- Published in 1967
- Author: Lennon/McCartney
- Track 9 on “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band“
JOHN 1967: “‘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 1972: “I think I helped Paul with some of the words.”
JOHN 1980: “Paul’s, completely. I would never dream of writing a song like that. There’s some things I never think about, and that’s one of them.
PAUL 1984: “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 circa-1994: “I thought it was a good little tune but it was too vaudvillian, so I had to get some cod lines to take the sting out of it, and put the tongue very firmly in cheek.”
About “When I’m Sixty-Four”
“When I’m Sixty-Four” was written by Paul McCartney when he was about 14, probably in April or May 1956, and it was one of the first songs he ever wrote.
A young man sings this song about growing old with his lover and envisioning a future together. Despite its ageing theme, McCartney wrote it as one of his first songs. According to Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn, it was McCartney’s second composition after “Call It Suicide” but before “I Lost My Little Girl”. The Beatles used it in their early days when their amplifiers broke down or the electricity went out as a backup song. Lewisohn and George Martin speculated that McCartney may have been inspired by the song when recording began for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in December 1966 because his father, Jim McCartney, had turned 64 earlier that year.
In the final recording for Sgt. Pepper’s album, McCartney requested that the song be sped up in order to sound younger. Three clarinets are prominently featured (two regular clarinets and one bass clarinet).
As a B-side to “Strawberry Fields Forever” or “Penny Lane“, the song almost became a single. According to Everett, “When I’m Sixty-Four” is sometimes associated with the Lonely Hearts Club Band concept, but is thematically unrelated to other songs on the album.
In 1967, according to author George Case, LSD’s influence on pop music reached its peak with all of the songs on Sgt. Pepper. Several fans interpreted “digging the weeds” from “When I’m Sixty-Four” as alluding to drugs.
According to an article published in The Beatles Book in August 1967, the album was “too advanced for the average pop fan”. There was one reader who complained that all but “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.
Meaning of “When I’m Sixty-Four”
The lyrics of “When I’m Sixty-Four” depict a vision of enduring love and companionship. It presents a whimsical, romanticized view of growing old together. The narrator is expressing a desire for a stable, lasting relationship that will continue even into old age.
The song touches on themes of companionship, stability, and the simple joys of domestic life. It envisions a future where the couple will be able to rely on each other for support and affection.
Overall, “When I’m Sixty-Four” is a charming and sentimental reflection on the enduring nature of love and the idea of finding comfort in a lifelong partnership.
- Paul McCartney – vocal, backing vocal, piano, bass
- John Lennon – backing vocals, guitar
- George Harrison – backing vocal
- Ringo Starr – drums, chimes