Written by: John Lennon & Paul McCartney
Released: December 3, 1965
Appears on: Rubber Soul
Lead vocal: John, Paul & George
"Heeeee's a real Nowhere Man, sitting in his nowhere land..."
"Nowhere Man", the only song on Rubber Soul with a three-part harmony, is a milestone. It's the first original Beatles song not about love - at all. John wrote the song about himself. The 'Nowhere Man' is someone who has no outside connection to the world and spends his time "making nowhere plans for nobody". John came up with the idea after spending hours trying to come up with an idea and just when he was about to give up, "Nowhere Man" popped into his head.
I like the unique sound of the guitar on the song. It's really a perfect pop exercise where not only is the harmony perfect, but the technical wizardry is amazing. Listen to the way George's guitar resonates on the speaker, especially during his blistering solo.
The song is so far ahead of its time that it feels perfectly at home among the psychedelic songs from 1967. So, it's no wonder that it is the oldest song used in Yellow Submarine. ("Think For Yourself" is quoted with a short excerpt, but "Nowhere Man" is used from start to finish.) The 'nowhere man' was visualized as a short, plump character, whose 'nowhere land' was literally nothing but a white void. He provides probably some of the funniest moments in the film and ends up playing a huge part in the finale. (I'm particularly fond of the sequence where he gives the Beatles his business cards and they all have different names.)
Since the song is an obvious rock/pop track, it went against Capitol's move of turning Rubber Soul into a folk album. They took the song off the record and held it for a single release, with "What Goes On" as the flip side. The single, which was not released until February, 1966, reached #3 on Billboard. In July, 1966, Parlophone issued it as the title track of the only EP for Rubber Soul. This was the last EP until Magical Mystery Tour.
"Nowhere Man" was selected as the side four opener on 1962-1966 and is also included on The Beatles' Ballads. Finally, the song is also on the remixed Yellow Submarine Songtrack, although the version is not significantly different, since it was already remixed by George Martin in 1987 for Rubber Soul's CD release.
Finally, "Nowhere Man" was also one of the few Rubber Soul songs that were taken out on the road. Even by late-1965, it was obvious that it was impossible to perform their new material on the road as well as they could do the old stuff. By 1966, they weren't even trying and not a single song from Revolver was performed live. Here's one attempt at "Nowhere Man" live, but it's obvious that it was impossible for them to do it as well as the record caught it.