‘I’m So Tired’ was written by John Lennon three weeks into his stay in Rishikesh, India, where The Beatles had gone to study meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Free from drink and drugs for the first time in years, he found his thoughts abnormally focused, even if this meant suffering from temporary insomnia.
The song recounts Lennon’s difficulty in sleeping after meditation had absorbed his thoughts throughout much of the day. It also recounts his burgeoning obsessions with Yoko Ono (“My mind is set on you”) who remained in England while Lennon flew to India with his wife Cynthia.
‘I’m So Tired’ was me, in India again. I couldn’t sleep, I’m meditating all day and couldn’t sleep at night. The story is that. One of my favorite tracks. I just like the sound of it, and I sing it well.
All We Are Saying, David Sheff
The song is based loosely around a cyclical doo-wop chord sequence that recurs in a number of Lennon’s songs, notably ‘This Boy’, ‘Yes It Is’, and ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’. Indeed, the demo of ‘I’m So Tired’, recorded in May 1968 at George Harrison’s Esher bungalow, features a section similar to the spoken word part in ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’:
When I hold you in your [sic] arms
When you show each one of your charms
I wonder should I get up
And go to the funny farm, no no no
You say I’m putting you on…
The closing words of the studio recording, muttered by Lennon, became part of the Paul Is Dead myth in 1969. Lennon says “Monsieur, monsieur, monsieur, how about another one?” It was, however, interpreted by some as “Paul is dead, man, miss him, miss him, miss him” when played backwards. Needless to say, this was not The Beatles’ intention.
‘I’m So Tired’ is very much John’s comment to the world, and it had that very special line, ‘And curse Sir Walter Raleigh, he was such a stupid get.’ That’s a classic line and it’s so John that there’s no doubt that he wrote it. I think it’s 100 per cent John. Being tired was one of his themes; he wrote ‘I’m Only Sleeping’. I think we were all pretty tired but he chose to write about it.
In the studio
The Beatles began and completed ‘I’m So Tired’ on 8 October 1968, during a lengthy session in which they also recorded ‘The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill’. The group began recording at 4pm and finished the following morning at 8am.
‘I’m So Tired’ was the first song to be taped, and was completed in 14 takes. Although it wasn’t a complicated recording, it did use all eight of EMI’s available tracks.
Although the instruments were recorded on separate tracks, The Beatles played the song live, with lead vocals from Lennon on every take. They later added a few overdubs, including extra vocals from John Lennon and Paul McCartney, more drums and guitar, electric piano and organ.
Anthology 3 contains an especially-created version of ‘I’m So Tired’, made up of edits from takes three, six and nine.