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Author Topic: Song Of The Week - Maxwell's Silver Hammer  (Read 1697 times)

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Kangaroo Kev

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Song Of The Week - Maxwell's Silver Hammer
« on: May 08, 2014, 03:20:04 AM »

"Maxwell's Silver Hammer" is a song by the Beatles, sung by Paul McCartney on their album Abbey Road. It was written by McCartney, though credited to Lennon–McCartney. "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" is a pop song with dark, eccentric lyrics about a man named Maxwell who commits murder with a hammer.

The song was written in October 1968, intended for the album The Beatles, but missed off due to time constraints. It was rehearsed again three months later, in January 1969, at Twickenham film studios during the Get Back sessions but would not be recorded for another six months.

Linda McCartney reports that Paul had become interested in avant-garde theatre and had immersed himself in the writings of Alfred Jarry. This influence is reflected in the story and tone of the song, and also explains how Paul came across Jarry's word “pataphysical”, which occurs in the lyrics.

Beatles guitarist George Harrison described the song 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."[this quote needs a citation] Lennon described it as "more of Paul's granny music". In 1994, McCartney said that the song merely epitomises the downfalls of life, being "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."

On 9 August 1967 Kenneth Halliwell killed his lover Joe Orton with nine hammer blows to the head, and then overdosed on sleeping pills. Their bodies were discovered late the following morning, when a chauffeur arrived at the door of their Noel Road flat in Islington to collect Orton for a meeting with The Beatles regarding a screenplay he had written for them.

The recording subsequently drew comment from the band: Lennon said "I was ill after the accident when they did most of that track, and it really ground George and Ringo into the ground recording it", adding later "I hate it, 'cos all I remember is the track ... [Paul] did everything to make it into a single, and it never was and it never could have been."
Harrison characterised the song as "fruity" and commented "we spent a hell of a lot of time on it", and later "after a while, we did a good job on it". McCartney recalled: "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

Paul McCartney – lead and backing vocals, overdubbed electric guitar, piano, Moog synthesizer
George Harrison – backing vocal, electric guitar, six-string bass
Ringo Starr – backing vocal, drums, anvil
George Martin – organ
Mal Evans – anvil

Wonder if this is the only song in history with a credit for an Anvil player ?
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Moogmodule

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Re: Song Of The Week - Maxwell's Silver Hammer
« Reply #1 on: May 08, 2014, 05:32:10 AM »

I liked the bizarre story in the song as a youngster. This hammer that seemed to be protecting Maxwell whenever he was in bother.  Musically I thought it was catchy and fun. I find it  a bit tedious now. It's not a song that bears repeated listening. I'm afraid it's a bit of a skipper.
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oldbrownshoe

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Re: Song Of The Week - Maxwell's Silver Hammer
« Reply #2 on: May 08, 2014, 06:24:01 AM »

Side One of 'Abbey Road' is truly eclectic and, given the gems sprinkled all around it like 'Something', I've always rather liked 'Maxwell'. It wouldn't get in my Beatles Top 50, yet serves its purpose perfectly on the album.

However, speaking from a London standpoint, I can't vouch for the rest of the world, this song (along with 'Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da', 'Yellow Submarine' and 'Octopus's Garden') is the go-to track for anyone who wants to slag off the group.
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Klang

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Re: Song Of The Week - Maxwell's Silver Hammer
« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2014, 08:08:46 AM »


Agree with the above. Not one that I care much for.

 :)

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Ovi

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Re: Song Of The Week - Maxwell's Silver Hammer
« Reply #4 on: May 08, 2014, 09:07:08 AM »

I like some things about it, but the chorus is weak and annoying.
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Kangaroo Kev

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Re: Song Of The Week - Maxwell's Silver Hammer
« Reply #5 on: May 08, 2014, 11:06:40 AM »

Side One of 'Abbey Road' is truly eclectic and, given the gems sprinkled all around it like 'Something', I've always rather liked 'Maxwell'. It wouldn't get in my Beatles Top 50, yet serves its purpose perfectly on the album.

However, speaking from a London standpoint, I can't vouch for the rest of the world, this song (along with 'Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da', 'Yellow Submarine' and 'Octopus's Garden') is the go-to track for anyone who wants to slag off the group.

Yes Ive found that, people cite Maxwell & Obla Di as 'the kind of rubbish the Beatles spewed out'

I could never actually stand this song, it drives me crazy and brings the album down imo

Your typical rock music fan in 1969 whilst drooling over the rest of the album thought this was positively gruesome, Im not surprised the rest of the group hated it also. Spending 4 days on this would be enough to drive anyone to drink !!

Paul is a mega talented songwriter as he has proved, but occasionally he worked on inexplicable tripe like this (The Frog Chorus ?)
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Moogmodule

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Re: Song Of The Week - Maxwell's Silver Hammer
« Reply #6 on: May 08, 2014, 11:16:37 AM »

Yes Ive found that, people cite Maxwell & Obla Di as 'the kind of rubbish the Beatles spewed out'

I could never actually stand this song, it drives me crazy and brings the album down imo

Your typical rock music fan in 1969 whilst drooling over the rest of the album thought this was positively gruesome, Im not surprised the rest of the group hated it also. Spending 4 days on this would be enough to drive anyone to drink !!

Paul is a mega talented songwriter as he has proved, but occasionally he worked on inexplicable tripe like this (The Frog Chorus ?)

Four days? Heavens. John was smart to call in sick. George seems remarkably upbeat about it in the quotes, all things considered.
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Hello Goodbye

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Re: Song Of The Week - Maxwell's Silver Hammer
« Reply #7 on: May 08, 2014, 04:29:35 PM »

Wonder if this is the only song in history with a credit for an Anvil player ?


 ;D


Giuseppe Verdi - Il Trovatore - Anvil Chorus




I like Maxwell's Silver Hammer well enough.  The Abbey Road Medley is the highlight of the album for me though.
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Mairi

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Re: Song Of The Week - Maxwell's Silver Hammer
« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2014, 05:57:33 PM »

I like this one because it's kind of weird and twisted. Paul could be pretty creepy at times.
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oldbrownshoe

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Re: Song Of The Week - Maxwell's Silver Hammer
« Reply #9 on: May 08, 2014, 06:46:09 PM »

I'd never thought of 'Maxwell' in relation to the White Album, but it would have made more sense on that record.

I wonder why songs like 'Come And Get It', 'Goodbye', 'Every Night' or 'Maybe I'm Amazed' (all stronger Paul songs) didn't nudge themselves above 'Maxwell' in the pecking order for Abbey Road?

Still, you have to ask yourself, 'Is Abbey Road absolutely fabulous?', and the answer is clearly 'Yes'!
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Moogmodule

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Re: Song Of The Week - Maxwell's Silver Hammer
« Reply #10 on: May 08, 2014, 09:29:02 PM »

I'd never thought of 'Maxwell' in relation to the White Album, but it would have made more sense on that record.

I wonder why songs like 'Come And Get It', 'Goodbye', 'Every Night' or 'Maybe I'm Amazed' (all stronger Paul songs) didn't nudge themselves above 'Maxwell' in the pecking order for Abbey Road?

Still, you have to ask yourself, 'Is Abbey Road absolutely fabulous?', and the answer is clearly 'Yes'!

Yep. Love abbey road. 

Did Paul ever intend Come and Get it for anyone but badfinger? The demo of it a just him (again) so it doesn't suggest he was trying to get the others interested in it.

Paul must really have fancied this song though. If he tried it on the White Album, Let it Be and finally on Abbey Road.
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Moogmodule

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Re: Song Of The Week - Maxwell's Silver Hammer
« Reply #11 on: May 08, 2014, 09:34:57 PM »

;D


Giuseppe Verdi - Il Trovatore - Anvil Chorus



I like Maxwell's Silver Hammer well enough.  The Abbey Road Medley is the highlight of the album for me though.


I think side two is a joy from beginning to end. First side has it's lower points. Mainly maxwell. I don't mind octopus. Has some great guitar by George.
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Kangaroo Kev

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Re: Song Of The Week - Maxwell's Silver Hammer
« Reply #12 on: May 08, 2014, 10:05:45 PM »

I'd never thought of 'Maxwell' in relation to the White Album, but it would have made more sense on that record.

I wonder why songs like 'Come And Get It', 'Goodbye', 'Every Night' or 'Maybe I'm Amazed' (all stronger Paul songs) didn't nudge themselves above 'Maxwell' in the pecking order for Abbey Road?



It sounds (from Johns comments) like Paul wanted this to be a single, but the others vetoed that, Paul obviously loved it though.

Thats what I mean about Paul in my earlier comments though, to you & me and most Beatle fans (and even Lennon) he had much better songs as you name above, but there was this strange & silly side to him that made him admire this kind of immature stuff - what John called his 'granny music', Im assuming he lumped it in with songs like Honey Pie (I also cite C Moon)

Besides the ones you mention Id have preferred Step Inside Love, a great song imo he gave to Cilla but his demo is on anthology....he should have spent 4 days on that !
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Normandie

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Re: Song Of The Week - Maxwell's Silver Hammer
« Reply #13 on: May 09, 2014, 01:56:31 AM »

I'd never thought of 'Maxwell' in relation to the White Album, but it would have made more sense on that record.

I've always thought it would be well suited to the White Album.

I like this song, although it's not a top Beatle favorite for me. The juxtaposition of the sunny tune and the dark nature of the lyrics was jarring the first few times I heard it.
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Hombre_de_ningun_lugar

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Re: Song Of The Week - Maxwell's Silver Hammer
« Reply #14 on: May 09, 2014, 02:16:47 AM »

However, speaking from a London standpoint, I can't vouch for the rest of the world, this song (along with 'Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da', 'Yellow Submarine' and 'Octopus's Garden') is the go-to track for anyone who wants to slag off the group.

I think "Yellow Submarine" doesn't deserve to be mentioned among those songs; it's a child-like classic, and I don't find it annoying at all. Put "The Long And Winding Road" in that place. Anyway, I can't say I hate any Beatles song.

With regard to "Maxwell's Silver Hammer", in my opinion it's the worst song from Abbey Road and a huge let down after great songs like "Come Together" and "Something". I prefer other "fillers" like "What Goes On" or "Wait".
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In My Life

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Re: Song Of The Week - Maxwell's Silver Hammer
« Reply #15 on: May 09, 2014, 03:36:58 AM »

I loved this song as a little kid. I guess the melody got me and I wasn't too concerned about the lyrics. As an adult though it suddenly dawned on me that, yeah...this is a dark song! Like Kathy mentioned I always think about how Paul cloaked dismal lyrics in a bright melody, just like he did in "Another Day". So John was absent from most but not all of the recording of this? I wonder then if it's true that Paul's little laugh as he delivered the word "writing" was precipitated by John mooning him when he sang "behind". I read that somewhere. I suppose I wouldn't classify this as a top favorite but Abbey Road wouldn't be Abbey Road without it.
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Kelley

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Re: Song Of The Week - Maxwell's Silver Hammer
« Reply #16 on: May 09, 2014, 03:37:27 AM »

Get Back Sessions   January 1969...


The Beatles - Maxwell's Silver Hammer - Demo Quality Restored!!!
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In My Life

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Re: Song Of The Week - Maxwell's Silver Hammer
« Reply #17 on: May 09, 2014, 03:47:39 AM »

^^^
I love hearing these demos. And this picture makes me laugh! Poor Ringo; they ran out of helmets so he had to put his boot on his head. I need to look for this one to add to my collection. LOL
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Kelley

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Re: Song Of The Week - Maxwell's Silver Hammer
« Reply #18 on: May 09, 2014, 03:51:15 AM »



They certainly made a bold fashion statement in 1969
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In My Life

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Re: Song Of The Week - Maxwell's Silver Hammer
« Reply #19 on: May 09, 2014, 04:14:22 AM »

They certainly made a bold fashion statement in 1969

Indeed! Thanks Barry.
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Kelley

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