The Paul McCartney Project

When I'm Sixty-Four

Written by Lennon - McCartney

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Song facts

From Wikipedia:

When I’m Sixty-Four” is a song by the Beatles, written by Paul McCartney (credited to Lennon–McCartney) and released in 1967 on their album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Composition

The song is sung by a young man to his lover, and is about his plans of growing old together with her. Although the theme is ageing, it was one of the first songs McCartney wrote, when he was 16. It was on the Beatles playlist in their early days as a song to perform when their amplifiers broke down or the electricity went off. Both George Martin and Mark Lewisohn speculated that McCartney may have thought of the song when recording began for Sgt. Pepper in December 1966 because his father turned 64 earlier that year.

Lennon said of the song, “Paul wrote it in the Cavern days. We just stuck a few more words on it like ‘grandchildren on your knee’ and ‘Vera, Chuck and Dave’ … this was just one that was quite a hit with us.” In his 1980 interview for Playboy he said, “I would never even dream of writing a song like that.

Instrumentation

A clarinet trio (two B-flat clarinets and a bass clarinet) is featured prominently in the song. Scored by Martin, he said they were added at McCartney’s request to “get around the lurking schmaltz factor” by using the clarinets “in a classical way.” In the song’s final verse, the clarinet is played in harmony with McCartney’s vocal. Supporting instruments include the piano, bass, drum set, tubular bells, and electric guitar.

Recording

The song was recorded on 6 December 1966, during one of the first sessions for the as-yet-unnamed album that became Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. There were multiple overdub sessions, including the lead vocal by McCartney on 8 December and backing vocals by McCartney, Lennon, and George Harrison on 20 December. The clarinets were recorded on 21 December.

The song is in the key of D-flat major. Recorded in C major, the master take was sped up to raise the key by one semitone at the insistence of McCartney. Martin remembers that McCartney suggested this change to make his voice sound younger. McCartney says, “I wanted to appear younger, but that was just to make it more rooty-tooty; just lift the key because it was starting to sound turgid.

Release

The song was nearly released on a single as the B-side of either “Strawberry Fields Forever” or “Penny Lane“, but instead it was decided to put out a double-A-sided-disc of those two and include “When I’m Sixty-Four” on the Sgt. Pepper album.

Paul McCartney in "Many Years From Now", by Barry Miles:

I thought it was a good little tune but it was too vaudevillian, so I had to get some cod lines to take the sting out of it, and put the tongue very firmly in cheek.

It’s pretty much my song. I did it in a rooty-tooty variety style… George helped me on a clarinet arrangement. I would specify the sound and I love clarinets so ‘Could we have a clarinet quartet?’ ‘Absolutely.’ I’d give him a fairly good idea of what I wanted and George would score it because I couldn’t do that. He was very helpful to us. Of course, when George Martin was 64 I had to send him a bottle of wine.

From RollingStone, May 26, 2017:

[…] Jim [McCartney] encouraged his sons to learn how to play piano, noting that it would lead to plenty of party invites. McCartney was eager, but Jim refused to pass along his untutored technique. “I would say, ‘Teach us a bit,’ and he would reply, ‘If you want to learn, you’ve got to learn properly,'” McCartney remembers. “It was the old ethic that to learn, you should get a teacher.” But teachers conjured up images of schoolwork, hardly appealing for a young boy. “In the end, I learnt to play by ear, just like him, making it all up.”

Before long he was making up melodies of his own, one of the earliest being “When I’m Sixty-Four,” a jaunty tune that straddled the line between homage and parody. “I’d started fiddling around on my dad’s piano. I wrote ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ on that when I was still 16 – it was all rather tongue-in-cheek – and I never forgot it. I wrote that tune vaguely thinking it could come in handy in a musical comedy or something.” Largely written before Presley and the rest of the rock brigade had fully conquered British shores, it’s a fascinating look at McCartney’s early aspirations. “When I started songwriting, it wasn’t to write rock & roll. It was to write for Sinatra. It was to write cabaret,” he says in a 1992 episode of The South Bank Show.

The song stuck around, becoming a jokey party piece in the Beatles’ early repertoire when they played Liverpool’s Cavern Club. John Lennon, rarely one to openly embrace the sentimental, shared fond memories of the tune to Hunter Davies. “It was just one of those ones that he’d had, that we’ve all got, really; half a song. And this was just one that was quite a hit with us. We used to do them when amps broke down, just sing it on the piano.” The Beatles’ former drummer, Pete Best, has also recalled Paul launching into the song during onstage power failures, giving authenticity to the line, “I could be handy mending a fuse when your lights have gone.”

“When I’m Sixty-Four” seemed doomed to wallow in obscurity until the fall of 1966. Jim had turned 64 that July, but more likely it was the recent spate of Twenties throwback groups – the New Vaudeville Band, the Temperance Seven and the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band among them – that made Paul reconsider his primitive composition. “I thought it was a good little tune but it was too Vaudevillian, so I had to get some cod lines to take the sting out of it, and put the tongue very firmly in cheek,” he told Miles “I did it in a rooty-tooty variety style.” In spite of, or perhaps because of, its age, it seemed to fit the psychedelic variety show McCartney had been conceptualizing for the next Beatles album. […]

From The Usenet Guide to Beatles Recording Variations:

  • [a] mono 30 Dec 1966.
    UK: Parlophone PMC 7026 Sgt Pepper 1967.
    US: Capitol MAS 3653 Sgt Pepper 1967.
  • [b] stereo 17 Apr 1967.
    UK: Parlophone PCS 7026 Sgt Pepper 1967.
    US: Capitol SMAS 3653 Sgt Pepper 1967.
    CD: EMI CDP 7 46442 2 Sgt Pepper 1987.

The tape was speeded up when mixed.

Last updated on June 4, 2017

Lyrics

When I get older losing my hair
Many years from now
Will you still be sending me a valentine
Birthday greetings, bottle of wine?

If I'd been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door?
Will you still need me
Will you still feed me
When I'm sixty-four?

You'll be older too
And if you say the word
I could stay with you

I could be handy mending a fuse
When your lights have gone
You can knit a sweater by the fireside
Sunday mornings, go for a ride

Doing the garden, digging the weeds
Who could ask for more?
Will you still need me
Will you still feed me
When I'm sixty-four?

Every summer we can rent a cottage on the
Isle of Wight, if it's not too dear
We shall scrimp and save
Grandchildren on your knee
Vera, Chuck, and Dave

Send me a postcard, drop me a line
Stating point of view
Indicate precisely what you mean to say
Yours sincerely, wasting away

Give me your answer, fill in a form
Mine forever more
Will you still need me
Will you still feed me
When I'm sixty-four?
Hoo!

Officially appears on


Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Mono)

Official album • Released in 1967

2:38 • Studio versionA • Mono

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Piano, Vocals
Ringo Starr:
Chimes, Drums
John Lennon:
Backing vocals, Guitar
George Harrison:
Backing vocals
George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer
Robert Burns:
Clarinet
Henry MacKenzie:
Clarinet
Frank Reidy:
Clarinet

Session Recording:
Dec 06, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
8,20,21 Dec 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Dec 30, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Stereo)

Official album • Released in 1967

2:38 • Studio versionB • Stereo

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Piano, Vocals
Ringo Starr:
Chimes, Drums
John Lennon:
Backing vocals, Guitar
George Harrison:
Backing vocals
George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer
Robert Burns:
Clarinet
Henry MacKenzie:
Clarinet
Frank Reidy:
Clarinet

Session Recording:
Dec 06, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
8,20,21 Dec 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Apr 17, 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Yellow Submarine Songtrack

Official album • Released in 1999

2:37 • Studio version


Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (2017)

Official album • Released in 2017

2:40 • Studio version


Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (2017)

Official album • Released in 2017

Studio version • Take 2. Starts with a "Take Two" announcement and some warm up but the rest is just the released take (minus overdubs), so this is not actual Take 2 (Takes 1 and 2 were instrumental). This is Take 2 Vocal Overdub (the same as the released version, Giles could have use a different vocal take but he didn’t) recorded two days later.


Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (2017)

Official album • Released in 2017

2:40 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Piano, Vocals
Ringo Starr:
Chimes, Drums
John Lennon:
Backing vocals, Guitar
George Harrison:
Backing vocals
George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer
Robert Burns:
Clarinet
Henry MacKenzie:
Clarinet
Frank Reidy:
Clarinet

Session Recording:
Dec 06, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
8,20,21 Dec 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Dec 30, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Bootlegs


Sgt. Pepper's Sessions

Unofficial album

2:46 • Alternate take • RS From Takes 2 and 4 stereo V1


Sgt. Pepper's Sessions

Unofficial album

0:30 • Alternate take • Unknown Take mono


Sgt. Pepper's Sessions

Unofficial album

2:40 • Alternate take • RS From Takes 2 and 4 stereo V2


Sgt. Pepper's Sessions

Unofficial album

2:39 • Alternate take • RS From Takes 2 and 4 stereo V3


Sgt. Pepper's Sessions

Unofficial album

2:43 • Alternate take • Rock Band Mix


Live performances

“When I'm Sixty-Four” has been played in 1 concerts.

Latest concerts where “When I'm Sixty-Four” has been played


Carpool Karaoke

Jun 21, 2018 • United Kingdom • Liverpool • TV show


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10 Things I’d Like to Tell My 14-year-old Self – Pam B. Newberry 1 years ago

[…] Sixty-Four,” (Listen to song on Ultimate Classic Rock) has been a song I’ve loved since it’s release in 1967. Tomorrow, I turn sixty-four. So, while listening to this classic Beatles’ song, I thought […]