“Polythene Pam” is a Beatles’ song on their Abbey Road album from 1969, of course. Indeed it is the 4th part of the long medley on side 2. In brief, the singing is in the form of a Liverpool accent (Scouse). Moreover, it is an unflattering poke at a Liverpool lass or lasses from their gigging days in the Cavern Club and around Merseyside.
Recorded: 25th, 28th and 30th July, 1969
Track Duration: 1:12
Record Label: Apple Records
Producer: George Martin
Engineers: Geoff Emerick, Phil McDonald
John Lennon: lead vocal, twelve-string acoustic guitar, also handclaps
Paul McCartney: backing vocal, bass, pianos (acoustic and electric)
George Harrison: backing vocal, also lead guitar
Ringo Starr: drums, tambourine, maracas, cowbell
John Lennon wrote the song while in India where he was studying Transcendental Meditation in 1968. The title of the song implies that the subject was a real person but it probably was a combination of two females, in reality.
Firstly, we have a real woman called Pat Hodgett (now Dawson) who was an early Beatles fan. She had a fetish which would see her eating Polythene:
“I started going to see The Beatles in 1961 when I was 14 and I got quite friendly with them. If they were playing out of town they’d give me a lift back home in their van. It was about the same time that I started getting called Polythene Pat. It’s embarrassing really.
I just 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. Then I had a friend who got a job in a polythene bag factory, which was wonderful because it meant I had a constant supply”.
A Hard Day’s Write, Steve Turner
The Quarrymen once played as a backing group for erstwhile beat poet, Royston Ellis, in June 1960. Although they went their separate ways, they remained friends. Then, in August, 1963, John Lennon met up with Ellis again in the Channel Islands (Guernsey not Jersey).
“[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, who gave us our first exposure – this is so long – you can’t deal with all this.
You see, everything triggers amazing memories. 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 [Stephanie] he wanted me to meet. He said she dressed up in polythene, which she did. She didn’t wear jackboots and kilts, I just sort of elaborated. Perverted sex in a polythene bag. Just looking for something to write about.”
John Lennon, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff
The Beatles began recording “Polythene Pam” on the 25 July, 1969, in Studio Two at the EMI Studios in London during the 2.30pm-2.30am session. In fact, they recorded Polythene Pam/She Came In Through The Bathroom Window as one. Both are about the Apple scruffs, of course.
The band taped 39 takes and chose the last one for overdubs. The overdubbing sessions began on the 28th July which included further lead vocals, guitars, tambourine, drums and piano. In the control room of Studio Two on the 30th July, the final overdubs took place together with the running order of the long medley on the Abbey Road album.
The 1996 “Anthology 3” album also has a home demo of this song. This recording comes from George Harrison’s home, Kinfauns in Surrey. The lyrics are slightly different on the demo version. They use the line “Well it’s a little absurd but she’s a nice class of bird” instead of “She’s the kind of a girl that makes the News of the World”.
Quite a few artists also recorded their version of “Polythene Pam”. For example, there was Booker T. & the MGs (1970), Roy Wood (1976), Atom and His Package (1999) and The Punkles (2006).