John Lennon composed the song in Bermuda in June 1980. While on holiday there he visited a nightclub and the next day, slightly hungover but enthused by the experience, he wrote ‘I’m Stepping Out’.
The nightclub visit evidently showed Lennon that there was a world away from the househusbandry to which he had devoted the previous five years, and the feeling of liberation in his lyrics is palpable.
Although Lennon’s Bermuda trip formed the basis of ‘I’m Stepping Out’, he used elements of songs composed earlier. Key among them was ‘That’s The Way The World Is’, a song begun in 1979 which eventually became ‘Real Life’. In early demo recordings it contained the lyrics which Lennon eventually used during the middle section of ‘I’m Stepping Out’.
In the studio
The Double Fantasy sessions began on 6 August 1980. On that first morning John Lennon played his musicians some of the demos recorded in Bermuda, before attempting rough versions of some of the songs.
‘I’m Stepping Out’ was the first to be attempted. An edit of the second take from this session was released on the 1998 box set John Lennon Anthology. Various false starts, breakdowns and full performances followed, before the band turned their attentions to ‘Borrowed Time’.
The take which appeared on Milk And Honey was the penultimate one from the session, and featured a guide vocal by Lennon. The original performance contained a verse which was later edited out, but can be heard on Anthology:
Called up the doctor but he was sick to death
He don’t make house calls any more
He’d gone out dancing just to sweeten up his breath
Left a message on the floor…
The single was released on 15 March 1984 in the United States, and peaked at number 55 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was issued two months later in the United Kingdom, on 15 July, and reached number 88.
‘I’m Stepping Out’ had Yoko Ono’s song ‘Sleepless Night’ as its b-side. The 12″ single also contained another song, ‘Loneliness’, also by Ono.