An account of John Lennon’s darkest days during his Lost Weekend, ‘Nobody Loves You (When You’re Down And Out)’ was the penultimate song on his 1974 album Walls And Bridges.

The song was the only one from the album to have been written during Lennon’s initial stay in Los Angeles. He recorded a home demo in October 1973 on an acoustic guitar. At this stage the lyrics were largely complete, but Lennon was still working on the chord structure.

The song was clearly inspired by the 1923 blues standard ‘Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out’, written by Jimmy Cox about the Prohibition era. That song recounted the tale of a former millionaire who had fallen on hard times, and reflected on the transient nature of friendships and material wealth.

Well, that says the whole story. I always imagined Sinatra singing that one, I dunno why. He could do a perfect job with it. Ya listenin’, Frank? You need a song that isn’t a piece of nothing. Here’s one for you. The horn arrangement – everything’s made for you. But don’t ask me to produce it!
John Lennon, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

Lennon’s travails in 1974 were mostly self-inflicted, as the excesses of his Lost Weekend and the strains of his separation from Yoko Ono took their toll. He had moved to Los Angeles with his girlfriend May Pang, and for a time lived with the hard-living Keith Moon, Harry Nilsson and Ringo Starr.

Realising the effects his lifestyle was having on his health, Lennon and Pang moved back to New York. ‘Nobody Loves You (When You’re Down And Out)’ was one of the songs recorded during the pre-production rehearsals for Walls And Bridges in July 1973; an edited version of the recording was released posthumously in 1986 on the Menlove Ave collection.

The lyrics of ‘Nobody Loves You’ were among Lennon’s most soul-baring, demonstrating his feelings of rejection, despair and loneliness. By 1974 he had fallen out of favour with record-buyers, was separated from his wife, and his attempted solace in alcohol had proved little more than illusory.

I’ve been across to the other side
I’ve shown you everything, I got nothing to hide
But stull you ask me do I love you, what it is, what it is
All I can tell you is it’s all showbiz
All I can tell you is it’s all showbiz
‘Nobody Loves You (When You’re Down And Out)’

Walls And Bridges was recorded in New York’s Record Plant East in July and August 1974. Along with ‘Scared’, ‘Nobody Loves You (When You’re Down And Out)’ was the bleakest of his new compositions, although both showed Lennon’s self-awareness and his determination to lift himself from the gutter.

The 1998 box set John Lennon Anthology contained an alternative studio outtake. It could have been a contender for Walls And Bridges, but for a slightly out of tune acoustic guitar. It also lacks the brass and string overdubs which sweetened the final take.

A solo rendition performed on acoustic guitar was also included as a bonus track on the 2005 reissue of Walls And Bridges. This was announced as take nine during the studio sessions.

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