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Released in 1967

When I'm Sixty-Four

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Last updated on January 4, 2024

Album This song officially appears on the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (UK Mono) LP.

Timeline This song was officially released in 1967

Timeline This song was written, or began to be written, in 1956, when Paul McCartney was 14 years old)

Master album

Related sessions

This song was recorded during the following studio sessions:

Related interviews

Related articles

I wrote the tune when I was about 15, I think, on the piano at home, before I moved from Liverpool. It was kind of a cabaret tune. Then, years later, I put words to it.

Paul McCartney – Interview with Playboy Magazine, 1984

From Wikipedia:

“When I’m Sixty-Four” is a song by the English rock band The Beatles, written by Paul McCartney (credited to Lennon–McCartney) and released on their 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. McCartney wrote the song when he was about 14, probably in April or May 1956, and it was one of the first songs he ever wrote. The song was recorded in a key different from the final recording; it was sped up at the request of McCartney to make his voice sound younger. It prominently features a trio of clarinets (two regular clarinets and one bass clarinet) throughout.


Paul McCartney wrote the melody to “When I’m Sixty-Four” around the age of 14, probably at 20 Forthlin Road in April or May 1956. In 1987, McCartney recalled, “Rock and roll was about to happen that year, it was about to break, [so] I was still a little bit cabaret minded”, and in 1974, “I wrote a lot of stuff thinking I was going to end up in the cabaret, not realizing that rock and roll was particularly going to happen. When I was fourteen there wasn’t much of a clue that it was going to happen.”

The song is sung by a young man to his lover, and is about his plans of their growing old together. Although the theme is ageing, it was one of the first songs McCartney wrote. Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn suggests it was McCartney’s second composition, coming after “Call It Suicide” but before “I Lost My Little Girl“. It was in the Beatles’ setlist in their early days as a song to perform when their amplifiers broke down or the electricity went off. Both George Martin and Lewisohn speculated that McCartney may have thought of the song when recording began for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in December 1966 because his father, Jim McCartney, turned 64 earlier that year.

In 1967, John 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.” Lennon reiterated his lyrical contribution in 1972, stating “I think I helped Paul with some of the words, like ‘Vera, Chuck and Dave’ and ‘Doing the garden, digging the weeds.’” Lennon’s contribution of the children’s names were likely made in the studio. McCartney’s manuscript for the song sold for $55,700 (equivalent to US$102,000 in 2021) at Sotheby’s, London in September 1994.

The song uses applied dominants more than anywhere else on Sgt. Pepper, appearing in the refrain (B–2–3), in a tonicization of VI in the bridge (B) and, as musicologist Walter Everett puts it, “[in] the wide array of jaunty chromatic neighbors and passing tones comparable to those in McCartney’s dad’s ‘Walking in the Park with Eloise'”.


A clarinet trio (two B♭ 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”. One clarinet provides an alto countermelody for the third verse. The bass clarinet doubles McCartney’s bass for the retransitional arpeggiation of V7 at C–1–2. During the chorus, the clarinets add texture by playing legato quarter notes while the bass clarinet plays staccato quarter notes. In the song’s final verse, the clarinet is played in descant with McCartney’s vocal.[citation needed] Supporting instruments include the piano, bass, drum set, tubular bells and electric guitar.


The Beatles recorded two takes of the song 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. Martin produced, supported by engineers Geoff Emerick and Phil McDonald. McCartney overdubbed his lead vocal onto take two without the other Beatles present on 8 December. On 20 December, McCartney, Lennon and George Harrison overdubbed backing vocals and Ringo Starr added the sound of bells.

Martin made two reduction mixes (takes three and four) with the latter best. On 21 December, session musicians Robert Burns, Henry MacKenzie and Frank Reidy overdubbed two clarinets and a bass clarinet onto take four. Emerick later explained, “The clarinets on that track became a very personal sound for me; I recorded them so far forward that they became one of the main focal points.” Martin recalled, “I remember recording it in the cavernous Number One studio at Abbey Road and thinking how the three clarinet players looked as lost as a referee and two linesmen alone in the middle of Wembley Stadium.” On the same day, Martin remixed the song for mono three times, although this was only a demo version. He made four new mono mixes on 29 December.

On 30 December, unsatisfied with all of these attempts, McCartney suggested speeding up the track to raise it by around a semitone from its original key of C major to D♭ major. 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.” Martin, Emerick and Richard Lush made the sped-up remix from take four on 17 April 1967. Musicologist Michael Hannan comments on the completed track: “The rich timbres of the clarinets give the mix a fuller, fatter sound than many of the other tracks on the album.”


The song was nearly released on a single as the B-side of either “Strawberry Fields Forever” or “Penny Lane“. It was instead held over to be included as an album track for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Everett comments that the protagonist of “When I’m Sixty-Four” is sometimes associated with the Lonely Hearts Club Band concept, but in his opinion the song is thematically unconnected to others on the album.

According to author George Case, all of the songs on Sgt. Pepper were perceived by contemporary listeners as being drug-inspired, with 1967 marking the pinnacle of LSD’s influence on pop music. Some fans viewed the lyric “digging the weeds” from “When I’m Sixty-Four” as a possible drug allusion. In August 1967, The Beatles Book published an article discussing whether the album was “too advanced for the average pop fan”. One reader complained that all the songs except “Sgt. Pepper” and “When I’m Sixty-Four” were “over our heads”, adding, “The Beatles ought to stop being so clever and give us tunes we can enjoy.”

“When I’m Sixty-Four” was included in the Beatles’ 1968 animated film Yellow Submarine. It was also used over the opening credits of the 1982 film The World According to Garp.

Giles Martin remixed the song for inclusion on the album’s 50th anniversary release in 2017. Martin mixed the song from the original tapes rather than their subsequent mixdowns. Take 2 of the song was included as a bonus track on the deluxe edition.

Critical reception

Reviewing Sgt. Pepper for The New Yorker, Lillian Ross described “When I’m Sixty-Four” as a charming and tasteful parody, “but, like the best parody, it is written with affection, and it has an excellence in its own right, independent of its value as parody.” Peter Clayton of Gramophone magazine characterised the song as a pastiche of George Formby, but added it has “a kind of gentle affectionateness about it – and a certain meaty substance – which raise it well above mere kidding”. In his review of the album for The Times, William Mann describes the song as a vaudeville number, “which comments pointedly on this old-time vogue and its relevance for modern beat song.”

In Richard Goldstein’s scathing review of the album for The New York Times, he said that the song is not mocking in its tone, but complained that “an honest vision is ruined by the background which seeks to enhance it.”

In his book Revolution in the Head, Ian MacDonald describes the song as being “aimed chiefly at parents, and as a result got a cool reception from the group’s own generation”. He adds that the song borrows heavily from the English music hall style of George Formby, while invoking images of the illustrator Donald McGill’s seaside postcards. Allan Moore views it as a synthesis of ragtime and pop, adding that its position following Harrison’s “Within You Without You” – a blend of Indian classical music and pop – demonstrates the diversity of the album’s material. He says the music hall atmosphere is reinforced by McCartney’s vocal delivery and the recording’s use of chromaticism, a harmonic pattern that can be traced to Scott Joplin’s “The Ragtime Dance” and The Blue Danube by Johann Strauss. He further adds the complementary nature of young and old found in the song influenced the composition of Oasis’s 1995 song “She’s Electric”.

Tim Riley writes that “When I’m Sixty-Four” represents “the McCartney side of Elvis‘s corny hokum”. Walter Everett agrees with Riley’s description, adding that “this penchant for the audience-charming vaudeville sketch led to McCartney preferences that Lennon detested the most.” BBC Music critic Chris Jones describes the song as “pure nostalgia for his parents’ golden age” and cites this an example of Sgt. Pepper being “less a kicking out of the jams, more a spreading them on scones at teatime”. […]


On the occasion of McCartney’s 64th birthday in June 2006, a month after the singer’s separation from his wife Heather Mills, Paul Vallely of The Independent wrote an appreciation that focused on the song’s message. Describing McCartney’s birthday as “a cultural milestone for a generation”, Vallely commented that the widespread support for the former Beatle and corresponding derision of Mills “tells us more about us than it does about her”. To mark the occasion, McCartney’s grandchildren recorded a new version of “When I’m Sixty-Four” for him at Abbey Road. In The New York Times, Sam Roberts likened McCartney’s failure to fulfil the song’s promise of retirement-age contentment with Mills to America’s divorce rates and other socio-economic problems afflicting citizens in their sixties.

I like to write melodic tunes, very old fashioned ones like When I’m Sixty-Four, I like to do that, it’s very natural to me. I was brought up on the Billy Cotton Bandshow and things like that. That’s all gone into my head.

Paul McCartney – From interview with Disc And Music Echo, December 1972

The melody of ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ was fully worked out by the time I was about sixteen. It was one of my little party pieces, and when we were on the lookout for songs for The Beatles, I thought it would be quite good to put words to it. The melody itself has something of a music hall feel. I hit upon the idea that sixty-four would be more amusing than sixty-five. To be just shy of retirement age. I was always trying to put a little twist on things rather than, in this case, writing a straight-up music hall song.

I’m struck now by the relative sophistication of the songs from this era, perhaps partly because I was reading so much. One influence was the humour of Louis MacNeice’s poem ‘Bagpipe Music’ […] MacNeice is great on the day-to-day. I think he would recognise ‘You can knit a sweater by the fireside / Sunday mornings, go for a ride’. All comfortable things that retired people do. Then I would stick in ‘Doing the garden, digging the weeds’. ‘Digging the weed’ is also a way of saying ‘enjoying a little pot’. We would always slip in those little jokes because we knew our friends would get them. […]

Another of MacNeice’s strengths is managing a cast of characters. Everyone down to the grandchildren: ‘Vera, Chuck and Dave’. ‘Chuck’ is not a very common name in the UK, but there were a lot of ‘Chucks’ on television. Chuck Connors in The Rifleman, of course, which ran from 1958 till 1963. It’s an amusing name at its heart – partly because ‘chuck’ means vomit in some quarters. Then there was Chuck Berry. When you say ‘Chuck Berry’, it doesn’t sound the least bit amusing; it’s all about context.

Then there’s ‘Send me a postcard, drop me a line / Stating point of view’. I used to think that the BBC got the title of Points of View, their television show based on viewers’ letters, from ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’. Somebody from the BBC even told me that. But the programme started in 1961, so it was probably the other way round.

Paul McCartney – From “The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present“, 2021

“When I’m Sixty-Four” was a case of me looking for stuff to do for Pepper. 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. “Will you still need me?” is still a love song. “Will you still look after me?”, okay, but “Will you still feed me?” goes into Goon Show humour. I mean, imagine having three kids called Vera, Chuck and Dave! It was very tongue in cheek and that to me is the attraction of it. I liked “indicate precisely what…” I like words that are exact, that you might find on a form. It’s a nice phrase, it scans.

It’s pretty much my song. I did it in rooty-tooty variety style. George Martin in his book says that I had it speeded up because I wanted to appear younger but I think that was just to make it more rooty-tooty; just lift the key because it was starting to sound a little turgid. 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 sixty-four I had to send him a bottle of wine.

Paul McCartney – From “Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now” by Barry Miles, 1997

On my birthday in 1991 Paul and Linda McCartney sent me a superb bottle of claret, an ’83 Château Margaux. A little note attached to it said simply: “Birthday greetings, bottle of wine.” It was a very kind thought, but he was a year out: I am even older! I was sixty-four the year before, in 1990.

George Martin – From “With A Little Help From My Friends: The Making of Sgt. Pepper“, 1995

When I first started writing songs I started using a guitar. The first one I ever wrote was one called “I Lost My Little Girl” which is a funny little song, a nice little song, a corny little song based on three chords—G, G7 and C. A little later we had a piano and I used to bang around on that. I wrote “When I’m Sixty-Four” when I was about 16. I wrote the tune for that and I was vaguely thinking then it might come in handy in a musical comedy or something. I didn’t know what kind of career I was going to take.

Paul McCartney – Interview with Rolling Stone, 1974

Deprived as we now were of two beautiful tracks with the single release of ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ and ‘Penny Lane’, the first song that we did earmark for use on the new album was ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’. This, on the face of it, was a whimsical, music-hall number, the sort that Paul loved to do from time to time, and very straightforward to record. The song had been lurking around in Paul’s mind for a long, long time, ever since I first knew him. In fact, when the group’s amplifiers broke down in the Cavern club, as they frequently did, the Beatles used to fill in the gap while repairs were being done by knocking out this song, among others, with acoustic guitar backing.

I am sure Paul wrote ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ with his father in mind. Paul’s father had played in a dance band in the post-war years. It so happened that Jim McCartney was sixty-four years old in July 1966. Jim loved music-hall stuff, corny popular songs, the kind of thing that Paul normally wouldn’t tolerate. Nevertheless, ‘When I’m Sixty-Four was not a send-up but a kind of nostalgic, if ever-so-slightly satirical tribute to his dad.

On one level, I am sure it was an echo of the songs Jim played when Paul was young. It’s almost a Des O’Connor number. It is also not really much of a Beatles song, in that the other Beatles did not have much to do on it.

George Martin – From “With A Little Help From My Friends: The Making of Sgt. Pepper“, 1995

When you wrote “When I’m Sixty-Four,” what did you think you’d be doing at 40?

We used to laugh at the idea of still rocking at 40. I remember when I was a kid and there’d be these pop guys, like Frank Ifield, who seemed ancient and he was only 25. We were sure the whole thing would be over at 30. Then, you start pushing it back to 35 and 40 and, now…45? The truth is I’m still very excited about the future musically. I suddenly realized I’ve got millions of musical ambitions. There are so many things I still haven’t done. It’s been real liberating working with some new musicians.

Paul McCartney – Interview with Los Angeles Times, 1982

Paul completely. I would never even dream of writing a song like that. There are some areas I never think about and that is one of them.

John Lennon – Interview with Playboy, 1980

‘When I’m Sixty Four’ was something Paul wrote in the Cavern days. We just stuck in a few more words, like ‘grandchildren on your knee,’ and ‘Vera Chuck and Dave.’ 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 of those that was quite a hit with us. We used to do it when the amps broke down, just sing it on the piano.

John Lennon, 1967

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.

Paul McCartney – From “The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present“, 2021


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?



Officially appears on

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Live performances

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

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

Going further

The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present

"When I'm Sixty-Four" is one of the songs featured in the book "The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present," published in 2021. The book explores Paul McCartney's early Liverpool days, his time with the Beatles, Wings, and his solo career. It pairs the lyrics of 154 of his songs with his first-person commentary on the circumstances of their creation, the inspirations behind them, and his current thoughts on them.

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