After making a cameo appearance in Abbey Road‘s previous song, “Mean Mr. Mustard,” the sister of that title character gets her own track, and it’s a doozy. The three jarringly sharp guitar chords that kick off “Polythene Pam” are a pretty good indication that this song isn’t going to be a crowd-pleaser, and John’s snarled vocal, somewhat buried in the mix, perfectly suits the offbeat nature of the lyrics. (Compare it to the jolly pop arrangement the Bee Gees provided for the totally unsanctioned, nobody-asked-for-this 1978 Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band film, where it loses all its weirdness and charm.)
While famously unreliable narrator John Lennon is on the record as to the song being inspired by “perverted sex in a polythene bag,” an early fan of the group takes partial credit because of her peculiar diet. “I just used to eat polythene all the time,” Pat Dawson told author Steve Turner in 1994. “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.” For this, she earned the nickname “Polythene Pat.” This is too embarrassing and weird to lie about, even if it would earn you a spot as a footnote in Beatles history, so I’m sure she has a case.