When I'm Sixty-Four
- Paul McCartney - lead and backing vocals, bass, piano
- John Lennon - backing vocals, lead guitar
- George Harrison - backing vocals, guitar (that doubles the bass)
- Ringo Starr - drums, chimes
When I'm Sixty-Four is a Paul McCartney song written in the late 1950's, and recorded for the 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Paul was 15 when he first conceived this song about the prospect of aging: a boy sings to his girl about growing old together. His original idea was to write a ballad, not a rock and roll song. However, the Quarrymen used to sing an upbeat version of it whenever the amps broke down or the lights went out in the club, as the accompaniment was on piano rather than guitars.
On the 1967 album, the song is said to have been more popular with the parents of their fans than with the fans themselves because Paul's uncanny adolescent wisdom may have just gone over their heads. But now the original fans are at least that old, and each one has his or her own personal answer to the singer's question: "Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm sixty-four?" Paul's own father turned 64 the year that Sgt. Pepper was laid out, and perhaps that's why Paul remembered this song from the early days. Lennon told Playboy in 1980 that he really liked the song, but "would never even dream of writing a song like that."
Consistent with the growing experimental approach the Beatles took to instrumentation in the middle- and later periods, this song features three clarinets (two sopranos and a bass), a combination rarely heard in any sort of music, and surely a first for rock and roll. George Martin wrote the arrangement. Tubular bells and a honky-tonk piano were added as well. Paul said this was used to cut the otherwise "schmaltzy" subject matter of the lyrics. The Beatles performed the song in C major, but McCartney requested that the rhythm track be sped up a bit to raise the key to D-flat major, thus livening up the song and making his lead vocal sound a bit "younger."
The song was a candidate for a b-side on a single with either Strawberry Fields Forever or Penny Lane. Instead, Martin released both those songs as a double-a-side single. The single did not make it to number 1 in the UK, the first Beatles release not to make it to the top of the UK charts since the earliest releases in 1962-63. Martin later regretted not going forward with one or the other of those songs, putting When I'm Sixty-Four on the b-side.
In addition to its place on the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album, When I'm Sixty-Four is also on the Yellow Submarine Songtrack.