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"When I'm Sixty-Four"

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From the sublime to the ridiculous, it could be cynically argued: though perhaps it's fairer (or at least kinder) to consider "When I'm Sixty-Four" as just another piece of Pepper's multi-colured patchwork.

It was actually the first track to be recorded for the new project, round the same time as the sessions which yielded the "Strawberry Fields"/"Penny Lane" single, at the tail end of '66. The essence of the song had been knocking around for even longer: "Something Paul wrote in the Cavern days", affirmed John.

McCartney's affinity with old-time musical styles had continued to manifest itself ever since; from "A Taste Of Honey", through to "Good Day Sunshine", and — polished up for inclusion on Pepper — here we have yet another example. He was clearly astute enough to realise that, in composing something so obviously retrograde, it was guaranteed not to go out of style.

This particular piece of whimsy is well-carried by the wheedling woodwind (three clarinets) and some wonderful backing vox, whilst the witty lyric has made it a favourite for choral singers ever since. There's another neat little nod to "The Word" worked in there, mind you, (we all remember what The Word was, don't we now?!!) — and was digging the weed(s) another drugs reference that everyone missed, I ask myself...

Ringo has a fine old time embellishing the stops and pauses of the tune, playfully intermeshing with Paul's cheeky little bassline and perky piano, not only with his habitual drumkit, but also on tubular bells. And who could ask for more of Johnny and George, both camping it up beautifully for the ride, blissfully unaware that this was just the thin-edge of the granny-shit wedge...

As with the much earlier "Things We Said Today", though very different stylistically, Paul does reveal something of a preoccupation with the inevitable prospect of aging and "wasting away", not least in the refrain:

Will you still need me,
Will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?

"Hoo!" At time of writing, with 'Sir Macca' well past the sell-by date of the title and planning his final tour, the international anticipation for it makes it pretty evident that we do still need him. And, given the estimated extent of his personal fortune, it's also fairly obvious that he ain't likely to go hungry during his retirement!

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