|Song by the Beatles|
|from the album Abbey Road|
|Released||26 September 1969|
|Recorded||25 – 30 July 1969|
Background and composition
The song was originally introduced during The Beatles sessions; a demo from the Esher Sessions can be found on Anthology 3. Lennon would describe this song, along with "Mean Mr. Mustard", in The Beatles Anthology as "a bit of crap I wrote in India".
In 1980, John 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 has 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".
At 0:47, someone picks up a tambourine and, in the left channel, Paul McCartney can be heard saying "Yeah," while Lennon says, "Great". Compositionally, "Polythene Pam" ends with the final notes of the guitar solo, at which point Lennon says, "Well, listen to that, Mal." (Referring to Mal Evans, the road manager of the Beatles.) Lennon laughs, followed by "Oh, look out!" and a sudden, nearly-inaudible "You should..." before the transition. Also, in the guitar solo, someone can barely be heard counting measure numbers.
The song also includes a bass guitar mistake by McCartney which was deliberately left in the master recording. During the instrumental response to the song's second chorus of "yeah, yeah, yeah", McCartney overran and corrected a bass glissando, resulting in an oscillating effect. Harrison and George Martin argued that it was effective for the song, and thus it was retained.
- Booker T. & the MGs covered the track on their 1970 album McLemore Avenue.
- In 1976, Roy Wood of Electric Light Orchestra recorded the song for the musical documentary All This and World War II.
- In 1999, Atom and His Package covered the song on the album Making Love with altered lyrics as "P.P. (Doo-Doo)".
- The Punkles released this song as well as the whole Abbey Road medley on their 2006 album For Sale!.
- When Mojo released Abbey Road Now! in 2009, part of a continuing series of CDs of Beatles albums covered track-by-track by modern artists, "Polythene Pam" was covered by Cornershop alongside "Mean Mr. Mustard".
- John Lennon – lead vocal, twelve-string acoustic guitar, handclaps
- Paul McCartney – backing vocal, bass, pianos (acoustic and electric)
- George Harrison – backing vocal, lead guitar
- Ringo Starr – drums, tambourine, maracas, cowbell
- Sheff, David (2000). All We Are Saying. St. Martin's Griffin, ISBN 0-312-25464-4, p. 203
- Miles, Barry (2001). The Beatles diary. Volume 1: The Beatles years. Omnibus press London.ISBN 0-7119-8308-9 p. 356
- The Illustrated Beatles Lyrics ISBN 978-0-316-64131-9 p. 197
- MacDonald, Ian (2005). Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties (Second Revised ed.). London: Pimlico (Rand). ISBN 1-84413-828-3. 1997, p. 319.
- Turner, Steve (2003). "Abbey Road". A Hard Day's Write (9 ed.). HarperResource. p. 196. ISBN 0-06-273698-1.
- The Complete Beatles Chronicle ISBN 978-1-851-52975-9 p. 327
- "Abbey Road Now - Track Listing - Mojo Cover CDs - The Definitive List". Archived from the original on 23 August 2014.
- "Polythene Pam | The Beatles Bible". www.beatlesbible.com. Retrieved 2017-03-07.