When I'm Sixty-Four
|"When I'm Sixty-Four"|
The 1996 US jukebox single release of the song, as the B-side to "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"
|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
|Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band track listing|
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 only 16. 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. 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."
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." 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.
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."
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 – lead and backing vocals, bass guitar, piano
- John Lennon – backing vocals, lead guitar
- George Harrison – backing vocals, rhythm guitar
- Ringo Starr – drums, chimes
- Robert Burns, Henry MacKenzie, Frank Reidy – two clarinets, bass clarinet
- Personnel per MacDonald except where noted
Notable cover versions
- In 1967 Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen released a cover as a single: When I'm Sixty Four/Goodnight Irene (reached number 43 in the UK charts).
- In June 1967, produced by George Martin, Bernard Cribbins released the single under the Parlophone label.
- In 1978 Sandy Farina sang "When I'm Sixty-Four" on the soundtrack for the movie "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band".
- It was featured in an Allstate Insurance commercial with Julian Lennon singing.
- It was used as the theme song for the movie version of John Irving's novel The World According to Garp
- 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. 
- In the 2007 comedy film Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, McCartney (played by Jack Black) and Lennon (played by Paul Rudd) are arguing, and Lennon quips, "I wonder if your songs will still be shit when I'm sixty-four."
- Prigozy and Raubicheck 2003, p. 71.
- Haugen 2004, p. 169.
- Miles 1997, p. 319.
- Sheff 2000, p. 183.
- Lewisohn 1988, p. 89.
- Martin 1994, p. 34.
- The Beatles 2000, p. 247.
- Lewisohn 1988, pp. 89–91.
- Martin 1994, p. 35.
- Martin 1994, p. 26.
- Lewisohn 1988, p. 90.
- MacDonald 2005, p. 220.
- Lampert 2006.
- Todd 2006.
- The Beatles (2000). The Beatles Anthology. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. ISBN 0-8118-2684-8.
- Lampert, Nicole (19 June 2006). "Sir Paul's children rework his classic to serenade him at 64". Daily Mail. Retrieved 9 October 2011.
- Lewisohn, Mark (1988). The Beatles Recording Sessions. New York: Harmony Books. ISBN 0-517-57066-1.
- MacDonald, Ian (2005). Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties (Second Revised ed.). London: Pimlico (Rand). ISBN 1-84413-828-3.
- Martin, George; Pearson, William (1994). With a Little Help from My Friends: The Making of Sgt. Pepper. Boston: Little, Brown. ISBN 0-316-54783-2.
- Miles, Barry (1997). Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now. New York: Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 0-8050-5249-6.
- Sheff, David (2000). All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-25464-4.
- Todd, Ben (18 June 2006). "EXCLUSIVE: ABBEY BIRTHDAY MACCA". Sunday Mirror. Retrieved 9 March 2007.
- Prigozy, Ruth; Raubicheck, Walter (2007). Going my way: Bing Crosby and American culture. University Rochester Press. ISBN 1-58046-261-8.
- Haugen, David (2004). The Beatles. Greenhaven Press. ISBN 0-7377-2595-8.
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