Behind The Songs – Blog 7

How Do You Sleep – John Lennon

This song which appeared on John Lennon’s “Imagine” album (released 1971) marked the lowest  point in the disintegrating relationship between John Lennon and Paul McCartney which had begun to unravel in the final years of The Beatles. As early as the death of manager Brian Epstein (August 1967) tensions arose within the band as to who would take Epstein’s role. McCartney wanted future father-in-law Lee Eastman while the other three Beatles plumped for businessman Allan Klein. McCartney lost out and according to Lennon “sulked for two years” before ending the group by taking Harrison, Starr and Lennon to London’s High Court of Justice. According to Lennon the song was in response to a number to a number of slights he perceived against himself and wife Yoko Ono on McCartney’s album ‘Ram’. Lennon’s response was brutal. The lyrics on the song were a fairly blatant shot at how little Lennon regarded McCartney’s music (‘the only thing you done was yesterday’) and (‘the sound you make is muzak to my ears’) are two examples of this. George Harrison , still upset at McCartney himself, accepted Lennon’s offer to play slide guitar on the song. Ringo Starr turned up to the session as well but was reportedly upset at the viciousness of the song and told Lennon he’d gone too far. The rock press were generally disappointed with the attack on McCartney. Ben Gerson, writing for Rolling Stone magazine, commented that the song was “horrible and indefensible” and “lay waste to McCartney’s character, family and career”. However, Roy Hollingworth, writing in ‘Melody Maker’ stated the song was one of the best tracks on the album and applauded Lennon for his honesty. By the mid-seventies McCartney and Lennon had repaired their fractured relationship and Lennon admitted the song was probably ‘a bit harsh’. Many rock critics have surmised that McCartney finally responded to ‘How Do You Sleep’ with his track ‘Let Me Roll It’ off the ‘Band On The Run’ album although McCartney has never spoken about it.

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