When I'm Sixty-Four

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"When I'm Sixty-Four"
Song by the Beatles from the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Released 1 June 1967
Recorded 6–21 December 1966,
EMI Studios, London
Genre Pop,[1] music hall[2]
Length 2:37
Label Parlophone
Writer Lennon–McCartney
Producer George Martin
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band track listing
Music sample

"When I'm Sixty-Four" is a song by the Beatles, written by Paul McCartney[3][4] (credited to Lennon–McCartney) and released in 1967 on their album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Composition[edit]

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 aging, it was one of the first songs McCartney wrote, when he was only 16.[3] It was on the Beatles playlist in their early days as a song to perform when the amplifiers broke down or the electricity went off.[5][6] 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.[5][6]

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."[7] In his 1980 interview for Playboy he said, "I would never even dream of writing a song like that."[4]

Instrumentation[edit]

A clarinet trio (two B-flat soprano clarinets and a bass clarinet) is featured prominently in the song, unusual in most music genres, but particularly in the context of rock and roll. 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."[6] In the song's final verse, the clarinet is played in harmony with McCartney's vocal: an unusual method of harmonisation, especially in 1967. Supporting instruments include the piano, bass, drum set, tubular bells, and electric guitar.

Recording[edit]

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.[8]

The song is in the key of D-flat major. Recorded in C major, the master take was sped up in order to raise the key by one semitone at the insistence of McCartney. Martin remembers that McCartney suggested this change in order to make his voice sound younger.[9] 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."[3]

Release[edit]

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.[10]

Personnel[edit]

Personnel per MacDonald except where noted[12]

Cover versions[edit]

Cultural references[edit]

  • McCartney's children recorded a special version of "When I'm Sixty-Four" at Abbey Road Studios as a surprise present for McCartney's 64th birthday in June 2006, and played it for him at his birthday party. They changed the lyrics to fit the occasion with the help of Giles Martin. At the time, by unfortunate coincidence, McCartney was recently separated from his second wife, Heather Mills; they later divorced. [13][14]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Prigozy and Raubicheck 2003, p. 71.
  2. ^ Haugen 2004, p. 169.
  3. ^ a b c Miles 1997, p. 319.
  4. ^ a b Sheff 2000, p. 183.
  5. ^ a b Lewisohn 1988, p. 89.
  6. ^ a b c Martin 1994, p. 34.
  7. ^ The Beatles 2000, p. 247.
  8. ^ Lewisohn 1988, pp. 89–91.
  9. ^ Martin 1994, p. 35.
  10. ^ Martin 1994, p. 26.
  11. ^ Lewisohn 1988, p. 90.
  12. ^ MacDonald 2005, p. 220.
  13. ^ Lampert 2006.
  14. ^ Todd 2006.

References[edit]