Recording "When I'm Sixty Four", "Strawberry Fields Forever"

Wednesday, December 21, 1966 • For The Beatles

Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Mono) LP.
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

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From RollingStone, May 26, 2017:

[…] To flesh out the arrangement [of “When I’m Sixty Four”], Paul asked producer George Martin to arrange a breezy clarinet part. Martin immediately got the musical reference. “‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ was not a send-up but a kind of nostalgic, if ever-so-slightly satirical tribute to his dad,” he explained in 1994. “It is also not really much of a Beatles song, in that the other Beatles didn’t have much to do on it. Paul got someway ’round the lurking schmaltz factor by suggesting we use clarinets on the recording, ‘in a classical way.’ So the main accompaniment is the two clarinets and a bass clarinet, which I scored for him. This classical treatment gave added bite to the song, a formality that pushed it firmly towards satire.

The song itself is perhaps the least complex on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but it does contain one notable instance of studio slight-of-hand. “During the mix, Paul also asked to have the track sped up a great deal – almost a semitone – so that his voice would sound more youthful, like the teenager he was when he originally wrote the song,” writes Emerick. However, McCartney himself disputes this, maintaining it was done to make the track more buoyant. “I think that was just to make it more rooty-tooty; just lift the key because it was starting to sound a little turgid.”

The song was mixed down before the New Year, making it the first track on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band to be completed – though it nearly didn’t make it onto the album. “When I’m Sixty-Four” was provisionally earmarked as a potential B side to either “Strawberry Fields Forever” or “Penny Lane,” which were being produced concurrently. But after a lengthy stretch of no new Beatles releases, and whispers in the press that the band’s bubble had finally burst, Brian Epstein wanted to make a splash with their next single. “Brian was desperate to recover popularity, and so we wanted to make sure that we had a marvelous seller,” explains Martin in the Anthology. “He came to me and said, ‘I must have a really great single. What have you got?’ I said, ‘Well, I’ve got three tracks – and two of them are the best tracks they’ve ever made. We could put the two together and make a smashing single.’ We did, and it was a smashing single – but it was also a dreadful mistake. […]

Last updated on September 16, 2022

Songs recorded


When I'm Sixty-Four

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • SI onto take 4


When I'm Sixty-Four

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 1 from take 4


When I'm Sixty-Four

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 2 from take 4


When I'm Sixty-Four

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 3 from take 4


Strawberry Fields Forever

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • SI onto take 26


Production staff

George Martin:
Geoff Emerick:
Phil McDonald:
Second Engineer

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