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Polythene Pam by The Beatles

Album: Abbey RoadReleased: 1969
  • Polythene is a British term for Polyethylene, a plastic polymer used in containers, insulation, and packaging. Written by John Lennon, this song has a rather strange background, and fortunately our Beatles expert Pattie Noah has sorted it out. Writes Pattie: "On 'Polythene Pam,' John based her on two people. One was Patricia Hodgett, who was a Cavern Dweller (someone who hung out at the Cavern Club, where The Beatles used to play). Pat used to actually eat polythene! They started calling her 'Polythene Pat.' Not a far stretch to Pam. The other woman was named Stephanie, and she was the girlfriend of John's good friend, the poet Royston Ellis. John was with Ellis and Stephanie in the Channel Islands and they all had a three-way sexual experience with her wearing an outfit made from polythene. I think they were even doing it on a bed covered in sheets of polythene. Ellis said, 'We'd read all these things about leather and we didn't have any leather but I had my oilskins and we had some polythene bags from somewhere. We all dressed up in them and wore them to bed.' Ellis says nothing 'perverted' really happened... but John did ;)."
  • Lennon sang this in a thick Liverpool accent. Like the other Beatles, his regular singing voice sounded very American because he grew up listening to US artists.
  • In the line, "She's the kind of a girl that makes the News Of The World," The News Of The World is a tabloid newspaper that specializes in risqué news reporting. Pam must have been a wild girl. (thanks, Tim - Phoenix, AZ)
  • The Beatles recorded this as one song with "She Came In Through the Bathroom Window."
  • Originally intended for The White Album, this was used in a suite of songs at the end of Abbey Road.
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Comments: 45

P.P. was Brian Epstein "She's so good looking but she looks like a man".... Ya know: Just part of the Beatles story captured, almost as an Opera.. (I always heard the line as "She's the kind of a girl that makes a musical bell, yes you could say she was executively built"....... Whatever it is, that..... Those last songs on B side (Beginning with "You Never Give Me Your Money" were 1) Beautiful; and 2)Told the story of the Beatles, the angst and drama of the past few years, but still with love...... Lennon & McCartney: Genius..... Pure (Truly) genius. I sadly doubt that we will ever see anything of their like again. Luckily, we have them on POLYTHENE forever! Had to stick that in there to add to B. Epstein... Ya know... Vinyls... POLYTHENE! The man owned a Record Store!!.... (Takes him out to look at the queen. Always shouts out something obscene (Royal Command Performance: "And if the rest of you will just rattle your jewelry"...)Ken - Lake Ccity, Fl
I gotta say I've never seen/ heard an explanation on the lyrics by John. Anybody seen a comment in "Lennon Remembers"? I've allways chalked this up as another Lennon stream of conciousness song. All I ever knew was how damned well this fits with the PERFECTLY COMPOSED Abbey Road side 2. The guitar on this is amazing. Plus, this side is Ringo's finest ever drumming. Man talk about a roller coaster of images,feelings and sounds.Meocyber - Alma, Co
killer-diller - A very sexy young man.
#3 but it's my fav meaning.
http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=killer%20diller
Emily - St Louis, Mo
The lyrics are Mr. Mustard's ode to his "sister", whose fondness for polythene is not the entirety of her pleasure in synthetic materials.Tom - Los Angeles, Ca
Polythene Pam was a transvestite.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zAvOHHlYZw
Emily - St Louis, Mo
One more thing..NOT to burst everyone's innocent bubble they live in but read this about a tape being sold of John and Yoko talking in 1969 right before John and Yoko got married. http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/entertainment/music/Own-A-Very-Awkward-Piece-Of-John--Yokos-History-65180902.html

" [Lennon] adds that he had never met an attractive woman that had sexually aroused him to any great degree."
Emily - St Louis, Mo
John Lennon was very sexed and did not mind gender swaps. Watch this - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zAvOHHlYZw
.."a GIRL between us" ;)
Emily - St Louis, Mo
To Joe in Oswego, no, the lyric is "Makes the News Of The World".Pattie - Orlando, Fl
to oem from oswego, WA -
you make a good argument about the lyrics, b ut if you listen to the acoustic version thats on anthology 3, he CLEARLY says "makes the news of the world"
Michael - Gloucester, Va
Another great Beatles rocker from John.I really like this one,a no-holds barred tune.I love the guitar solo near the end.It is too bad that the song is so short time wise though.But if it had been longer it probably would not have blended into "She Came In Through The Bathroom Window" as well as it does.Abbey Road was the first album I ever bought.I was 9 going on 10 and just beginning to really appreciate rock and roll.I liked "Come Together" then from hearing it on the radio,thus my buying the Abbey Road LP.Tim - Salem, Va
love the beat. always have to sing with this songNady - Adelaide, --
I thought this song was about a butterface... you know, a girl who looks hot, and then you see her face, and you're like, OH GOD NO. Cuz she's so good looking... but she looks like a man. And she's the kind of a girl who'd make good use of a veil. Cuz her face is UG-LY. But you could say she was attractively built!!Rocco - Silver Spring, Md
I would like to make a case for a lyric correction where people say the lyrics are; "She's the kind of a girl that ""Makes the News of the World."""

I believe the lyrics say "She's the kind of a girl that makes a use of her build...."

Here's my case.

First: Look to the lyrics from the beginning to support the idea is that the theme of "Polythene Pam" is her good looks, which astound John Lennon. The first stanza is telling us that "We should see Polythene Pam" WHY? Because shes dressed in a black polythene bag. Polythene like Saran, is a plastic wrap, that can be form fitting, making the female body very alluring. A female in a form fitting black wrap would be very attractive to the "average" man, thus the call to look, and then 3 exclamation points with the Yeah Yeah Yeah. John now has are attention about Pam, and he continues.

Second: John then sings about how good pam looks in jackboots and kilts, she's killer diller (very hot) when she's dressed to the hilt. Notice how the theme of Pam's "looks and attire" continues in the song. Pam is obviously hot, and John wants to paint us a verbal picture. Now here comes the CORRECTION.

She's the kind of a girl that (either makes the news of the world)(or makes a use of her build)
The key to this phrase comes in the form of the conjuction following the phrase. YES! John says, YOU could say she was attractively built. He wouldn't use that line if the previous line was she makes the "News of the World."

News of the World has nothing to do with the theme of Pams beauty.

A good example of this conjuction use is in the song Penny Lane. In it there's a line that says; "He likes to keep his fire engine clean - it's a clean machine.

"She's the kind of a girl that makes a use of her build - Yes!, you could says she was attractively built." Yeah Yeah Yeah

Case Closed
Oem - Oswego, Wa
Great music, and I do love John's full-on Scouse accent too. The brief lyrics are clearly about an appealing transvestite: "you should see her in drag"! And rockin' Pam is just the kind of girl who makes the "News of the World", still the UK's most widely-read "scandal sheet" (since 1843!).Steve - Tarrytown, Ny
The Beatles became famous with songs with the word "Yeah" in them, but then they moved on. This was the first one since the Beatlemania days where they used the word "Yeah" so prominently.Forrest - Rochester, Mn
Yes, with lyrics like this you would think it's about a transvestite, especially after you've heard "Lola." I never thought of it as a possible homage to Little Richard, but that's an interesting theory. Maybe because the Beatles are so fundamentally heterosexual, people are less likely to pursue a gender-bending interpretation of the song. Also recall the line "They look just like two gurus in drag" from "The Ballad of John and Yoko." What was it with Lennon and drag queen imagery?N.i. - Baltimore, Md
ringo owns this song. those drums are just too damn good.Luke - Toronto , Canada
The drum solo in the the song "The End" is all of them drumming a piece eachDave - London, England
Great, fun song, but I disagree with the understood perceptions of the second verse. I believe John clearly says "she's the kind of a gal, that makes a use of the bell, yes you could say she was attractively built." "Makes the use of the bell" which refers to her having the classic female shape. What would being in a tabloid have to do with her being "attractively built?"Larry - Chicago, Il
Pam and mean Mr.Mustard are siblings. weird.

I drew Polythene Pam she came out good
Bianca Sanchez - Alburquerque, Nm
Why would you want to go around with a plastic bag stuck on your head? How could you eat?Peter Griffin - Quahog, Ri
Nick of Canada is partically correct. Paul heard Her Majesty and didn't like it and it was cut out of the mix. A engineer saw it lying on the ground and was always told not to discard anything from the Beatles, so he tacked it on at the end, after adding 20 seconds of blank filler. Paul heard it there the next days, liked it, so it remains at the end, with 20 seconds of blank air.Jeffrey - Lumberton, Nj
The song is about a 3-way between John, Royston Ellis and his girlfriend. They wanted to do it on black leather sheets but they didn't have any, so they used black polythene.

Royston talked about it (without mentioning the song) on the show about the Beatles' secrets that is airing right this minute on TV. And John had spoken about it before in an interview. He added the part about her looking like a man, the jackboots and the kilts, just to embellish the song. So those lyrics are not based on facts, but are creative license.

According to this show, John was an intrepid sexual adventurer, who tried many things and turned nothing down. There is speculation that he may have tried out sex with Brian Epstein on a trip to Barcelona, but no one really knows.

Here's some other info I found online:

Structured as a limerick, the song is superficially about "a mythical Liverpool scrubber dressed up in her jackboots and kilt", but in actuality inspired by an evening that John spent with poet Royston Ellis and his girlfriend, Stephanie. The three wore polythene (a common British contraction of the word polyethylene) bags and slept in the same bed out of curiosity about kinky sex
Debbie - Gardem Grove, Ca
I just love the accent on this song! i like the way how john says Pam. and i like the sound of the driving drums.John - Eden Prairie, Mn
Starts with power chording on acoustic guitar and ends with a tone pedal guitar solo by George.Joe - Montvale, Nj
Even though he is talking about a girl who's "so good looking but she looks like a man" (I don't think I would ever think a girl who looks like a man would look good), this song is absolutely fantastic. I love these first 3-4 songs that connect (Sun King, if that counts with the rest of them). I find them funny and just fun to listen to and sing. John Lennon is awesome!Cameron - Bainsville, Canada
This is one of two Beatles songs that was inspired, in part, by a brief romantic tryst George had with a transsexual. The other song was "Get Back".Zoloft - Milton, Wv
Her Majesty is at the end because Paul felt it was out of place where they had it before Polythene Pam. one of the sound engineers put it at the end of the tapes and they just kind of forgot it there. on final playback, Paul liked it there, so they kept it.Nick - Moncton, Canada
I think the polythene bags were were just there to protect the bed. I'm sure olive oil or something similar was also involved. Maybe Popeye, too! I don't think they just crawled inside the bags and slept. Though John and Yoko did crawl into bags later on to gain media attention for their protest interests. This was called bag-ism. But I don't think those bags were made of polythene.Joe - Lethbridge, Canada
this song is great. did you know that orininaly it was recorded to follow Mean Mr Mustard and was to be followed by Her Magesty. the first note of Her Magesty is the last note of Polythene Pam
- clifford, montreal, Canada

thats really interesting actually... does anyone know why they decided to put her majesty after the end?
Dani - Nyc, Ny
Stephanie--And even if they didn't suffocate, imagine how sweaty it must have been to sleep in plastic bags. Yuck.Dirk - Nashville, Tn
The lyrics as released are, "...get a dose of her in jackboots and kilt, she's killer-diller when she's dressed to the hilt..." But the original lyrics were supposed to be: "...get a dose of her in jackboots and kilt, she's Phyllis Diller when she's dressed to the hilt..." The would make sense, since Phyllis Diller is kind of man-ish. Heh heh... I'm totally kidding. This is such a swinging song and reminds me of the go-go dancers on Laugh-In. Probably my favorite on Abbey Road.Robert - Seattle, Wa
I'm supprised those guys didn't suffocate when they slept in the polythene bags.Stefanie - Rock Hill, Sc
Haha this song is great. The Beatles were so funny!Stefanie - Rock Hill, Sc
Hey Pam is just like me..so the song goes for me...i dragged in polythene type see thru fabric shirt and a leather skirt with long boots once.. i sure looked gr8. Got many of appreciations at our very own gay night club.! John knows it all..I m sure he s watching us! watching me.......Sum Sum - New Delhi, India
She's so good looking, but she looks like a man?! So she's a crossdresser, or a woman that has facial hair or something?Nathan - Defiance, Oh
"The 3 put on polythene bags and slept in the same bed." Sounds like a pretty sweaty experience.Wes - Springfield, Va
"Get a dose of her in Jack boots and kilt, She's killer diller when she's dressed to the hilt", genius lyrics from John, the way they roll off his tongue kills me every time!Rhedyn Williams - Bristol, England
this song is great. did you know that orininaly it was recorded to follow Mean Mr Mustard and was to be followed by Her Magesty. the first note of Her Magesty is the last note of Polythene PamClifford - Montreal, Canada
Catherine from glasgow, just for your information it was John who sang it. Btw, I agree with you, the version on the anthology is great!Stefanie Magura - Rock Hill, Sc
it went with mean mr mustard alsoRachel - Marlboro, Nh
I think the line goes:
"She's the kind of a girl that makes a mule of a fel" (fellow) rather than "make the news of the world"
Joe - Oswego, Ny
probably ringos best drumming other than his solo in "the end"Kabrams - Dallas, Tx
I'm interested to know why John/Paul chose to sing this song with his scouse accent so prominant.
Ilove listening to this song cos i love the accent. You should here the Anthology version. Its grrayt!!!
Catherine - Glasgow, England
Paul McCartney sang 'Long Tall Sally,' a song by Little Richard thought to be about a transvestite. Could there be a connection between this and the line "She's so good looking but she looks like a man"?Ian - Urbana, Il