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Paul McCartney said The Beatles’ “When I’m Sixty-Four” was meant to be a joke. In addition, he explained how The Beatles’ producer changed the song to give it some vitality. Notably, the tune was the Fab Four’s best foray into a certain genre.

Paul McCartney, writer of The Beatles' "When I'm Sixty-Four," with a guitar
Paul McCartney | Mike Coppola / Staff

Paul McCartney said The Beatles’ ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ was a joke and a love song

In the 1997 book Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now, Paul recalled adding “When I’m Sixty-Four” to the tracklist of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. “‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ was a case of me looking for stuff to do for Pepper,” he said.

“I thought it was a good little tune but it was too vaudevillian, so I had to get some codlines to take the sting out of it, and put the tongue very firmly in cheek,” Paul added. “‘Will you still need me?’ is still a love song.”

Paul McCartney said The Beatles’ producer didn’t want the tune to sound too old-school

Paul compared “When I’m Sixty-Four” to the comedy of The Goon Show starring Peter Sellers. “‘Will you still look after me,’ OK, but ‘Will you still feed me?’ goes into Goon Show humor,” he opioid. “I mean, imagine having three kids called Vera, Chuck, and Dave! It was very tongue in cheek and that to me is the attraction of it.

“I liked ‘indicate precisely what,'” he said. “I like words that are exact, that you might find on a form. It’s a nice phrase, it scans. It’s pretty much my song. I did it in rooty-tooty variety style. [The Beatles’ producer] George Martin in his book says that I had it speeded up because I wanted to appear younger.” Notably, Martin was interested in making the track sound “younger” even though he was considerably older than Paul.


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Where ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ stands in the band’s catalog

“When I’m Sixty-Four” was never a single, so it did not chart on the Billboard Hot 100. The tune appeared on the album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which was No. 1 on the Billboard 200 for 15 weeks. The album lasted on the chart for a total of 233 weeks.

According to The Official Charts Company, “When I’m Sixty-Four” was not a hit in the United Kingdom either. On the other hand, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was the band’s most popular album there. It topped the U.K. chart for 28 weeks. The album remained on the chart for 277 weeks altogether.

“When I’m Sixty-Four” is one of Paul’s forays into vaudeville music during his time with the Fab Four. Other examples include “Martha My Dear” and “Honey Pie” from The White Album and “Your Mother Should Know” from The Beatles’ soundtrack for Magical Mystery Tour. “When I’m Sixty-Four” is the best of these tunes by far. Music hall wasn’t a hip genre during the Fab Four’s era, but Paul redeems the material with his sense of humor.

“When I’m Sixty-Four” is a joke — but it’s a pretty good joke.