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friday feast: like father, like son

James Paul McCartney and his father James "Jim" McCartney at age 64.

Tomorrow is Sir Paul's birthday and Sunday is Father's Day -- what better time to feature a song Paul wrote with his dad in mind?

"When I'm Sixty Four" has always been one of my favorites. Whenever I hear it, I feel a little 'goofy-happy,' probably because of its rooty-toot rhythm and slightly mocking tone. Ah, those bouncy clarinets! You may know that Jim McCartney had a big influence on Paul's musical upbringing. Self taught on the piano and trumpet, Jim played in ragtime and jazz bands in Liverpool during the twenties and thirties. He encouraged Paul to take music lessons and taught him to sing harmony.
Music was central in the McCartney household -- they listened to the radio and Jim's 78 rpm records, and of course, Jim played popular dance hall tunes on the upright piano (which Paul, reputedly, still owns). Paul's granddad Joe was also musical. An opera lover who was more of a traditionalist, he played the double bass and tuba.  

Paul wrote the melody for "When I'm Sixty Four" with Jim's encouragement when he was just 16. When the Beatles were still the Quarrymen, the song was a "stand-in number" when the amps weren't working or the electricity went off. It wasn't until Jim turned 64 in 1966 that Paul decided to revise and record what would become the first completed cut for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band, widely regarded as one of the most important and influential rock albums in popular music. When Paul himself turned 64, his children sang the song to him as a birthday present.

When I first heard the song as a teenager, 64 seemed positively ancient. Now, not so much . . . ☺.

♥ Full lyrics here.

♥ Jone has the Roundup today at
Check it Out. Dance on over and enjoy all the cool poems being shared around the blogosphere this week. 


Happy 69th Birthday, Sir Paul, and Happy Father's Day weekend to all!

Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan's alphabet soup. All rights reserved.


( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 17th, 2011 12:58 pm (UTC)
That's one of my favorite Beatles' songs, too, Jama. Partly for itself, but also because it brings back good memories of my family gathered round the piano, belting out the tune.

And I agree: 64 doesn't sound quite so remote anymore!
Jun. 17th, 2011 02:20 pm (UTC)
How cool that your family sang this song together! It definitely has that party feel to it :).

And isn't it amazing that 64 can actually sound "young" these days?
Jun. 17th, 2011 01:02 pm (UTC)
What a nice little slice of history to share! Perfect for Father's Day. Thanks, Jama.
Jun. 17th, 2011 02:20 pm (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed it, Tabatha!
Jun. 17th, 2011 01:06 pm (UTC)
What a nice father/son story. I love that song. thanks for sharing!
Jun. 17th, 2011 02:21 pm (UTC)
Yay! Another person who likes this song! It's definitely a toe tapper . . .
Jun. 17th, 2011 01:53 pm (UTC)
He wrote the melody when he was 16? Whoa. What it must be like to have that much talent in your head.

Happy birthday to Paul!
Jun. 17th, 2011 02:24 pm (UTC)
Music was definitely in the genes. I'm wondering what lyrics, if any, were sung to the melody in the early Beatles days, before Paul reinvented/revised the song for Sgt. Pepper.
Jun. 17th, 2011 04:13 pm (UTC)
an instrumental?
Like your post says—I wonder if it was kept as an instrumental. The early, early seemed to have more of them. And being a gig-musician, myself—who is in awe about the hours they performed during the club-days of Hamburg—an instrumental is a welcome addition to a set list. It saves on the vocals, for one. And as "old-time" as that melody is, I can see it being a great song for that "older crowd" who might give a "trouble" with requests for "something we can dance to!" You could play that song on and on til they fell to the floor with exhaustion.

Then play some rock n' roll—for your own fun.

I can see that fitting in well with all their "Til There was You," Three Cool Cats, Sheik of Araby type older songs.

By the time they were the Beatles—pop singers of their own songs, I imagine "64" rarely got played 'cept for a lark at rehearsals or jams or not at all (til '67) as they always so busy.

I once aspired to be a guitarist in a band (and shed that "less important" bass-guy image) but I wasn't very good with limited chops and skill. But I did play a gig where my band mates let me switch with a guitarist so that I could play the vocal melody on the guitar to....


"When I'm Sixty-four!"

It was BIG hit as we were "that band" that played a gig where we had little for "the older crowd."

Jun. 17th, 2011 05:34 pm (UTC)
Re: an instrumental?
The only thing I read about "64" in the old days was that they liked it because they could stand around the piano and sing along -- so it *must* have had some form of lyrics. No need to plug in, just something fun and casual to fill in.

Thanks for your anecdote about playing guitar melody for "64" in your band! I guess we're the "older crowd" now, though . . .
Jun. 17th, 2011 05:52 pm (UTC)
so it *must* have had some form of lyrics
Hamburg. Reeperbahn. Alcohol. Lennon.

Oh, the "some form of lyrics" could be quite a find!

Jun. 17th, 2011 05:55 pm (UTC)
Re: so it *must* have had some form of lyrics
Agree -- and with this type of song, they could have easily improvised every time they performed it with different lyrics. When the beer is flowing, so do funny words . . .
Jun. 17th, 2011 03:59 pm (UTC)
What a beatle-licious post!
Great pics and actually some new info!

I guess of all the Beatles, Paul was the only with a Dad who seemed like a decent bloke (George, too, though you never hear much about him).

I remember reading—a long time ago—that Paul wrote that song when he was 16 but I was never clear on the fact that it was just the melody. Back then, I thought, what a genius to have that kind of insight about "what" 64 might be like. At 16, most of us thought 30 was time to die!

thanks for the great post!
Jun. 17th, 2011 05:40 pm (UTC)
Re: What a beatle-licious post!
LOL -- yes, even 30 seemed old then.

Paul heard a lot of show/dance hall tunes because of his Dad, about all kinds of topics, so the theme of aging probably was something he could write about without first hand experience. Also, we'll never know just how much of Dad's input qualifies as encouragement/guidance. The aging theme could have been Jim's idea . . .

Paul has said that he had a happy home life, despite the fact that his Mum died from breast cancer when he was a teenager and his Dad raised him and his brother alone. Sounds like they had other relatives who also loved to play music and sing.

Still, what a great melody coming from someone so young -- an enduring, catchy one at that.

Jun. 17th, 2011 06:01 pm (UTC)
With his dad...
Who knows?

We ALL know the LENNON-McCARTNEY stamp that every song got—maybe this one was actually a McCartney - McCartney
Jun. 17th, 2011 05:41 pm (UTC)
What a perfect post for Father's Day and Sir Paul's BDay to boot! Thanks, Jama, for a peek into the "backstory".... Robyn
Jun. 17th, 2011 05:55 pm (UTC)
Have a great weekend, Robyn. Listen to some Beatles tunes!
Jun. 17th, 2011 07:21 pm (UTC)
An absolutely fabulous and informative post, J. Thank you!

You might want to check your link over at Jone's. It wouldn't bring me directly to your site.

Jun. 17th, 2011 08:03 pm (UTC)
Thanks for letting me know, Janet -- I just let Jone know.

Glad you enjoyed the post!
Jun. 18th, 2011 01:51 am (UTC)
This song has always made me feel "goofy-happy" too. I didn't know a thing about its history.

These pictures are wonderful -- each one suggests a whole story! Perfect Father's Day feast.

Jun. 18th, 2011 11:30 am (UTC)
I loved the pictures too! Thanks for clarifying which Janet you are :).
Jun. 18th, 2011 01:52 am (UTC)
I just noticed the comment before mine was also made by a Janet, so I'd better specify -- Janet at Across the Page. ;-)
Jun. 19th, 2011 01:52 am (UTC)
64 does seem young now..
better late than as usual, Jama--thanks for this fact-filled and fond portrait of grandfather/father/son...wonderfully cheerful and goofy-happy. The lyrics are simple but clever and optimistic. Smiling a lot now!
Jun. 19th, 2011 01:38 pm (UTC)
Re: 64 does seem young now..
Happy this made you smile, Heidi! And I'm so glad you think 64 sounds young :).
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )

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