When I'm Sixty-Four

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"When I'm Sixty-Four"
When I'm sixty four.jpg
Cover of the US sheet music for the song
Song by the Beatles
from the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Released26 May 1967[1]
Recorded6–21 December 1966
StudioEMI, London
Producer(s)George Martin

"When I'm Sixty-Four" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles, written by Paul McCartney[4][5] (credited to Lennon–McCartney) and released on their 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was one of the first songs written by McCartney, who wrote it when he was 16. The song was recorded in a different key than the final recording; it was sped up at the request of McCartney to make his voice sound younger. It prominently features a trio of clarinets (two regular clarinets and one bass clarinet) throughout.


The song is sung by a young man to his lover, and is about his plans of their growing old together. Although the theme is ageing, it was one of the first songs McCartney wrote, when he was 16.[4] It was in the Beatles' setlist in their early days as a song to perform when their amplifiers broke down or the electricity went off.[6][7] 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.[6][7]

John 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."[8]


A clarinet trio (two B clarinets and a bass clarinet) is featured prominently in the song. 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."[7] In the song's final verse, the clarinet is played in harmony with McCartney's vocal. 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.[9]

The song is in the key of D 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.[10] 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."[4]


The song was nearly released on a single as the B-side of either "Strawberry Fields Forever" or "Penny Lane". It was instead held over to be included as an album track for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.[11] It was also included in the film Yellow Submarine.


Personnel per MacDonald except where noted[12]

Cover versions[edit]

Cultural references[edit]

  • 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.[14][15]
  • 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."


  1. ^ Everett 1999, p. 123. "In the United Kingdom Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band … was rush-released six days ahead of its official date, June 1."
  2. ^ Prigozy and Raubicheck 2003, p. 71.
  3. ^ Haugen 2004, p. 169.
  4. ^ a b c Miles 1997, p. 319.
  5. ^ Sheff 2000, p. 183.
  6. ^ a b Lewisohn 1988, p. 89.
  7. ^ a b c Martin & Pearson 1994, p. 34.
  8. ^ The Beatles 2000, p. 247.
  9. ^ Lewisohn 1988, pp. 89–91.
  10. ^ Martin & Pearson 1994, p. 35.
  11. ^ Martin & Pearson 1994, p. 26.
  12. ^ MacDonald 2005, p. 220.
  13. ^ Lewisohn 1988, p. 90.
  14. ^ Lampert 2006.
  15. ^ Todd 2006.


  • The Beatles (2000). The Beatles Anthology. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. ISBN 978-0-8118-2684-6.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Everett, Walter (1999). The Beatles as Musicians: Revolver Through the Anthology. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-512941-0.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Lewisohn, Mark (1988). The Beatles Recording Sessions. New York City: Harmony Books. ISBN 978-0-517-57066-1.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • MacDonald, Ian (2005). Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties (Second Revised ed.). London, England: Pimlico (Rand). ISBN 978-1-84413-828-9.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Martin, George; Pearson, William (1994). With a Little Help from My Friends: The Making of Sgt. Pepper. Boston, Massachusetts: Little, Brown. ISBN 978-0-316-54783-3.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Miles, Barry (1997). Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now. New York City: Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 978-0-8050-5249-7.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Sheff, David (2000). All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. New York City: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0-312-25464-3.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Todd, Ben (18 June 2006). "EXCLUSIVE: ABBEY BIRTHDAY MACCA". Sunday Mirror. Retrieved 9 March 2007.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Prigozy, Ruth; Raubicheck, Walter (2007). Going my way: Bing Crosby and American culture. Rochester, New York: University Rochester Press. ISBN 978-1-58046-261-7.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Haugen, David (2004). The Beatles. Farmington Hills, Michigan: Greenhaven Press. ISBN 978-0-7377-2595-7.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

External links[edit]