“You say it’s your birthday. Well, it’s my birthday, too, yeah,” the Beatles sing on what is commonly known as The White Album. As a matter of fact, it was my birthday a couple of days ago.
And it was a biggie. No, it wasn’t one of the “Ohs” as in “The Big Three-Oh,” or the “Big Five-Oh,” but as any true Beatles aficionado will tell you, one birthday is especially noteworthy for those of us who were in the first generation of Fab Four fans. That would be birthday number 64 as per the song “When I’m Sixty-Four.”
You can find the track on “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” which was released June 1, 1967. Although it is credited as a Lennon-McCartney composition, it is evident that it is 100 percent Paul.
(Interesting Beatle trivia: McCartney has been trying for years to change the credits from “Lennon-McCartney” to “McCartney-Lennon” on certain songs — “Yesterday” and “The Long and Winding Road,” for example — that he alone authored. As you might guess, there is a court battle over this.)
McCartney had written the piece back in their club days as an instrumental to be used when the PA system broke down. He decided to add words in June 1966 when his father, Jim, turned 64. When the album came out a year later, Paul was just shy of his 25th birthday. I was two months shy of my 16th.
Of course, I was fascinated with anything the Beatles did and considered it another great song.
I don’t know what was going through almost 25-year-old Paul McCartney’s mind as he created the lyrics, but I know what I thought.
“When I’m Sixty-Four” was to me an attempt to imitate old-fashioned music hall songs something like I would hear on those old black-and-white movies on TV. I think a part of me thought the Beatles might be making fun of or at least looking ironically at the lifestyle described in the lyrics.
It was so middle class; and in the 1960s, like so many young people, my friends and I wanted our future to be anything but middle class. At 16, I would never have imagined that when I was 64, I would be living a life much like the gentleman narrates in the lyrics.
The song begins: “When I get older losing my hair …” Yes, I can definitely relate to that. (You know, it’s impressive that pictures of Sir Paul show him to have maintained a full head of hair. Dark hair. Do you suppose he has something done?)
The narrator asks his sweetheart: “Will you still be sending me a Valentine, birthday greeting, bottle of wine?” Again, that sounds a lot like my life these days.
He sings about finances: “Every summer we can rent a cottage in the Isle of Wight, if it’s not too dear. … We shall scrimp and save.” Ah, all those years of scrimping and saving. Been there; done that; still doing it.
He considered their conventional, domestic future together: “You can knit a sweater by the fireside, Sunday mornings go for a ride. Doing the garden, digging the weeds, who could ask for more?” Well, at this point in my life, sitting with my wife by the fireside and working in the garden is just about as good as it gets.
And of course, the family grows while the generations continue: “… grandchildren on your knee, Vera, Chuck and Dave.” Not the names of our grandchildren, but otherwise, spot on.
So, yeah, I’m good with turning 64. I’m happy that my friends think it’s funny to start singing the song to me — because it is.
I guess I shouldn’t have been so concerned about my future back in 1967.
Turns out, normal, everyday life is great.