‘I’m Looking Through You’ was inspired by a disagreement between Paul McCartney and Jane Asher, and was written at her family home in Wimpole Street, London, where McCartney had his own room in which to compose and sleep.
I wrote quite a lot of stuff up in that room actually. ‘I’m Looking Through You’ I seem to remember after an argument with Jane. There were a few of those moments.
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
A number of McCartney’s songs of this time, including ‘We Can Work It Out’ and ‘You Won’t See Me’, were based upon his relationship with Asher.
As is one’s wont in relationships, you will from time to time argue or not see eye to eye on things, and a couple of the songs around this period were that kind of thing. This one I remember particularly as me being disillusioned over her commitment. She went down to the Bristol Old Vic quite a lot around this time. Suffice to say that this one was probably related to that romantic episode and I was seeing through her façade. And realising that it wasn’t quite all that it seemed. I would write it out in a song and then I’ve got rid of the emotion. I don’t hold grudges so that gets rid of that little bit of emotional baggage. I remember specifically this one being about that, getting rid of some emotional baggage. ‘I’m looking through you, and you’re not there!’
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
In his 1968 authorised biography of The Beatles, Hunter Davies recorded McCartney’s thoughts while he and Asher were still together. McCartney alluded to the fact that he found it hard to commit to one person, though acknowledged that his harsh words in song were inspired by hurt.
My whole existence for so long centred around a bachelor life. I didn’t treat women as most people do. I’ve always had a lot around, even when I’ve had a steady girl. My life generally has always been very lax, and not normal.
I knew it was selfish. It caused a few rows. Jane left me once and went off to Bristol to act. I said OK then, leave, I’ll find someone else. It was shattering to be without her.
The Beatles, Hunter Davies
In the studio
The Beatles first attempted to record ‘I’m Looking Through You’ on 24 October 1965. They spent nine hours perfecting the song; onto the rhythm track, recorded in a single take, they overdubbed lead and backing vocals, handclaps, maracas, organ and electric guitar.
This first version was released in 1996 on Anthology 2. Aside from different instrumentation, it lacked the ‘Why, tell me why’ section, was slower than the final version, and contained two bluesy instrumental passages.
The group remade the song on 6 November, recording a faster version in two takes. However, it wasn’t until 10 November that they hit upon the final arrangement used on Rubber Soul.
The Beatles recorded the rhythm track in one take, and later overdubbed vocals and an organ. The latter was played by Ringo Starr, who also created a percussive sound by tapping a box of matches with his fingers.
The song was completed the following day with the addition of vocals and handclaps.
1) drums (Ringo), bass (Paul), acoustic guitar (John), tambourine (George)
2) McCartney’s lead vocal
3) McCartney’s double-tracked vocal with Lennon singing harmony plus handclaps (on laps?)
4) Hammond organ (Ringo) plus Harrison’s “dirty” Casino guitar