Today The Beatles put the finishing touches on “I’m Only Sleeping,” creating reduction mixes of previous parts and adding additional vocals on the newly available tracks.

Meanwhile, back in 2016, I’ve just stumbled across a promising new resource: The terribly titled but very well-written The Beatles: A Hard Day’s Write — The Stories Behind Every Song by Steve Turner. His entry on “I’m Only Sleeping” is worth quoting at length:

John loved his bed. When he wasn’t sleeping in it, he would be lying on it propped up by pillows writing or watching television. “I’m Only Sleeping” celebrated the bed and its value as a place for contemplation. It also prefigured “Watching the Wheels” on the Double Fantasy album. The more worrying truth, however, was that John was losing his grip on the Beatles, spending too much time either in bed or lazing around Kenwood. This indolent behavior allowed Paul to grab the reins, something that was easier for him to do anyway because of his lack of family ties and the proximity to Abbey Road of his newly purchased London home.

It was the month before this recording that the Evening Standard ran Maureen Cleave’s famous interview with John where he declared that “We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first — rock’n’roll or Christianity.” In the story Cleave noted: “He can sleep almost indefinitely, is probably the laziest person in England. ‘Physically lazy,’ he said. ‘I don’t mind writing or reading or watching or speaking, but sex is the only physical thing I can be bothered with any more.’ ”

By starting this blog in April I just barely missed the whole “bigger than Jesus” kerfluffle, though its repercussions went on for awhile. I don’t doubt that on this very day in 1966 someone somewhere in this country was having a Beatles bonfire. Ultimately the whole thing probably worked in The Beatles’ favor; not only did it help them shed their fresh-faced good-boy image, lending them a bit of Stones-style edge, but burning all those records had to be good for business. I wonder how many of the people whose Beatle records got torched ended up replacing them, either with another record or with a CD reissue many years later. Even as we speak one of them may be downloading Rubber Soul from iTunes.

I also wonder what you’d have to say to get that kind of reaction from people today. It may not be possible; whatever there is to say, Kanye has probably already said it, and his career continues unabated. Of course MP3s are hard to burn, at least in the original sense of the word. Does the return of vinyl mean that we’ll someday see another musical bonfire? Probably not, records are too expensive now.

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