I’m A Loser

Beatles For Sale album artworkWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 14 August 1964
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith

Released: 4 December 1964 (UK), 15 December 1964 (US)

John Lennon: vocals, acoustic rhythm guitar, harmonica
Paul McCartney: harmony vocals, bass
George Harrison: lead guitar
Ringo Starr: drums, tambourine

Available on:
Beatles For Sale
Live At The BBC

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.

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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]
John Lennon
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.
John Lennon

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.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

In the studio

The Beatles recorded I'm A Loser on 14 August 1964, the day they also taped Mr Moonlight and Leave My Kitten Alone.

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.

7 responses on “I’m A Loser

  1. D.B.

    There obviously were overdubs on this track. Though Lennon’s vocal is entirely single-tracked (which may be what the statement is based on), there are two guitar tracks (most audible during the solo, but also during the verses), handclaps low in the mix during the guitar solo, and a tambourine, which Ringo could not have been playing while drumming.

    1. James Ferrell

      I put the old headphones on to see if you were right, and you are–kudos. There’s a first lead guitar stereo left, at the same spot in the mix where the acoustic and drums are, and a second lead guitar stereo right. The stereo right one does the solo, and in the verses the fills generally start with a G note from the left guitar and then move to an A to B bend from the right guitar. The tambourine and faint hand claps are also there, as you say.

      Very nice C&W-inflected song from the Beatles’ most C&W-inflected album. And I think it has the lowest melody note of any Beatles song (a low G).

  2. Graham Paterson

    When I got my copy of Beatles For Sale in late 1978, this was instantly one of my favorites. John Lennon at his best, telling people how he really feels. Songs like this underline why Beatles For Sale is such an underrated album. Should always be included in top 100 of all time.

  3. Graham Paterson

    Obviously John Lennon was being influenced by Bob Dylan. But the words and very personal nature of the words are Lennon’s. This song is another step on from “I’ll Cry Instead” off “A Hard Days Night”. “Although I laugh and act like a clown beneath this mask I am wearing a frown”. As this line epitomizes John Lennon was on his way to “John Lennon and The Plastic Ono Band” six years later.

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