Maxwell's Silver Hammer
|"Maxwell's Silver Hammer"|
|Song by The Beatles|
|from the album Abbey Road|
|Released||26 September 1969|
|Recorded||9 – 11 July 6 August 1969|
|Abbey Road track listing|
"Maxwell's Silver Hammer" is a song by The Beatles, from the Abbey Road album, with Paul McCartney singing lead vocals. It was written by McCartney, though the songwriting credit is Lennon/McCartney.
Structure[change | change source]
The vaudevillian-style song is about medical student Maxwell Edison, who uses his silver hammer to murder his girlfriend Joan, then his teacher, and finally the judge during his murder trial. Despite the grim subject matter, the song is bouncy and upbeat (a "happy song about a serial killer").
Meaning[change | change source]
McCartney said in 1994 that it symbolizes the failures of life:
- "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" is my analogy for when something goes wrong out of the blue, as it so often does, as I was beginning to find out at that time in my life. I wanted something symbolic of that, so to me it was some fictitious character called Maxwell with a silver hammer. I don't know why it was silver, it just sounded better than Maxwell's hammer. It was needed for scanning. We still use that expression now when something unexpected happens."
McCartney referred to the song when talking about his 2005 album Chaos and Creation in the Backyard:
- "In the past I may have written tongue-in-cheek, like 'Maxwell's Silver Hammer', and dealt with matters of fate in a kind of comical, parody manner. It just so happens in this batch of songs I would look at these subjects and thought it was good for writing. If it's good enough to take to your psychiatrist, it's good enough to make a song of."
Recording[change | change source]
After resuming to record the Abbey Road album, the Beatles began recording Maxwell's Silver Hammer at Abbey Road Studios on 9 July 1969. McCartney, Harrison and Starr taped 16 takes of the song, followed by a series of guitar overdubs.
George Harrison described it in 1969 as "one of those instant whistle-along tunes which some people hate, and other people really like. It's a fun song, but it's kind of a drag because Maxwell keeps on destroying everyone like his girlfriend then the school teacher, and then, finally, the judge." In 1977 Harrison was more candid, describing it as "so fruity" but added "we did a good job on it". 
The length of time it took to record the song created tension between the Beatles. Paul McCartney said: "The only arguments were about things like me spending three days on Maxwell's Silver Hammer. I remember George saying, 'You've taken three days, it's only a song.' - 'Yeah, but I want to get it right. I've got some thoughts on this one.' It was early-days Moog work and it did take a bit of time".
Personnel[change | change source]
- Paul McCartney – lead and backing vocal; overdubbed guitar; piano, Moog IIIp
- George Harrison – backing vocal, guitar, bass
- John Lennon – backing vocal, acoustic guitar
- Ringo Starr – backing vocal, drums
- Mal Evans – anvil
- George Martin – organ
References[change | change source]
- Sheff 2000, p. 202.
- Lewisohn 1988.
- Emerick, Geoff; Massey, Howard (2006). Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles. New York: Penguin Books. p. 281. ISBN 978-1-59240-179-6.
- Crawdaddy Magazine 1977.
- The Beatles Bible 2009.
- MacDonald 2005, p. 357.
- Babiuk 2002, p. 256.
- Lewisohn 1988, p. 179.
Other websites[change | change source]
- Babiuk, Andy; Bacon, Tony (2002). Beatles Gear: All The Fab Four's Instruments, from Stage to Studio (Second Revised ed.). London: BackBeat Books (Outline Press). ISBN 978-0-87930-731-8.
- "Bill Harry, The Paul McCartney Encyclopedia". Wingspan.ru. 2009. Retrieved 14 December 2009.
- Patton Oswalt (2004). Feelin' Kinda Patton. United Musicians.
- "George Harrison Interview". Crawdaddy Magazine. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
- "Interview with Ringo Starr". Rolling Stone. January 2008.
- Lewisohn, Mark (1988). The Beatles Recording Sessions. New York: Harmony Books. ISBN 978-0-517-57066-1.
- MacDonald, Ian (2005). Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties (Second Revised ed.). London: Pimlico (Rand). ISBN 978-1-84413-828-9.
- "Maxwell's Silver Hammer". The Beatles Bible. 2009. Retrieved 5 November 2009.
- Newton, Michael (2000). The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers. Checkmark Books. ISBN 978-0-8160-3979-1.
- Lennon, John; Ono, Yoko; Sheff, David (2000). All We Are Saying. New York: St. Martin's Griffin. ISBN 978-0-312-25464-3.
- Sulpy, Doug; Schweighardt, Ray (1999). Get Back: The Unauthorized Chronicle of the Beatles' Let it Be Disaster. Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-312-19981-4.