Written by: John Lennon (100%)
(credited as Lennon-McCartney)
Recorded: August 14, 1964 (Studio 2, Abbey Road Studios, London, England)
Mixed: August 14, October 26 and November 4, 1964
John Lennon: lead vocal (double-tracked), acoustic rhythm guitar (1964 Gibson J160E), harmonica (Hohner)
Paul McCartney: harmony vocal, bass guitar (1961 Hofner 500/1)
George Harrison: lead guitar (1962 Gretsch 6119 "Tennessean")
Ringo Starr: drums (Ludwig), tambourine
Available on: (CDs in bold)
Beatles For Sale, (UK: Parlophone PMC 1240, PCS 3062; Parlophone CDP 7 46438 2)
Beatles For Sale (EP), (UK: Parlophone GEP 8931)
Beatles '65, (US: Capitol (S)T 2228, Capitol CDP 7243 8 66874 2 5)
There were several influences contributing to the composition of this song, which John wrote some time in the summer of 1964. On the one hand, it was a reaction to the worship the Beatles were already receiving on the world stage, tied to Lennon's own insecurities; added to this was the influence of Bob Dylan, who Lennon had been listening to since at least the winter of 1963.
The final piece in the puzzle was journalist Kenneth Allsop, who met John on March 23, 1964 and told him that he rather wished Lennon's lyrics were as personal as his recently-published first book, In His Own Write, and not always about young romance. A hurt Lennon, determined to prove Allsop wrong, wrote "I'm A Loser" soon after. (The song does deal with a broken relationship on its surface level, however.)
John specifically used the word "clown" in the song after hearing Dylan use it, which he has said he never otherwise would have done. The inspiration for that, assuming John only heard Dylan's recorded output, would have been 1963's "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall."
This song was recorded cleanly, in eight takes, with no rearrangement whatsoever, at the second session for Beatles For Sale, just before work began on their cover of "Mr. Moonlight."
John sings a low G note in this song, the lowest note he could hit (with difficulty). The only other existence in the Beatles canon of John attempting a low G is the last "going down" of "Happiness Is A Warm Gun" (though he does hit it in harmony during the "somebody new" bridge of "Love Me Do").
"I'm A Loser" was considered a candidate for the band's next single, but pulled in favor of "I Feel Fine" after that song was written.