It was recorded on 21 and 22 October 1965. "Nowhere Man" is among the very first Beatles songs to be entirely unrelated to romance or love, and marks a notable instance of Lennon's philosophically oriented songwriting. It was released as a single (although not in the United Kingdom) on 21 February 1966, and reached #1 in Australia and Canada and #3 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Lennon, McCartney and George Harrison sing the song in three-part harmony. The song appears in the film Yellow Submarine, where the Beatles sing it about the character Jeremy Hillary Boob after meeting him in the "nowhere land".
Lennon claimed that he wrote the song about himself. He wrote it after racking his brain in desperation for five hours, trying to come up with another song for Rubber Soul. Lennon told Playboy magazine:
- "I'd spent five hours that morning trying to write a song that was meaningful and good, and I finally gave up and lay down. Then 'Nowhere Man' came, words and music, the whole damn thing as I lay down".
McCartney said of the song:
- "That was John after a night out, with dawn coming up. I think at that point, he was a bit...wondering where he was going, and to be truthful so was I. I was starting to worry about him".
The song begins with E (I dominant) chord ("He's a real") and then involves a 5-4-3-2-1 pitch descent between the B (V dominant) chord ("nowhere man") and A (IV subdominant) chord ("sitting in"); but the entrancing twist comes where Am (iv minor) replaces A in the final verse ("nowhere plans") and the simultaneous G# note melody creates a dissonant Am/major 7. The middle eight, which appears three times, seesaws on a G# minor/A major sequence before falling back on an F# minor and leading back to the verse on a B7.
- John Lennon – double-tracked vocal, acoustic rhythm guitar, lead guitar (in the verses)
- Paul McCartney – bass guitar, harmony vocal
- George Harrison – lead guitar (in the solo), harmony vocal
- Ringo Starr – drums
- The Settlers and the Three Good Reasons both recorded the song in 1966.
- In 1967, the Carpenters performed a piano/vocal version in Joe Osborn's garage studio. Richard Carpenter used the original demo to create a version that was released on As Time Goes By in 2001.
- In 1967, Indexi covered this song with the title Jednom smo se svađali.
- A Tiny Tim cover of the song is part of The Beatles' 1968 Christmas record.
- In 1969, Gershon Kingsley recorded a version featuring the Moog synthesiser on the album Music to Moog By.
- In 1976, Jeff Lynne recorded it for the musical documentary All This and World War II.
- In 1981, Stars on 45 covered this song as part of an eight song Beatles medley in "Stars on 45 (song)", which went to #1 in the US.
- In 1988, Greek composer Yanni recorded an instrumental version as a bonus track in the 1988 film Steal The Sky
- Randy Travis recorded a version for the 1995 Beatles' tribute Come Together: America Salutes The Beatles.
- In 1996, Dokken recorded an acoustic version on their One Live Night album.
- Joe Pass released an instrumental version on his album Simplicity / A Sign Of The Times.
- Marky Ramone and the Intruders have a cover on their 1999 album The Answer To Your Problems?.
- The Rutles recorded a parody "Unfinished Words" of this song.
- The Smashing Pumpkins also released a cover of the song in their Live Smashing Pumpkins album series. "'Nowhere Man' is such a beautiful pop song with a groundbreaking, existential lyric," said Billy Corgan. "It lets you see that moment of discovery." 
- Paul Westerberg recorded a version for the soundtrack to I Am Sam released in 2002.
- Low recorded a version featured on the 2005 Beatles' tribute album, This Bird Has Flown - A 40th Anniversary Tribute to the Beatles' Rubber Soul.
- Mortal recorded a version on their album, "Wake". Though the band was an industrial outfit, little was changed from the Beatles' original version.
- A version performed by Chris While appears on the album "Rubber Folk" (2006), a compilation of Beatles' songs performed by various artists.