Background and compositionEdit
The song was originally introduced during The Beatles sessions; a demo from the Esher Sessions can be found on Anthology 3. Lennon would describe this song, along with "Mean Mr. Mustard", in The Beatles Anthology as "a bit of crap I wrote in India".
In 1980, John Lennon said about "Polythene Pam": "That was me, remembering a little event with a woman in Jersey, and a man who was England's answer to Allen Ginsberg...I met him when we were on tour and he took me back to his apartment and I had a girl and he had one he wanted me to meet. He said she dressed up in polythene, which she did. She didn't wear jack boots and kilts, I just sort of elaborated. Perverted sex in a polythene bag. Just looking for something to write about." The song is sung in a very strong Liverpudlian "Scouse" accent.
Polythene is a British variant of the word polyethylene, a plastic material. The name 'Polythene Pam' came from the nickname of an early Beatles' fan from the Cavern Club days, named Pat Hodgett (now Dawson), who would often eat polythene.She became known as 'Polythene Pat'. She said in an interview, "I used to eat polythene all the time. I'd tie it in knots and then eat it. Sometimes I even used to burn it and then eat it when it got cold."
Placement on Abbey RoadEdit
On the album Abbey Road, the song is linked with the previous song "Mean Mr. Mustard" musically, as the two run together without pause. The two songs are also linked narratively, since "Mean Mr. Mustard" mentions that the title character Mustard has a sister named Pam. Originally, the line "his sister Pam..." in the song was "his sister Shirley...", but Lennon would change the line to contribute to the continuity of the Abbey Road side two medley. The song "Her Majesty" was originally set between "Mean Mr. Mustard" and "Polythene Pam".
"Polythene Pam" segues into the following song, "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window". At 0:47, someone picks up a tambourine and, in the left channel, Paul McCartney can be heard saying "Yeah," while Lennon says, "Great". Compositionally, "Polythene Pam" ends with the final notes of the guitar solo, at which point Lennon says, "We'll listen to that now." Lennon laughs, followed by "Oh, look out!" and a sudden, nearly-inaudible "You should..." before the transition. Also in the guitar solo, you can very slightly hear someone counting measure numbers.
- In 1976, Roy Wood of Electric Light Orchestra recorded the song for the musical documentary All This and World War II. In 1999, Atom and His Package covered the song on the album Making Love with altered lyrics as "P.P. (Doo-Doo)".
- In his 2009 "Hello New York" Tour, Paul McCartney changed the lyrics of one of the lines in "Band on the Run" from "And the Jailor man, and Sailor Sam, were searching everyone" to "Polythene Pam and Sailor Sam, were searching everyone".
- John Lennon – lead vocals, rhythm guitar (1964 Framus Hootenanny), handclaps
- Paul McCartney – backing vocals, bass (1968 Fender Jazz Bass)
- George Harrison – backing vocals, lead guitar (1957 Gibson Les Paul Standard)
- Ringo Starr – drums, tambourine, maracas, cowbell