When I'm 64 is a jaunty, song-and-dance-music-hall ditty that takes the form of a letter from a young person brightly looking forward to the ripe and rewarding attainment of that age--renting a cottage on the Isle of Wight, grandchildren (Vera, Chuck, and Dave)--with a correspondent, someone likewise faced with the ravages of time ("You'll be older too") whose willingness to accept the chanteur's demand to be needed and fed is perhaps in doubt, although the whimsical banter of the letter suggests more of an inside joke.
In my family the real fans of the song were my parents--40-ish when it came out--to whom the corny music was less of an artifact, and who could pack the song with their hopes that the generation of sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll would buckle down enough to give them grandchildren.
Anyway, I'm going to be 64 in a few days. Down-buckled, I dutifully produced three grandchildren, two of whom--though not named Vera and Chuck--I recruited at ages 7 and 4 to do a music video for their grandmother when she turned 64 (the kids carried out a pantomime of the song using a dollhouse and dollhouse accessories).
Making it to 64 is manifestly a cause for ironic ridicule to someone of the "now generation" that hullabalooed about not trusting anyone over 30, worshipped musical idols who didn't make it that far, and believed that the youthful force of rock music would usher in a utopia of peace and love.
As a result, I've been feeling the need for a "deep parody" of When I'm 64. Generated by the song itself, the parody would reverse McCartney's song. If McCartney looked forward to golden years being a continuum from the good ol' days ("If I've been out 'til quarter to 3"), the parody would look back to some abrupt disjuncture when the fantasy ended and reality began.
In fact, as much as possible about the song would be the reverse of McCartney: instead of jaunty music hall, it'd be a rock downer, electric and drummish; the mellow clarinet would morph into one or another of the test tube keyboard chimeras that populate today's music; where McCartney was major, it'd be minor, and vice-versa; where McCartney's melody went up, this melody would go down or be static; where McCartney was static, the melody would move; the (hopefully) enduring romance at the heart of McCartney's song would become some kind of epic split.
Some things would remain to hearken to the original and provide enough of an imitative framework to make it parody, but these would be underlying, structural elements: tempo, some re-fashioned melodic hooks, the prosody, and the scansion. An important element would remain--the correspondence aspect--but would be turned inside out: the singer would be responding, not initiating. Chances are these aspects would work like invisible support Legos hidden by surface flash and be unnoticeable to the unaware.
However, not feeling equal to the task of choosing a subject for the lyric, I let wordplay be my dice roll. Exchanging consonants in "64" soon produced the phrase "fixed to score," which could suggest many scenarios--sports, sex, drug-dealing. Given the hippie milieu being recalled, sports was out, but either sex or drugs could fit. The thing that tipped the scale as to which of those would "inspire" the refrain was an incident from my high school years.
JF was a smart guy, a bit of a loner, friendly, quiet, preternaturally pale, with a slouching amble and a sly, sideways grin. Like many of my smart friends he made terrible grades but made up for it by blowing the top of standardized tests. A National Merit semifinalist, he supposedly--to invoke the other salient fact about his high school reputation--took the exam tripping on LSD.
JF was also a drug dealer, and not without ambition. In independent study math one day he confided to me that he was having a brick of hashish shipped to him by way of the Railway Express Agency. He wasn't trying to interest me in buying--I was not a customer. His telling me about the hash wasn't a boast so much as it was an insouciant gesture delivered with nonchalance, something along the lines of "I'm going to jump the Grand Canyon in a motorcycle just to see how it goes." My inner reaction was, "I would never do anything like that; I hope you don't get caught;" my verbal response was probably something along the lines of "Far out."
He got caught. After finding this out, I never saw or heard from or about JF again. (If any old HS acquaintances recognize this story and happen to know the actual sequel, send me a postcard, drop me a line, stating point of view.) But the fact that when he got caught he was "fixed to score" jumped out at me as a major, serendipitous piece of the puzzle I was constructing.
So: apologies, JF. I hope you're somewhere, flourishing. Maybe on the Isle of Wight.
For the purposes of the song, though, the bust would be at the center of a betrayal of romantic trust, and for the most adolescent of reasons: because parents. And also the "score" is a dealer's score, more about money than drugs, giving the lie to the ballyhooed flower-power rejection of materialism.
I fleshed all this out by bouncing off McCartney's patter, e.g. "When I get older, losing my hair" became "when I was younger and had lots of hair," etc. (My personal favorite is changing "doing the garden, digging the weeds" to "doing it in the garden, digging the weed.") McCartney's melodically-static shout of "When I'm 64!" becomes a ruefully melodic, dissonant head-shaking "When I was fixed to score" that employs the same notes as the beginning of the clarinet solo in the original, but my wager is that you wouldn't notice if you didn't know.
Here, then, is the result. I didn't hit the specs 100%, but it's close. See what you think. (Be sure to use the closed captions.)
Happy 64, me. I'm glad to have made it this far and to have aged into some of the kinds of joys described in McCartney's ditty. Losing my hair is so much the least of the stuff I had to grow through to get here--bad and good--that my life strategy begins to look like deep parody of the very notion of "strategy."