When was it recorded? Dec. 6-21, 1966
When was it first released, and on which album? Jun. 1, 1967 on “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”
Who wrote it? McCartney
Have I heard this song before? Yes
What my research dug up:
Though obviously written from an aging man’s point of view, Paul wrote “When I’m Sixty-Four” when he was only 15 years old.
“Back then I wasn’t necessarily looking to be a rock ‘n’ roller. When I wrote ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ I thought I was writing a song for Sinatra. There were records other than rock ‘n’ roll that were important to me.” — Paul McCartney
One of his first compositions, Paul played the song at the Cavern Club; quoth Wikipedia, “It was on the Beatles playlist in their early days as a song to perform when the amplifiers broke down or the electricity went off.”
Quoth Alan Pollack, “This song is Paul’s first official foray into the carefully put-on nostalgic-cum-vaudeville stylization that would become a stock part of his compositional arsenal for the remainder of his career as a Beatle. In context of ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ running order, it provides a well-needed and right contrast to the preceding track.”
“I thought it was a good little tune but it was too vaudevillian, so I had to get some cod lines to take the sting out of it, and put the tongue very firmly in cheek. …George helped me on a clarinet arrangement. I would specify the sound and I love clarinets so ‘Could we have a clarinet quartet?’ ‘Absolutely.’ I’d give him a fairly good idea of what I wanted and George would score it because I couldn’t do that. He was very helpful to us. Of course, when George Martin was 64 I had to send him a bottle of wine.” — Paul McCartney (Barry Miles, Many Years From Now)
As Pollack also points out in his notes, “The form is an unusual perfect arch; there is no doubling up of any sections, and the intro and outro are identical. There is no specific refrain section, though the verse here is of the type whose last phrase is refrain-like.”
“When I’m Sixty-Four” was the first song recorded for the album that became “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Paul resurrected the tune because his own father turned 64 in 1966.
According to the Beatles Bible, “On 6 December 1966 The Beatles recorded Christmas messages for the pirate stations Radio London and Radio Caroline. Afterwards they spent some time rehearsing ‘When I’m Sixty-Four,’ before two takes of the rhythm track were recorded.” Paul added lead vocals to the second take two days later.
The song sat until Dec. 20; then John, Paul, and George recorded backing vocals and Ringo recorded a chime part. The clarinet part was added the next day.
Originally, “When I’m Sixty-Four” was performed in the key of C. During mixing, however, Paul sped the track up, raising the final track to the key of D flat Major. Quoth the man himself, “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.” (One of my favorite musicians dropping one of my least favorite words in the English language… I shudder.) Here’s how the song would have sounded.
According to George Martin, “When I’m Sixty-Four” was seriously considered for release as the B-side to either “Penny Lane” or “Strawberry Fields Forever” (which, famously, appeared together as a double-A-side single).
“When I’m Sixty-Four” appeared in the animated “Yellow Submarine” film.
If *only* 64-year-old Paul and Ringo had that amazing facial hair…