You Won’t See Me

Rubber Soul album artworkWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 11 November 1965
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith

Released: 3 December 1965 (UK), 6 December 1965 (US)

Paul McCartney: vocals, bass, piano
John Lennon: backing vocals
George Harrison: backing vocals, rhythm guitar, tambourine
Ringo Starr: drums
Mal Evans: Hammond organ

Available on:
Rubber Soul

Written by Paul McCartney about his then-faltering relationship with Jane Asher, You Won't See Me was recorded during The Beatles' last session for the Rubber Soul album.

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It was written at her parents' house in London's Wimpole Street, while Asher had temporarily moved away from McCartney to perform in an adaptation of Great Expectations at the Old Vic theatre in Bristol. The song recounts McCartney's frustration and vulnerability at being unable to contact her.

At 3'23", You Won't See Me was The Beatles' longest recording to date. The song was written by McCartney alone, and was inspired by the Tamla Motown sound.

This was written around two little notes, a very slim phrase, a two-note progression that I had very high on the first two strings of the guitar: the E and the B strings. I had it high up on the high E position, and I just let the note on the B string descend a semitone at a time, and kept the top note the same, and against that I was playing a descending chromatic scale. Then I wrote the tune for You Won't See Me against it...

To me it was very Motown-flavoured. It's got a James Jamerson feel. He was the Motown bass player, he was fabulous, the guy who did all those great melodic bass lines. It was him, me and Brian Wilson who were doing melodic bass lines at that time, all from completely different angles, LA, Detroit and London, all picking up on what each other did.

Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

In the studio

The Beatles took part in a 13-hour session to finish Rubber Soul, beginning at 6pm on 11 November 1965 and ending at 7am the following morning.

The group recorded two takes of the rhythm track and a number of overdubs. These included a Hammond organ part played by The Beatles' assistant Mal Evans, whose contribution was limited to a single note held throughout the final verse.

The Beatles also recorded Girl during the same session, and completed the songs Wait and I'm Looking Through You by adding additional overdubs to existing rhythm tracks.

33 responses on “You Won’t See Me

  1. SD

    There is no lead guitar. John played the rhythm guitar during the backing recording, while George played tambourine. Ringo played drums on the backing track and overdubbed the hi-hat part.

    1. Kent

      How do you know John played the guitar part instead of George? Not that it really is that important in the scheme of things as, really, the three singers on this all contributed to the overall sound of the song and also it is impressive that they reportedly did this in only a couple of takes as they were under a deadline to finish the album.

  2. G. McGregor

    Underrated. The bass rolls along so well. Piano is great but my fave part is the backing vocals.
    Paul played this live recently. The Rock Band game dreamscape is very cool too. Very cool for a lot of songs actually.

  3. Von Bontee

    Dig those extra-hoarse “la la la” backing vocals! No doubt they would have redone those if they weren’t so desperate for time. Me, I think they’re just fine the way they are.

  4. william

    This is one of those Beatles gems that were not often heard on the radio. This song also didn’t make it to the Red Album that educated so many of us who grew up in the 70’s as to what we had missed.

    I first heard it in a college rathskeller when I was 16 and it basically blew me away with its harmonies. The true measure of a great band is often how good are the songs that they never play on the radio or put on compilation albums. Like Sway by the Stones, this is a great, great tune that many people don’t know, in spite of being on Rubber Soul and Sway’s being on Sticky Fingers.

    I went right out to buy Rubber Soul, after hearing this cut, but then I couldn’t decide which version to buy, the American version, or the British version, but that is a whole different story.

  5. james d. jones

    ok folks just casually listening to this track from different sources and I have a question for all of you. At the 2:32 in the song there is something in the background most likely John saying something – talking. Anyone know about this? I heard this for the very 1st time today through headphones. I love the track but was taken back by this odd little something. Anyone else?

  6. James Ferrell

    Nice song. Ian MacDonald knocks it because the background vocals are so similar to those on Nowhere Man, the track that precedes it, but as an American listening to the Capitol version of RS this never bothered me. The bass does sound Jameson-inspired, but even if this song was intended to be Motown-like, the result is much more Beatles-65 than Detroit-65.

  7. Dr. John McMaster

    John Lennon always blurted nonsense and things in the background of recordings, like someone who had Tourette’s syndrome. The sound engineers would try to drown his voice or comment out for the final record but would not always fully accomplish this. He also did this in live performances and acted like he was crippled as if it was a joke. I think it was a nervous reaction that John did these things. So I think it would be John in the background blurting out something.

  8. Dr. John McMaster

    This is another McCartney Gem, he can always belt it out like when he sings The night before, Got to get you into my life, All my loving, Helter Skelter and only McCartney can enter a Beatles song precisely a little late and uses his voice to extend the sound to the skies like with ticket to ride, I’m a loser, I Me Mine, Something, Eight days a week, She Loves you, and especially I want to hold your hand. He has an amazing ability to sing solo and add so much to the other songs just by singing in harmony. I have to say he is the most talented of all the Beatles even though they are/were all great. And I just seen him in concert and the songs he sang live sounded better than on the albums that he made with The Beatles and with Wings or Solo. It is just amazing that a man at his age is still out there belting them out. Truly inspirational to see him live and in the flesh

  9. Garret

    Thanks. I thought it was Paul too. Curious that it’s so loud and prominent that George Martin or one of the engineers wouldn’t have thought to redo the vocals on it. Maybe it’s just loud and prominent with CDs and good earphones though. 😉

  10. oldfartWalt

    I loved the hoarse “la-la’s” too, Kind of the gave the song a tired, weary sad feeling.
    I guess it wasn’t intentional, though, as had been mentioned…

  11. ceebee

    I’d sure love to hear the other take of the backing track. YWSM is one of those Beatle cuts of which I don’t think I’ve ever heard any outtake material at all.

  12. Silly Girl

    This song is mind-blowingly awesome.
    A couple of emphatic cymbal crashes to catch your attention, a few bass notes that carefully ratchet up the anticipation, and it bursts into a fiercely joyous cascade of fluid melody and descending harmony that mesh together in the most perfectly Beatleful way. And then the top of my head floats up to the ceiling.
    (Part of a brief, yet-to-be-written essay on why I jump up and down every time I hear “You Won’t See Me”)

  13. Michael

    I always felt this was one of the very, very few repetitive moments with the Beatles, when “You won’t see me” and “Nowhere man” both had the “Uuuh lalalas”, with this one clearly losing the comparison.

    But check out Paul’s voice on the second bridge, his “I wouldn’t mind” showing huge signs of the fantastic rock singer he was about to become (or already were)!

    How anyone ever dared to reduce him to being the “sweet” one is beyond me…

  14. Graham Paterson

    Wonderful Paul McCartney song. Great lyrics and melody. Obviously about his relationship with Jane Asher. Off of course the brilliant” Rubber Soul” album.

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