Polythene Pam

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Album This song officially appears on the Abbey Road LP.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1969

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The Beatles in India

From mid-February to March 1968

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Song facts

From Wikipedia:

“Polythene Pam” is a song by the British rock band the Beatles from their 1969 album Abbey Road. Written by John Lennon and credited to Lennon–McCartney, it is the fourth song of the album’s climactic side-two medley. The Beatles recorded the track in July 1969 as a continuous piece with “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window“, which follows it in the medley.

Background and composition

Lennon wrote “Polythene Pam” during the Beatles’ 1968 stay in India. While not formally recorded during the sessions for The Beatles (also known as “the White Album”), the song was recorded as a demo at George Harrison’s Kinfauns home before the sessions. The demo was later released on Anthology 3 and the 2018 super-deluxe edition of The Beatles. Lennon dismissed the song, along with “Mean Mr. Mustard“, in The Beatles Anthology as “a bit of crap I wrote in India”.

In 1980, Lennon said about “Polythene Pam”: “That was me, remembering a little event with a woman in Jersey, and a man who was England’s answer to Allen Ginsberg … I met him when we were on tour and he took me back to his apartment and I had a girl and he had one he wanted me to meet. He said she dressed up in polythene, which she did. She didn’t wear jack boots and kilts, I just sort of elaborated. Perverted sex in a polythene bag. Just looking for something to write about.” The song is sung in a very strong Liverpudlian “Scouse” accent. He also described the inspiration for the song as a “mythical Liverpool scrubber dressed in her jackboots and kilt”.

Polythene is the British variant of the word polyethylene, a plastic material. The name ‘Polythene Pam’ came from the nickname of an early Beatles fan from the Cavern Club days, named Pat Hodgett (now Dawson), who would often eat polythene. She became known as “Polythene Pat”. She said in an interview, “I used to eat polythene all the time. I’d tie it in knots and then eat it. Sometimes I even used to burn it and then eat it when it got cold.”

Placement on Abbey Road

On the album Abbey Road, the song is linked with the previous song “Mean Mr. Mustard” musically, as the two run together without pause. The two songs are also linked narratively, since “Mean Mr. Mustard” mentions that the title character Mustard has a sister named Pam. Originally, the line “his sister Pam …” in the song was “his sister Shirley …”, but Lennon would change the line to contribute to the continuity of the Abbey Road side two medley. The song “Her Majesty” was originally set between “Mean Mr. Mustard” and “Polythene Pam”. “Polythene Pam” then segues into the following song, “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window“.

The basic track for “Polythene Pam” and “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window” was recorded at EMI Studios in London on 25 July. The line-up was Lennon on acoustic 12-string guitar, Harrison on lead guitar, Paul McCartney on bass, and Ringo Starr on drums. Lennon sang an off-mike guide vocal on his song, while McCartney did the same on “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window”. During the guitar solo on “Polythene Pam”, Lennon shouted out words of encouragement (“Fab! That’s great! Real good, that. Real good …”), some of which appears on the finished recording. In his description of the song, author Ian MacDonald likens Lennon’s “massive” opening acoustic guitar chords to the Who’s “Pinball Wizard”, which was a single at the time.

The Beatles carried out overdubs on the track on 28 July, although many of these contributions, such as piano and electric piano, were subsequently cut. Recording was completed on 30 July, when the final vocal, guitar and percussion overdubs were taped. These included a second lead guitar part by Harrison, playing the descending notes (accompanying Lennon’s spoken “Listen to that now. Oh, look out! Here she…”) into the start of “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window”. […]

From The Usenet Guide to Beatles Recording Variations:

[a] stereo 14 Aug 1969. crossfaded 14 Aug 1969.
UK: Apple PCS 7088 Abbey Road 1969.
US: Apple SO-383 Abbey Road 1969.
CD: EMI CDP 7 46446 2 Abbey Road 1987.

[Polythene Pam / She Came In Through The Bathroom Window] were recorded straight through. The crossfade joins this to the preceding song, Sun King / Mean Mr Mustard.

Last updated on May 14, 2021

Lyrics

Well you should see Polythene Pam
She's so good-looking but she looks like a man
Well you should see her in drag dressed in her polythene bag
Yes you should see Polythene Pam
Yeah, yeah, yeah

Get a dose of her in jackboots and kilt
She's killer-diller when she's dressed to the hilt
She's the kind of a girl that makes the "News of the World"
Yes you could say she was attractively built
Yeah, yeah, yeah

Officially appears on


Abbey Road

LP • Released in 1969

1:13 • Studio versionA • Stereo

Paul McCartney :
Backing vocals, Bass, Electric piano, Lead guitar, Piano
Ringo Starr :
Cowbell, Drums, Maracas, Tambourine
John Lennon :
12-string acoustic guitar, Handclaps, Rhythm guitar, Vocals
George Harrison :
Backing vocals, Lead guitar
George Martin :
Producer
Geoff Emerick :
Recording engineer
Phil McDonald :
Recording engineer

Session Recording:
Recording & overdubs
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Recording:
Overdubs
Studio :
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Session Recording:
Overdubs & mixing
Studio :
EMI Studios, Abbey Road


Anthology 3

Official album • Released in 1996

1:26 • DemoB • Mono • John only.

Session Recording:
Late May 1968
Studio :
George Harrison's Home, Kinfauns, Esher, Surrey, UK


Abbey Road (Stereo - 2009 remaster)

Official album • Released in 2009

1:13 • Studio versionA2009 • Stereo • 2009 stereo remaster

Paul McCartney :
Backing vocals, Bass, Electric piano, Lead guitar, Piano
Ringo Starr :
Cowbell, Drums, Maracas, Tambourine
John Lennon :
12-string acoustic guitar, Handclaps, Rhythm guitar, Vocals
George Harrison :
Backing vocals, Lead guitar
George Martin :
Producer
Geoff Emerick :
Recording engineer
Phil McDonald :
Recording engineer
Guy Massey :
Remastering
Steve Rooke :
Remastering
Allan Rouse :
Project co-ordinator

Session Recording:
Recording & overdubs
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Recording:
Overdubs
Studio :
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Session Recording:
Overdubs & mixing
Studio :
EMI Studios, Abbey Road


Anthology 3 (2016 remaster)

Official album • Released in 2016

1:26 • DemoB2016 • Mono • John only.

Session Recording:
Late May 1968
Studio :
George Harrison's Home, Kinfauns, Esher, Surrey, UK


The Beatles (2018)

Official album • Released in 2018

1:26 • Demo • Esher Demo

Session Recording:
Late May 1968
Studio :
George Harrison's Home, Kinfauns, Esher, Surrey, UK


Abbey Road (2019)

Official album • Released in 2019

1:13 • Studio versionC • Stereo • 2019 Stereo Mix

Paul McCartney :
Backing vocals, Bass, Electric piano, Lead guitar, Piano
Ringo Starr :
Cowbell, Drums, Maracas, Tambourine
John Lennon :
12-string acoustic guitar, Handclaps, Rhythm guitar, Vocals
George Harrison :
Backing vocals, Lead guitar
George Martin :
Producer
Geoff Emerick :
Recording engineer
Giles Martin :
Producer
Phil McDonald :
Recording engineer
Sam Okell :
Mix engineer

Session Recording:
Recording & overdubs
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Recording:
Overdubs
Studio :
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Session Recording:
Overdubs & mixing
Studio :
EMI Studios, Abbey Road


Abbey Road (2019)

Official album • Released in 2019

1:39 • Alternate take • Take 27

Giles Martin :
Producer
Sam Okell :
Mix engineer

Bootlegs


Complete Acetate Collection 1961-1970

Unofficial album

4:16 • Studio version • Mean Mr Mustard--Bathroom window


White Album Sessions Volume 1

Unofficial album

1:25 • Studio version


Complete Home Recordings 1968

Unofficial album • Released in 2002

1:26 • Demo


A/B Road Complete Get Back Sessions - Jan 24th, 1969 - 1 & 2

Unofficial album • Released in 2004

2:09 • Rehearsal • Jan.24 - D2-19 - Polythene Pam 24.44

Session Recording:
Jan 24, 1969
Studio :
Apple Studios, 3 Savile Row, London


Uncovered! 45 tracks

Unofficial album • Released in 2012

1:23 • Studio version • John's Guitar And Ringo's Drums, Full Ending

Live performances

Paul McCartney has never played this song in concert.

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