During The Beatles’ US tour in the summer of 1965, they rented a house in Los Angeles’ Mulholland Drive. On 24 August they played host to Roger McGuinn and David Crosby of The Byrds, and the two parties, apart from Paul McCartney, spent the day tripping on LSD.
The actor Peter Fonda arrived at the house, also on acid. He attempted to comfort Harrison, who thought he was dying.
I told him there was nothing to be afraid of and that all he needed to do was relax. I said that I knew what it was like to be dead because when I was 10 years old I’d accidentally shot myself in the stomach and my heart stopped beating three times while I was on the operating table because I’d lost so much blood.
John was passing at the time and heard me saying ‘I know what it’s like to be dead’. He looked at me and said, ‘You’re making me feel like I’ve never been born. Who put all that shit in your head?’
Lennon recounted the incident in 1980 in one of his final interviews, speaking to a journalist from Playboy magazine.
It’s an interesting track. The guitars are great on it. That was written after an acid trip in LA during a break in The Beatles’ tour where we were having fun with The Byrds and lots of girls. Some from Playboy, I believe. Peter Fonda came in when we were on acid and he kept coming up to me and sitting next to me and whispering, ‘I know what it’s like to be dead.’
He was describing an acid trip he’d been on. We didn’t want to hear about that! We were on an acid trip and the sun was shining and the girls were dancing and the whole thing was beautiful and Sixties, and this guy – who I really didn’t know; he hadn’t made Easy Rider or anything – kept coming over, wearing shades, saying, ‘I know what it’s like to be dead,’ and we kept leaving him because he was so boring! And I used it for the song, but I changed it to ‘she’ instead of ‘he’. It was scary. You know, a guy… when you’re flying high and [whispers] ‘I know what it’s like to be dead, man.’ I remembered the incident. Don’t tell me about it! I don’t want to know what it’s like to be dead!
All We Are Saying, David Sheff
Switching between 4/4 and 3/4 time signatures, ‘She Said She Said’ was written by Lennon with some help from Harrison.
I was at his house one day – this is the mid-Sixties – and he was struggling with some tunes. He had loads of bits, maybe three songs, that were unfinished, and I made suggestions and helped him to work them together so that they became one finished song, ‘She Said She Said’. The middle part of that record is a different song.
In the studio
‘She Said She Said’ was recorded when The Beatles realised they were one song short for the Revolver album. In a hectic nine hour session on 21 June 1966, during which the majority of the album’s mono and stereo mixes were also done, they rehearsed the song more than 25 times and then recorded three takes of the rhythm track.
To the last of these were added John Lennon’s lead vocals, and backing vocals from Lennon and George Harrison. Extra guitar and Lennon’s Hammond organ track were then overdubbed, and ‘She Said She Said’ was complete.
Although he performed on the rhythm track, Paul McCartney walked out of the session following an argument, prior to the song’s completion.
John brought it in pretty much finished, I think. I’m not sure but I think it was one of the only Beatle records I never played on. I think we’d had a barney or something and I said, ‘Oh, fuck you!’ and they said, ‘Well, we’ll do it.’ I think George played bass.
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
Contrary to McCartney’s claim, Harrison did not perform bass guitar, but additional bass notes played on an organ were added after McCartney’s departure. The notes appear from 1:55 in the final recording.
A contemporary recording sheet from EMI Studios also states that a piano was also added to the song, although none appears on the multitrack tapes.
The recording of ‘She Said She Said’ was completed by 4am on 22 June 1966. Mono and stereo mixes were made that evening.