Released: 4 December 1964 (UK), 15 December 1964 (US)
The first of John Lennon’s songs to be directly influenced by Bob Dylan, I’m A Loser was written in the summer of 1964 and recorded for the Beatles For Sale album.
That’s me in my Dylan period. Part of me suspects I’m a loser and part of me thinks I’m God Almighty. [Laughs]
All We Are Saying, David Sheff
Dylan’s acoustic songwriting and lyrical depth had a profound effect on Lennon; as a result, he began to explore his own feelings more in song.
I’m A Loser is me in my Dylan period, because the word ‘clown’ is in it. I objected to the word ‘clown’, because that was always artsy-fartsy, but Dylan had used it so I thought it was all right, and it rhymed with whatever I was doing.
Lennon was inspired further by an encounter with the journalist Kenneth Allsop, whom Lennon met in March 1964.
Allsop told Lennon that his songs lacked the depth and meaning of his book In His Own Write. He suggested that Lennon try to write more autobiographically, basing his songs on personal experiences rather than generic sentiments of love.
The encounter marked a turning point for Lennon, and Allsop’s advice played a key part in inspiring him to write In My Life in 1965.
Looking back on it I think songs like I’m A Loser and Nowhere Man were John’s cries for help. We used to listen to quite a lot of country and western songs and they are all about sadness and ‘I lost my truck’ so it was quite acceptable to sing ‘I’m a loser’. You didn’t really think about it at the time, it’s only later you think, God! I think it was pretty brave of John.
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
In the studio
The recording was straightforward, and took eight takes to get right with no overdubs needed.
Beatles For Sale was released four months after I’m A Loser was recorded. On 17 November, however, they gave fans a sneak preview of four tracks from the album, along with I Feel Fine and She’s A Woman, on the BBC radio show Top Gear.
This BBC version of I’m A Loser was first broadcast on 26 November, and was eventually released commercially on 1994’s Live At The BBC.
The group recorded another version for the BBC on 26 May 1965. Lennon sang one of the lines as “Beneath this wig, I am wearing a tie,” introducing a moment of bathos into an otherwise maudlin song.