Paul McCartney actually wrote this song long before Sgt. Pepper was released. He waited until 1966, however, because that was the year his father turned 64.

An interesting musical fact (revealed in Yellow Submarine) is that this song's tempo is 64 beats per minute.

It was also, like some other Beatles songs, recorded in a different key than it was eventually mastered at; in this case, it was recorded in C and appears on the album in Db. The speeding up on the tape may have been to change the feel of the piece (to make it more 'earnest'), to make it easier to read (the key of C has no sharps or flats), simply to bring the tempo to the aforementioned speed, or any combination of the above.

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Written some 10 years prior by a young Paul McCartney, "When I'm Sixty-Four" finally came to life in 1967 - the year Paul's dad turned 64. As charming as any of Paul's other silly pop songs, the song makes brave and promising use of a dated style to give The Beatles an expanding dynamic and sensibility underneath their rock star images. This song directly led to such optimistic numbers as "Penny Lane", "All You Need Is Love", and "All Together Now."

Musically, the song follows a simple slow ragtime style, the song has a lot of minor chromatic runs in it to give a bluesy feel (i.e. the run in the first verse of "wasting away"), with the bass giving the song that additional old-timey sound with its classic vaudeville bounce. Later with its famous jazz finish in the refrain of ii-V-I ("Will you still need me ..."), the song has the makings of a classic old-timey song, a loving tribute to McCartney's father, himself a bandleader in days past. Written and performed in C major but sped up to to Db - presumably to give Paul a distinct upper tenor befitting the main character, the song also has the rather dubious distinction of being recorded at 64 beats per minute. While the tubular bells give the song a nice modern cheeky orchestral feel, it's the clarinets that really drive the tune. Their charming flatness on the bridge, following the wavery backing vocals of George and John really play up the jazz style of the song, although this style would get unbearably tiring by the time songs like "Honey Pie" and "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" rolled around.

The lyrics were taken mostly untouched from Paul's version "many years from now", with a few changes from the new man. Still, cute lines like "when I get older, losing my hair" and the almost ironic "Doing the garden, digging the weeds/Who could ask for more?" sung at the height of the Beatles' popularity and importance go a long way to show that The Beatles never sacrificed their integrity for an easy shill. Paul would later comment on the song, saying that he wrote it in this very pompous and enunciated way, trying to give it the proper feel of what Sgt. Pepper himself might write, with lines like "indicate precisely what you mean to say" giving the song a marchy, staccato feel. These happy-go-lucky modest British lyrics became the basis for a number of silly love songs that would follow in McCartney's post-Beatles career.

Almost the anti-Paul is dead song, "When I'm Sixty Four" is a vibrant song about living life for a long time. Curiously, though, the song was recorded on December 8, 1966. John wrote "A Day in the Life" (perhaps the definitive Paul is dead song, lyrically) a mere 5 days later. Was this song put on the album as a sort of final happy note from Paul, an ironic joke on his short 27 year life? One can only guess ...

The song's simple nature has led to covers by such luminaries as folk stars John Denver and Sandy Farina, jazz great John Pizzarelli, and the children's trio Sharon, Lois, and Bram.

Perhaps the simplest song in terms of arrangement and production on Sgt. Pepper's, the song was broken up into four easy recording sessions: Paul played piano, Ringo played drums, and John added lead guitar on December 6, 1966; all of the vocals (with Paul on lead) were recorded on December 8; the chiming bells were added on December 20; and the clarinets were added the following day.

When I'm Sixty-Four

When I get older losing my hair
Many years from now
Will you still be sending me a Valentine
Birthday greetings bottle of wine

If I'd been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I'm sixty-four

You'll be older too
And if you say the word
I could stay with you
I could be handy, mending a fuse
When your lights have gone
You can knit a sweater by the fireside
Sunday morning go for a ride

Doing the garden, digging the weeds
Who could ask for more?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I'm sixty-four

Every summer we can rent a cottage
In the Isle of Wight, if it's not too dear
We shall scrimp and save
Grandchildren on your knee
Vera, Chuck, and Dave

Send me a postcard, drop me a line
Stating point of view
Indicate precisely what you mean to say
Yours sincerely, wasting away
Give me your answer, fill in a form
Mine for evermore
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I'm sixty-four

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Within You, Without You | Lovely Rita

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