Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey

The Beatles (White Album) artworkWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 26, 27 June; 1, 23 July 1968
Producer: George Martin
Engineers: Geoff Emerick, Ken Scott

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

John Lennon: vocals, guitar, percussion, handclaps
Paul McCartney: backing vocals, bass, percussion, handclaps
George Harrison: backing vocals, lead guitar, percussion, handclaps
Ringo Starr: drums, percussion, handclaps

Available on:
The Beatles (White Album)

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 was written by John Lennon about his relationship with Yoko Ono.

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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.
John Lennon
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 Yoko 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.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

In the studio

The Beatles rehearsed the song 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.

On 1 July Paul McCartney added a first bass guitar part and John Lennon added new lead vocals, but the latter were replaced on 23 July. Backing vocals - including the frantic 'come on, come on' ending - handclaps and another bass guitar part were recorded on the same day, and the song was mixed for mono. The stereo mix followed on 12 October.

59 responses on “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey

    1. Joe Post author

      The Wikipedia article doesn’t say that now. I’ve not read any other source that suggests that Harrison co-wrote the song, though I’d be interested if there was evidence.

      1. jan edvinsson

        A huge fireman bell according to Geoff Emetic in his book Here, There and Everywhere. Paul couldn´t make himself heard with his bass cause John and George were playing so loud on the guitars, so took..I guess the loudest bell he could find there; he even banged so hard that he had to have a rest between the takes, his shoulders were aching from all the beating on it!

  1. john

    pete townsend had “dissed” the Beatles at some point saying something to the effect that “they never did anything-that rocked as hard as “the who” had. The Second Disc of The White album-seemed to be a swift answer…

  2. Matt Crandin

    I forgot where I read this, but I remember hearing something that there was a comic in the newspaper depicting the two as a zoo keeper and a monkey(John and Yoko, respectively), because “Yoko clung to Lennon like a monkey does to its keeper.”

    1. JP

      So true! I always like this song. It has a great, clear sound and typically outstanding vocals by John. Perhaps a better title would have been “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Banshee” (?)

    1. Julio

      It is without a doubt Paul on a fireman’s bell. He actually did not have much to do with this recording and rang the bell crazily with a kind of f$%! it attitude.

    2. Cameron McIntosh

      I also read it was a fireman’s bell, but Mal was on it. I was not familiar with a handbell, but I looked it up. I can see how it could be a handbell. Actually a firemen’s bell might have a deeper tone. Excellent song either way!

    3. jan edvinsson

      According to Geoff Emerick, in his book ” Here, There and Everywhere ” it was Paul playing a huge fireman bell; John and George were playing so loud on the guitars so he couldn´t hear his bass playing. Geoff are giving praises to Harrison´s good guitar playing in this song, this was a bit unusual guitar playing for being Harrison he said.

  3. jerald

    one of the group’s hard rock and roll songs along with back in the ussr, birthday, helter skelter. i think this is quite similar with back in the ussr which i call “hard rock” while helter skelter is “heavy”, yer blues also stands out; a heavy blues song.

    1. Julio

      Another rocking song that balances out Paul’s fruity granny sh$%t. Don’t get me wrong I love the fruity stuff too. It is the balance that makes the Beatles so interesting. My teenage son can dig the Beatles and so can Grandma.

      1. Stan Ploar

        Exactly! Paul and John were a perfect balance, and when they split they lost that synergy. it’s one of my favorite songs, actually. Tobias, you need to put that crack pipe down, LOL!

    2. Adjective

      How can you not love this song? It’s all groove, and those funky handclaps are brilliant.

      Unless, that is, you have something to hide…Come on and take it easy.

    3. Canberk Duman

      I see some jealousy here. John was the best composer of all for me, such avant garde. Get over it!
      Every time I see you, making much negative comments about John. And that makes me really angry. Show some respect, as I do to Paul, even my favourite Beatle is John Lennon!

  4. Ali Eren Beserler

    Ex Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy and his awesome Beatles tribute band “Yellow Matter Custard” played this song in their DVD. In the commentary Mike says something like “We all play crazy technical progressive rock stuff in our own bands but when we tried to play this song for the first time; we were just stoned. How complicated this song was completely shocking to us”.

    In the DVD you can see how concentrated the band was trying not to screw up. Even Paul Gilbert was havng a hard time!

    All in all, great song…

  5. John

    It’s a fireman’s bell. I read it in the book “Here there and everywhere” by Geoff Emerick. This was before he quit during the White Album sessions.
    But he said that each take that John and George kept turning the volume on their guitars higher and higher to an ear blistering height, and that Paul could barely even hear his own bass. So he picked up a fireman’s bell and sat/stood next to Ringo to encourage him to play as loud as possible and effectively rock with him. He explained that during each take he’d swing the bell as hard as he could and had to take a break once in a while, when his shoulders started hurting.
    Then he ended up sitting alone after the band left and over dubbed the bass part on his own …with the studio engineers present of course.

  6. Chris

    The story I know is that John took part of the title from one of the Maharishi’s lectures which mentioned how “everybody’s got something to hide”, but he said he had no idea where the “monkey” part came from.

    1. Chris

      Sorry, Wikipedia says I’m slightly wrong:

      The song’s title is the longest of any in The Beatles’ catalogue, and it originates from a quote by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, however, as for the “… except me and my monkey” part, George Harrison attested that he did not “know where that came from” though McCartney believes it was a reference to Lennon’s heroin habit.

  7. robert

    While I don’t think we can know for sure what John meant by monkey – he may not even have known – a monkey is also an addiction “I’ve got a monkey on my back” means I am addicted to something – usually heroin.

    So it is quite possible someone referred to Yoko as John’s monkey for two reasons – the way she sort of looked at the time (this would be a mean statement) and the fact that John was addicted to her.

    While it is completely conjecture – I would attribute that type of remark to George – it’s his type of humor and John did say that George made the meanest remarks of all about Yoko.

    It would also tie in to John’s sense of humor to take a mean comment and make it a song.

    This was also the time period where George was pursuing Maureen Starr for an affair – thus adding even more depth to “everybody’s got something to hide except for me and my monkey” as a dig at what George was up to.

    All conjecture but interesting (to me) nonetheless.

  8. Tweeze

    It elbows in with an popping intro that tugs the ear – John loved his percussion tricks – and a guitar idea that is a cousin to ‘Revolution’. Then there’s that insane clammering bell sounding like a triangle calling the McCoys in for dinner. Crazy! Great energy on this one. Very committed vocals on what is ultimately nonsense, but by the end of the song I believe him. A good rocker for John. And if you play guitar like I do, a great song to shake out the ya-yas to. The song is complete as-is but there seems to be a lot of room to have additional improv.

  9. Alan

    Much like the spoof on The Beach Boys in Back in the USSR, I always took this song as a play on The Monkeys music. I’m not discounting the other interpretations of “monkey,” as heroin or Yoko.

    At about 1:56, toward the end of the song, when they sing “Hey! C’mon c’mon c’mon…” it totally reminds me of The Monkees! I don’t doubt that The Beatles would do that, and could pull it off even within the context of all the othjer imagery.

  10. Pablo Castro

    There is something very interesting in the introduction of the song, which mistakes the listener where the measure´s 1 actually is . It´s a kind of ‘ rhythmic dislocation which surprises when we finally get where the measure´s 1 beat is . Great song, great performance, great record . I wish there was a video of The Beatles playing this …

    1. James Ferrell

      It took me a longtime to figure out the rhythm of the intro–the second bass drum beat is on 1 and the first guitar chord is on the upbeat of 2.

    2. Jim Odell

      That rhythmic dislocation got my attention and made the song into one of my favourites. Every time i listen it jangles some obscure brain function into an excited state.

  11. Ian

    Regarding the “monkey” reference, remember that Lennon was in India where monkeys are as ubiquitous as sparrows. McCartney’s “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road” also reflects the abundant presence of monkeys.

  12. Sheboygan Bert

    I thought Everybody’s Got (June & July, 1968) was the beatles spoof of the Monkee hit Valleri (released 2/17/68), listen to the drums on both songs. “Something to hide” was the fact that the Monkees in the beginning did not play on their own songs, and even after Kirchner was fired the Monkees were link solo artists singing with a studio band, with the occasional instrument played by a Monkee. I could see how witty John would take the Mickey Out of the Monkees.

  13. Waterface

    I have the mono box sets; CD and vinyl. The sound of Paul banging on that bell is incredible, but most especially on the mono vinyl. It really makes you sit up and take notice.

    Even though John makes it very hard, I really do feel sorry for him. Everybody is uneasy around him because he is in such a beautiful and real relationship, yet they both escape into heroin at the same time. Yes, that Yoko was really good for him. Of course this song is a reference to his habit. I never thought of it until just now, but I think the White Album itself is a reference to heroin. Probably Yoko’s avant-garde idea that John sold to the rest of the group without them even knowing their inside joke.

    1. Steve

      Actually, I have never thought of the White Album cover as being an artistic reference to heroin but you know what ? I think there may be something in that. Represents a move from Peppers colourful psychedelic cover to the stark (china) white of ‘The Beatles’ album cover. Interesting.

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