 1968 (UK), 25 November 1968 (US)

John Lennon: vocals, acoustic guitar, lead guitar, organ
Paul McCartney: harmony vocals, bass, electric piano
George Harrison: lead guitar
Ringo Starr: drums

Available on:
The Beatles (White Album)
Anthology 3

I'm So Tired was written by John Lennon three weeks into his stay in Rishikesh, India, where The Beatles had gone to study meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Free from drink and drugs for the first time in years, he found his thoughts abnormally focused, even if this meant suffering from temporary insomnia.

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The song recounts Lennon's difficulty in sleeping after meditation had absorbed his thoughts throughout much of the day. It also recounts his burgeoning obsessions with Yoko Ono ("My mind is set on you") who remained in England while Lennon flew to India with his wife Cynthia.

I'm So Tired was me, in India again. I couldn't sleep, I'm meditating all day and couldn't sleep at night. The story is that. One of my favorite tracks. I just like the sound of it, and I sing it well.
John Lennon
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

The song is based loosely around a cyclical doo-wop chord sequence that recurs in a number of Lennon's songs, notably This Boy, Yes It Is and Happiness Is A Warm Gun. Indeed, the demo of I'm So Tired, recorded in May 1968 at George Harrison's Esher bungalow, features a section similar to the spoken word part in Happiness Is A Warm Gun:

When I hold you in your [sic] arms
When you show each one of your charms
I wonder should I get up
And go to the funny farm, no no no
You say I'm putting you on...

The closing words of I'm So Tired, muttered by John Lennon, became part of the Paul Is Dead myth in 1969. Lennon says "Monsieur, monsieur, monsieur, how about another one?" It was, however, interpreted by some as "Paul is dead, man, miss him, miss him, miss him" when played backwards. Needless to say, this was not The Beatles' intention.

I'm So Tired is very much John's comment to the world, and it had that very special line, 'And curse Sir Walter Raleigh, he was such a stupid get.' That's a classic line and it's so John that there's no doubt that he wrote it. I think it's 100 per cent John. Being tired was one of his themes; he wrote I'm Only Sleeping. I think we were all pretty tired but he chose to write about it.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

In the studio

The Beatles began and completed I'm So Tired on 8 October 1968, during a lengthy session in which they also recorded The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill. The group began recording at 4pm and finished the following morning at 8am.

I'm So Tired was the first song to be taped, and was completed in 14 takes. Although it wasn't a complicated recording, it did use all eight of Abbey Road's available tracks.

Although the instruments were recorded on separate tracks, The Beatles played the song live, with lead vocals from Lennon on every take. They later added a few overdubs, including extra vocals from Lennon and McCartney, more drums and guitar, electric piano and organ.

The Anthology 3 album contains an especially-created version of I'm So Tired, made up of edits from takes three, six and nine.

42 responses on “I’m So Tired

    1. Joe Post author

      Yes! I noticed these only last week. I wonder why they were cut out – I really like them. It’s funny how something like that can essentially have gone missing for so many years, before the mono remasters came out. I’m so glad they were reissued.

  1. Von Bontee

    I gotta say I never liked this one as much as I could’ve, just because I’m sick to death of that damn doo-wop chord progression – especially since it also appears a mere two songs previous on the same album.

    1. Mr-Larry

      The “doo wap” chord progression is used much less in this song than you may think. That progrssion I-vi-IV-V is only used on part of the verse and none of the chorus. The verse progression is in 3 parts

      I-VII7-IV-V
      I-vi-IV-V
      I-I7sus4-vi-iv
      and this entire sequence is repeated two more times in the song. So, what Lennon is doing is creating a fairly complex and varied progression over a basic idea. This is quite unusual in the world of rock music. The effect is to keep the song moving and the listener harmonically interested. It is obvious to anyone that has played the music themselves that Lennon was well aware of the squareness of playing the same 4 chords over and over. So, he added significant substitution. Additionally, the last measure on the chord (above) the iv (which is D-min on the record) is two beats longer than the other measures. Again, adding variation to the form.

  2. Bo

    Hi….Is there any definitive way of finding out exactly what John Lennon is saying at the end of “I’m So Tired”….I have people telling me that…”Complete Beatles Sessions” says something like” Monsieur, Monsieur..something or other………SO….Is it sdrawkcab or what?…Is it gibberish?…..Help, I need somebody!!!!!!!!!

      1. Travis

        Let me first say i approached listening to your video w my usual skepticism, and the first time through i didnt hear it, but then! On second take, I’ll be damned if that doesn’t sound exactly like “Paul is dead man miss him miss him miss him”! This actually gave me chills. I know Paul isn’t dead, so that makes this even more mysterious. Just an extreme case of serendipity? It’s no wonder all these myths got started, even one as ridiculous as “Paul Is Dead”, when the Beatles have admitted to putting in all sorts of purposeful odd bits, “just to see if anyone would notice” as John said. All that stuff at the very end of “A Day In The Life” alone is a perfect example, certainly piqued the curiosity of fans of the day even more than now. Having said all this, I have no explanation for this. Certainly sounds a lot more like “Paul is dead…” backwards than all that “…Monsieur” nonsense forwards ppl are claiming. John was always spouting gobbledegook(his books, Live at Shea), I think that’s all this is ultimately. Still, that’s a pretty weird coincidence. Maybe our brains’ just trying to make sense of senselessness? We’ll never know

    1. Joe Post author

      Mark Lewisohn said it was “Monsieur, monsieur, monsieur, how about another one?” followed by mumbling. I don’t think there’s anything more to it than that. Ecuas yrrebnarc.

        1. Joe Post author

          Mark Lewisohn is the world’s foremost Beatles historian and scholar, who has written a number of essential books about the band. He was the first outsider to hear all The Beatles’ EMI tapes way back in the 1980s, the first person to pinpoint the date when John first met Paul, and revealed plenty of other information which we now take for granted. You should read his books; you might learn something.

          1. Bo

            I’m only INTERESTED in what John Lennon is saying at the end of this song…..I don’t hear ANYTHING remotely close to what the author says….I have used audio software and AT BEST there MIGHT be a word that sounds like “deadman” when played backwards….Forward…it’s gibberish…there is NO MONSIEUR MONSIEUR…….

    2. Mike

      He says “Monsieur Monsieur Monsieur. How ’bout another one?.” As it says above. But I don’t believe it is John. It sounds more like Paul or George. Who knows really?!

  3. Bo

    Thank You “Beatle Mark” for audacity…..I ‘ve listened and listened frontwards backwards…..Backwards at best makes some sort of sense…..otherwise I hear gibberish….THanks Mark!!!!

  4. Deadman

    Why is it so hard to believe that the man who could pen In His Own Write could also utter deliberish–deliberate gibberish–occasionally?
    What he utters is clearly nonsense, and if you choose to interpret it to mean that Paul is dead or that the antelope is in the butter again or that M. Grenouille has compacted the splendid watermelon, feel free.
    If, by the way, you insist that cryptic nonsensical utterances must be interpreted as conveying truth, does this mean that you also believe that Lennon was actually a walrus (as was Paul), that there really were elementary penguins, and that he could not abide red evening dresses?

    Actually, what he says at the end of I’m So Tired is a badly pronounced Latin quotation: “Illic sum; plus ac a misere, habet a nobis taedia, taedia. Placere mihi!”
    [I am there; and more from misery, it leads to boredom from boredom. Please me!]

    1. 12barman

      interesting!
      but where does this quatation come from?
      google gives me only this very page when i ask it for ‘illic sum… etc’.

      no, really, it seems to make much more sense that traditional meaningless ‘monsier… another one?’.
      but could you please tell more about it?

  5. max moose

    I have to take a closer listen to this, but it’s NOT a “doo-wop” progression. In fact, the chords are clearly not the same in the first and second “I’m so tired” of each verse.

    The first chord appears to be an A, with the bass playing an A, but the next bass note is a G#, making the G# chord a candidate, but the A diminished chord sounds fantastic, even with the G# bass. The difference is subtle.

    The next time through the bass plays the A followed by an F#, indicating the sort of 4-chord turn-around you are talking about.

    I will probably settle on A to A diminished first line, A to F# minor for the second line, and I’m thinking that’s what I’m hearing on the White Album.

    For the easily amused, I play “Here Comes the Sun” and “Blackbird” on youtube.com, search for maxmoose10.

    Thinking back to 1969 or thereabouts, the putative “Monsieur” mumbling after
    the song was “Paul is dead now, miss him, miss him,” when played backwards.
    The ironic thing about this is that forwards, it was incomprehensible gibberish, while backwards it was not only perfectly clear, but said with appropriate intonation. (That’s what was on my copy, anyway.)

    1. Von Bontee

      Appreciate the info – you obviously know a lot more than I do, so I’ll defer to your knowledge and agree that the “I’m So Tired” chord change isn’t exactly identical to the “classic” doo-wop change – I-vi-IV-V – like in the final section of “Happiness is a Warm Gun” and a billion other songs. But you do see the similarity: think of Paul and George’s “Bang bang/Shoot shoot” choruses, and notice how they could be added to “I’m So Tired” and not sound harmonically out of place at all. And it’s not that there’s anything WRONG with that change, or similar variations – it’s just that I personally have a limited capacity and prefer it in small doses. The fact that the “…Tired” change isn’t just the same old C-Am-F-G is irrelevent – it still REMINDS me of it, and the fact that it shows up a mere two songs after the real thing is a big reason why. What it comes down to: I’d be more able to give “I’m So Tired” the appreciation it deserves if it appeared elsewhere on the White Album, most preferably on the second disc. A trade with “Sexy Sadie” would do both songs good!

      1. max moose

        Von:

        Let me offer this analogy: do the melodies of the first line and second line sound very different to you, as sung? The corresponding chords sound that different to me. So for me, no, it doesn’t sound like a “doo-wop” tune — but that’s just me. I can’t say how it sounds to you.

        Now the end of the little “Happiness is a Warm Gun” mini-opera is a different story. Yes, there are a few repetitions of doo-wop, but that is intentionally meant to be exaggerated and reinforce the black humor of the song.

        Let me take a step back. When the White Album came out, it was widely accepted that the majority of the album was parody. Hence, it was peopled with characters like Rocky Raccoon, Bungalow Bill, Sexy Sadie and so forth, including the ostensible Soviet Union counterparts of the Beach Boys.

        In those days, an in-the-know Beatle fan understood, for example, that “Sexy Sadie” stood for Maharishi — the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. A huge issue in the US and New York City — where John wanted to live, was gun violence. The Viet Nam War was raging, and gun violence was producing assassinations and murders across the U.S. By 1980, when John himself became the victim of gun violence, NYC topped out with something like 2,260 murders. Last year, by comparison, I think it was just over 400 — with a larger population.

        While John became famous as an anti-war activist, he nonetheless opposed gun violence in general, as evidenced in this song. He had a personal stake in this crisis, choosing to take his family to NYC, whereas the more practical McCartney cloistered his family “in the heart of the country.” Lennon gambled and ultimately lost. It was no coincidence that his deranged, obsessed fan shot him.

        In this song, he is railing against gun usage, satirizing the gun-owner mentality, and people who find satisfaction in shooting off guns. The “doo-wop” with the absurd “Bang Bang Shoot Shoot” background is meant to make fun of gun advocates, not necessarily to make great melody or harmony.

        The Beatles had an exceptional ability to evoke a scene by choosing the appropriate musical elements. Lennon may have identified gun enthusiasm as an obsolete, “pre-Beatle era” attitude, and may have identified gun fans with the “doo-wop” of the 1950′s.

        Much the same type of parody was accomplished in “Piggies” by using a harpsichord and exaggeratedly robust singing to parody the ersatz elegance and habitual intonation attributed to the wealthy.

        On a lighter note, “Octopus’ Garden” was made to sound like an Irish sea shanty (something probably in the background of most of the Beatles), especially during the guitar solos; the result is charming, and one tends not to think of the 4-chord turn-around of Ringo’s simple song.

        So personally, I don’t tend to be so much concerned with the chords themselves, as to the imaginative things done with them — despite the analysis above on “I’m So Tired.”

  6. Von Bontee

    Thanks for the reply! I agree that the use of the doo-wop progression in “Warm Gun” was done deliberately and with satiric intent, on an album in which they went ahead and tried a little bit of everything (ska, 12-bar blues, Beach Boys, country & western, old Hollywood soundtrack muzak) just because they felt like it. About “I’m So Tired” I’ll say no more, because I’m hearing something that I can’t fully articulate. But what a coincidence that you mentioned “Octopus’ Garden” – another song (a fine one!) that employs a variation on the I-vi-IV-V change for the verses. Like you said, it’s not the chords, it’s the imaginative things done with them.

  7. max moose

    Von:

    They did continue their expansion and experimentation, but both musically and lyrically, the parody was pretty apparent, and often quite pointed. It also frequently intersected one of the other main themes of the album for me, which was animals.

    It is a bit astonishing to me that a modern listener can hear an hour of songs — mainly parody — involving raccoons, tigers, elephants, walruses, sheepdogs, monkeys, piggies, blackbirds
    and more, and on being questioned, profess no awareness of parody NOR animal references in what was heard.

    But the Octupus did not appear till Abbey Road. For some reason, I thought you or someone else in the column had mentioned “Octopus’ Garden.” Maybe it was just the noise in my head while thinking about four-chord turn-arounds.

    Another that pops out as a similar variation is “This Boy,” which sounds like I-iv-ii-V7 to me, with a nostalgic 50′s sound. And yes, they’re all over rock music, like in Led Zep’s
    “D’yer Mak’r?” — itself a 50′s throwback.

    Some people think OG is the best song on Abbey Road, and to me Abbey Road even exceeds Sgt. Pepper as the best album ever recorded!

    Yes, they were able to do great things with existing elements, among new ones. I’m afraid we’re just going to have to agree to agree.

    1. Von Bontee

      Ha, I’ve always thought of Side Two as the white LP’s “animal” side too!

      Also – and this will be my final word on the subject – I’m only now noticing that, independently of my January 25th comment, the song’s writeup also specifically refers to a “cyclical doo-wop sequence”, which means that your April 14 posting probably wasn’t directed at me specifically, which I’d assumed. If I’d known that was the case, I wouldn’t have felt the need to reply.

      1. max moose

        Von:

        No, no, I was definitely not responding to you alone. As you say, it was in the introduction, which I assume moderator Joe wrote, and my initial comments also spoke of the mumbling after the song.

        However, I’m glad you DID reply,
        because I enjoyed your interesting commentary.

  8. 12barman

    ‘I’m So Tired’ might be inspired among other stuff by 1949 blues song called ‘Black Coffee’.

    The two songs have similar mood and the same second line ‘haven’t slept a wink’.

  9. JP

    What a superb track. When I first bought the White Album in ’87, this was one of those MANY great Fab tunes that I had never heard before but instantly liked. That was what was so incredible about the White Album – all those fine, diverse songs – rock songs, ballads, pysechedelic, childrens’, bizaro – so much but so good. Love the tempo changes on this track. One of John’s best on an album filled with great Lennon songs (Dear Prudence, Yer Blues, Cry Baby Cry, Glass Onion, Julia, Revolution).

    1. ScouseMouse

      John sings:
      ….. curse Sir Walter Raleigh, he was such a stupid get.

      ‘Stupid get’ is the expression used in northern England (where Liverpool is)
      as opposed to ‘stupid git’, used in the south.

  10. talbobel

    I’ve been a Beatle fan since 1963 I was standing in line at the music store back in 68, anxious to buy the White Album; I’ve heard “I’m so Tired” hundreds of times on cheap record players and full blown Hi-Fi rigs; I still hear the end of that song as mumbling in a dream…get it ? “I’m so Tired…dreaming…mumbling…simple, right ?

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