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Paul McCartney is known for bringing a bit of inspired silliness to his songwriting — after all, one of his most famous his is called “Silly Love Songs!” Paul said he added a dark line to The Beatles’ “When I’m Sixty-Four” to make it “funnier.” He said “When I’m Sixty-Four” was inspired by old-school songs he and John Lennon appreciated so much. On the other hand, John said he never could have written “When I’m Sixty-Four.”

Paul McCartney added a line about starving to The Beatles’ ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ as a joke

During a 2012 interview with The Independent, Paul discussed the concept behind “When I’m Sixty-Four.” “It was about myself, looking to the future,” he recalled. “Retirement age of 65 felt too obvious, so I made it a year earlier.”

One of the tune’s most famous lines could have been very different. “‘Will you still need me, will you still feed me’ — I was a bit tongue-in-cheek there,” Paul said. “I could have said, ‘Will you still love me?’ ‘Feed’ was funnier.”

The Beatles kept ‘Sgt. Pepper’ from getting too heavy

While Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is a work of art, it has several moments of levity, including “When I’m Sixty-Four,” “With a Little Help from My Friends,” and “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” That’s for the better, as an album filled with nothing but experiments like “Within You Without You” or “A Day in the Life” would be too heavy for its own good.

Paul said he wanted “When I’m Sixty-Four” to be funny, but is it? I would argue that it’s more of a cute song than a funny song. That isn’t a bad thing. Part of what made Paul so loveable as a performer was his willingness to eschew typical rock ‘n’ roll vibes to make music that was cute. The tone of “When I’m Sixty-Four” and similarly juvenile Beatles tunes like “Octopus’s Garden” and “Yellow Submarine” have made the Fab Four appealing to generations of children.


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John Lennon said he never would have written ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’

In The Independent, Paul revealed that “When I’m Sixty-Four” was inspired by some of the older songs he heard when he was growing up. “My dad used to play piano on New Year’s Eve and all the ladies would sit around sipping their rum and blackcurrant,” he remembered. “After half an hour they would be singing, and I grew up associating those songs with family and good times. I thought these songs were so well-structured. So did John. We loved the craftsmanship.” More of that old-school influence can be heard in other Beatles tunes such as “Your Mother Should Know,” “Honey Pie,” and “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.”

Notably, none of those tracks were penned by John, even if he was credited as a co-writer. The book All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono features an interview from 1980. In it, he distanced himself from “When I’m Sixty-Four.” “[That song is] Paul’s completely,” John said. “I would never even dream of writing a song like that. There’s some things I never think about, and that’s one of them.”

“When I’m Sixty-Four” is a cute song — it’s just not the sort of song John would write.