The Beatle’s “When I’m 64” Reviewed
How old is old?
In 1967 the average age a man died was 67, in 2018 (I assume it will be less this year) it was 76. So when Paul McCartney saw the dark horizon as well as the joy of retirement at 64 years of age -well, he was pretty much on the button. In 2020 you’ve got another ten years coming to you but it is still the bottom of the ninth…
I mention this because I am 64 years of age today, and so I went straight to The Beatles’ 1967 “When I’m 64” – the height of McCartney’s soft shoe shuffle, English version (vaudeville over here). He never did it better, “Your Mother Should Know” is within the vicinity but no. In the middle of the summer of love, in the middle of the top album of the summer of love by the greatest pop band anywhere, the Beatles took the generation gap and rewrote it as a place where we are all going to reach. Paul was 24 when the song was released, he had fast forwarded 40 years and made a standard, not “Happy Birthday To You” but a signpost for all people of a certain generation when they reach the milestone.
The song itself is excellent, a light hearted jump forward to Grandchildren, gardening, summers at the seaside, so English he smells like fish and chips, so part of the 20th century it airs in timelessly with clarinets, chimes and piano, Lennon great on the background harmonies, and a brilliant construction that dips and wobbles with “you’ll be older too” before spritely and joyful as it moves Paul back to the future alone -it reminds me a little of classic Ray Davies, of “Autumn Almanac” -a glorious gentleness. We don’t get her answer but we know the vibe.
64 is less old today but it will always be seen as an adventure to the end, to a life simplified to the pleasures of a life well lived, working class through and through, “64” surrounds the end of life with the possibility of a self-reflected happiness in the love of another, at the end the two are one even as he jaunts into a reality; the skimping and saving for a holiday in the isle of weight, the locking him out after a late night… a daydream future in an England long since gone.
As for me, I’m feeling my age… apparently 64 is just another day in a pandemic…