You Won't See Me

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"You Won't See Me"
Cover of the Northern Songs sheet music (licensed to Sonora Musikförlag)
Song by the Beatles
from the album Rubber Soul
Released3 December 1965
Recorded11 November 1965
StudioEMI, London
  • 3:22 (stereo version)
  • 3:25 (mono version)
Producer(s)George Martin

"You Won't See Me" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles from their 1965 album Rubber Soul. It was written by Paul McCartney and credited to Lennon–McCartney. As with songs such as "We Can Work It Out" and "I'm Looking Through You" from the same period, the lyrics address McCartney's troubled relationship with Jane Asher and her desire to pursue her career as a stage and film actress. The Beatles recorded the song during what author Mark Lewisohn describes as a "marathon" final recording session for Rubber Soul,[2] to ensure the album's pre-Christmas release.

Canadian pop singer Anne Murray covered "You Won't See Me" in 1974. Her version was a top ten hit in both her native country and the United States. The track additionally appeared on her album Love Song.

Background and inspiration[edit]

McCartney wrote the song in the basement music room at 57 Wimpole Street (pictured in 2018), the Asher family's home in central London.

"You Won't See Me" is about a crisis in McCartney's relationship with his then-girlfriend, Jane Asher. Asher, who was almost becoming 20, was refusing to comply with McCartney's wishes that she stay at home and put his interests first.[3] In late 1965, while the Beatles were recording the album Rubber Soul in London, she had accepted an offer to appear in a stage production at the Bristol Old Vic theatre.[4] After an argument, they briefly ended their relationship. When he then attempted to telephone her in Bristol, Asher rejected him by not returning his calls.[5] McCartney later said that it was "shattering to be without her".[5]

Since 1963, McCartney lived on the Asher family home at Wimpole Street in central London. He recalled writing the song in the family music room, in the basement of the house. His composition originated from "a two-note progression that I had very high on the first two strings of the guitar: the E and B strings", which he developed by playing descending semitones on the B string while letting the top string ring out. He described the song as "very Motown-flavoured" with a "James Jamerson feel".[6] He drew musical inspiration for the composition from Four Tops' UK hit single "It's the Same Old Song" (1965).[7]

During this period, McCartney also wrote "We Can Work It Out" and "I'm Looking Through You" as commentaries on his and Asher's relationship.[8][9] The more biting tone of his lyrics marked a change from his typical love songs; in author Howard Sounes' interpretation, "You Won't See Me" presents McCartney as "bitter" and "the jealous boyfriend".[10] McCartney later said of the band's approach to songwriting on Rubber Soul: "We'd had our cute period, and now it was time to expand."[11]


The Beatles recorded "You Won't See Me" during the last day of recording for Rubber Soul – an all-night session that started at 6 pm on 11 November 1965.[12] The deadline for completing the album was up, and the band needed to record three songs that night, in addition to finishing work on "I'm Looking Through You".[2] As a result, they cut the song in only two takes.[13] At 3:22, it was the longest track the Beatles had recorded up until that point.[14] The fadeout is slightly longer on the mono mix.[15]

McCartney played piano on the basic track and then overdubbed his bass part. The tempo gradually slows down throughout the song, a point that music journalist Robert Fontenot attributes to McCartney leading the performance on piano, rather than Ringo Starr's timekeeping abilities on the drums.[16] In author Jonathan Gould's description of the song, the tempo appears to "drag" due to McCartney's "hyperactive Motown-style bass line".[17] Mal Evans, one of the Beatles' roadies, is credited on the album sleeve as having played Hammond organ.[14] His contribution consists solely of an A note held throughout the final verse[15] and the coda.[7] Gould also comments on the effect achieved by John Lennon and George Harrison's wordless backing vocals over the verses, saying that their voices represent "a pair of deaf ears" by "embodying the girl's indifference" to McCartney's complaints.[18] Starr augmented his drum part with a separate hi-hat overdub, adding rhythmic accents throughout the song.[7]

Release and reception[edit]

Rubber Soul was released on 3 December 1965 on EMI's Parlophone record label.[19] "You Won't See Me" was sequenced as the third track,[20] between Lennon's "Norwegian Wood" and "Nowhere Man".[21] While the album was an immediate commercial success,[20] some reviewers in the UK were unprepared for the artistic progression the Beatles had made in their musical arrangements and as lyricists.[22][23]

In his review for Record Mirror, Richard Green wrote: "It is possible to say that Lennon and McCartney are the great songwriting team of the day and that Beatles performances are spot-on, but this LP cannot support that statement." He included "You Won't See Me" among the tracks that were "dull and ordinary" with "none of the old Beatles excitement and compulsiveness about them".[24] Melody Maker said that the band's sound had become "a little subdued" and that songs such as "You Won't See Me" and "Nowhere Man" "almost get monotonous – an un-Beatle-like feature if ever there was one".[22] By contrast, Nikki Wine (aka Eden) of KRLA Beat found the album "unbelievably sensational" and described "You Won't See Me" as "One of the greatest arrangements and blending of melodies by the Beatles ... and it has to be one of the best cuts on the disc."[25]

Among more recent appraisals, Tim Riley says that the song's "antagonism can't help being tempered by [McCartney's] melodic suavity, so he winds up sounding like an innocent victim rather than a co-conspirator in a love affair"; similarly, the arrangement and the position of McCartney's vocal in the mix ensure that "the texture becomes more engaging than the emotion."[26] Riley nevertheless admires the complementary aspect of McCartney's bass and piano contributions, adding of Rubber Soul as a whole: "without ever being intrusive, his bass emerges as an irreplaceable part of the overall texture. Because he virtually breathes melody, his bass lines begin to soar with inventive counterpoint to the band ..."[27] Ian MacDonald says the song, like "Nowhere Man", "needed something to lift it" and rues the group's use of the "irritating 'ooh-la-la-la' backing-vocal formula". He concludes that, while it is "redeemed" by McCartney's fluid bass playing, "'You Won't See Me' soon founders under the weight of its own self-pity and expires long before struggling to the end of an unusually protracted fade."[7] In his song review for AllMusic, Richie Unterberger finds the buoyant melody at odds with the dejected lyrics, but he praises the vocal arrangement, particularly "the brilliant interaction of counterpoint melodies" through the addition of Lennon and Harrison's harmonies.[28]


According to Ian MacDonald:[7]

Anne Murray version[edit]

"You Won't See Me"
Single by Anne Murray
from the album Love Song
B-side"He Thinks I Still Care"
ReleasedApril 1974
RecordedJanuary 1974
StudioEastern Sound, Toronto
GenrePop, country
Length4:06 (album version)
3:07 (single edit)
Producer(s)Brian Ahern
Anne Murray singles chronology
"A Love Song"
"You Won't See Me"
"Son of a Rotten Gambler"

In 1974, "You Won't See Me" became a big hit for Anne Murray, reaching number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 1 on the Billboard Easy Listening chart.[29] Lennon is said to have told Murray that her version of "You Won't See Me" was one of his favourite Beatles covers.[30]

Murray later re-recorded the song as a duet with Shelby Lynne as part of her 2007 Duets: Friends & Legends album.[31] A self-confessed Beatles fanatic, Murray covered several other songs of theirs as singles, including "Day Tripper" and "I'm Happy Just to Dance with You". The soulful backing vocals were devised by Murray's backup singer, Diane Brooks, and the bass line was devised by her bass player, Skip Beckwith.[32]

Chart performance[edit]


  1. ^ Decker 2009, p. 80.
  2. ^ a b Lewisohn 2005, p. 68.
  3. ^ Sounes 2010, pp. 138–39.
  4. ^ Kruth 2015, pp. 181–82.
  5. ^ a b Sounes 2010, p. 139.
  6. ^ Everett 2001, p. 332.
  7. ^ a b c d e MacDonald 2005, p. 180.
  8. ^ Sounes 2010, p. 138.
  9. ^ MacDonald 2005, pp. 171, 174.
  10. ^ Sounes 2010, pp. 138, 139.
  11. ^ The Beatles 2000, p. 197.
  12. ^ Winn 2008, p. 375.
  13. ^ "94. 'You Won't See Me'". 100 Greatest Beatles Songs. Rolling Stone. 10 April 2020.
  14. ^ a b Kruth 2015, p. 182.
  15. ^ a b Winn 2008, p. 376.
  16. ^ Fontenot, Robert. "The Beatles Songs: 'You Won't See Me' – The history of this classic Beatles song". Archived from the original on 22 September 2015. Retrieved 8 February 2019.
  17. ^ Gould 2007, p. 298.
  18. ^ Gould 2007, pp. 298–99.
  19. ^ Lewisohn 2005, pp. 69, 200.
  20. ^ a b Lewisohn 2005, p. 69.
  21. ^ Riley 2002, p. xvii.
  22. ^ a b Williams, Richard (2002). "Rubber Soul: Stretching the Boundaries". Mojo Special Limited Edition: 1000 Days That Shook the World (The Psychedelic Beatles – April 1, 1965 to December 26, 1967). London: Emap. p. 40.
  23. ^ Turner 2016, pp. 15–16, 43–45.
  24. ^ Green, Richard (11 December 1965). "The Beatles: Rubber Soul (Parlophone)". Record Mirror. Available at Rock's Backpages (subscription required).
  25. ^ Eden (1 January 1966). "The Lowdown on the British Rubber Soul". KRLA Beat. p. 15.
  26. ^ Riley 2002, pp. 159–60.
  27. ^ Riley 2002, p. 160.
  28. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "The Beatles 'You Won't See Me'". AllMusic. Retrieved 8 February 2019.
  29. ^ Whitburn 2002, p. 176.
  30. ^ Kruth 2015, p. 183.
  31. ^ The Best ... So Far (Media notes). Anne Murray. Capitol Records. 2010. ASIN: B000002TU5.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  32. ^ "Anne Murray Albums".
  33. ^ "Image : RPM Weekly - Library and Archives Canada". 17 July 2013. Retrieved 10 October 2016.
  34. ^ "Image : RPM Weekly - Library and Archives Canada". 17 July 2013. Retrieved 10 October 2016.
  35. ^ "flavour of new zealand - search listener". Retrieved 10 October 2016.
  36. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  37. ^ "Image : RPM Weekly - Library and Archives Canada". 17 July 2013. Retrieved 10 October 2016.
  38. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1974/Top 100 Songs of 1974". Retrieved 10 October 2016.
  39. ^ "Top 100 Year End Charts: 1974". Cashbox Magazine. Retrieved 16 July 2015.


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