A bridge between the willful nonsense of ‘I Am The Walrus’ and the confessional songs of his early solo career, ‘Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey’ was written by John Lennon about his relationship with Yoko Ono.
That was just a sort of nice line that I made into a song. It was about me and Yoko. Everybody seemed to be paranoid except for us two, who were in the glow of love. Everything is clear and open when you’re in love. Everybody was sort of tense around us: you know, ‘What is she doing here at the session? Why is she with him?’ All this sort of madness is going on around us because we just happened to want to be together all the time.
All We Are Saying, David Sheff
Although Lennon denied it, the monkey of the title was widely taken to be a reference to heroin, as were the words “The deeper you go the higher you fly”. ‘A monkey on the back’ was a jazz term for heroin addiction thought to have originated in the 1940s.
Lennon and Ono had begun taking heroin in 1968; they claimed they used it to escape the press interest in their relationship.
He was getting into harder drugs than we’d been into and so his songs were taking on more references to heroin. Until that point we had made rather mild, oblique references to pot or LSD. Now John started talking about fixes and monkeys and it was a harder terminology which the rest of us weren’t into. We were disappointed that he was getting into heroin because we didn’t really see how we could help him. We just hoped it wouldn’t go too far. In actual fact, he did end up clean but this was the period when he was on it. It was a tough period for John, but often that adversity and that craziness can lead to good art, as I think it did in this case.
In the studio
The Beatles rehearsed ‘Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey’ a number of times before committing it to tape. A demo version recorded at George Harrison’s Esher bungalow in May 1968 shows how it started as a gentle blues-based song, with little hint of the rocker it would become.
Initially known as ‘Untitled’, ‘Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey’ was first recorded at Abbey Road on 26 June 1968. There were no numbered takes; it was a day of rehearsal only, although it was recorded in case The Beatles came up with anything usable.
The next day they recorded six takes of the still-untitled song. Onto the last of these they overdubbed a number of instruments, including two lead guitars, handbell and shaker. A reduction mix to free up spare tracks also resulted in the song being sped up from 3’07” to 2’29”; it would end up faster still following a later mix.
Backing vocals – including the frantic ‘come on, come on’ ending – handclaps and another bass guitar part were also recorded that day, and the song was mixed for mono. The stereo mix followed on 12 October 1968.