Image Caption: Paul McCartney and John Lennon hamming it up for a Max photo op. Photo Credits: Anonymous.
Often when I’m gardening (one of my jobs this summer) I like to listen to music, especially if I’m not in the best mood at the time. Today, I decided to listen to The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album for something different as I usually listen to EDM (Electro Dance Movement – basically dance with lots of synth and base – for those of you unfamiliar with the genre) or fast rock at work and at the gym. One of the first songs that came on which I found was quite bizarre – lyrics-wise – was “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”.
First it talks about two individuals engaging in academics – Joan in pataphysics (a subtype of philosophy that deals with imaginary things) and Maxwell Edison in medicine – going about their daily life who decide to meet up. And all of a sudden Maxwell kills Joan!!! Like WTF man?! You want to be a doctor? Really? Not so sure now that you just popped off an innocent chick who just wanted to think about random shit that doesn’t exist. Have some heart for those in the minor academics, “doctor”! Not everyone wants to get a real job!
Weirdly enough, this Maxwell seems to be no more than a mere child according to John and Paul, referring to him as a “boy” and noting that he had to write lines on the chalkboard for being a little shit. I assume they don’t do that in medical schools here in Canada, though McGill is pretty harcore…”I must remember the jugular vein location”….”I must remember the jugular vein location”…”I shall not have more than 6 hours of sleep”…I shall not have more than 6 hours of sleep”. Anyways, guess what happens next? Yep. The teacher is dead too.
Low and behold if you’re going to be a dumbass and going around killing people without a modus operandus, you’re going to end up getting caught, which Max of course does. His clueless friends Rose and Valerie (maybe some chicks he was simaultaneously banging unbeknownst to them) yell at the judge for him to go and the dude’s lift “pffft yeah, right”, And we all know what happens next…
I really enjoyed the piano in this song – it was played in a “rag time” style with a light and slow foot tapping rhythm to it; will definitely find the piano music for it. On a side note, the song’ production and recording went a bit all over – it was written in 1968 and supposed to be released as a single for the White Album, but due to time restrictions (I can picture it something a conversation something like this going on…
Paul: “John, we should probably get on this one right now, Georgie’s given us til next Thursday to get our notes spot on and ready to record”
George: “What? Pattie’s parents are coming over next week for dinner! We’re going to make bangers, mash and the whole show!”
Paul: “Not you Georgie! The producer!”
John: “Relax man, we’ve got another two whole days. Have a ciggy.”
Paul: “Well then have a ciggy! Just get off your arse, grab your guitar and let’s git going!”
Ringo: “I’ll be on me drums then as usual…or if you want me to sing too.”
John: “Yeah, yeah, give Rings a few. My voice is a little *coughs and hacks* rough this week.”
George: “Well boys, since John’s a bit off, why don’t we go have a pint or two down the road.
….Friday morning arrives
– The Boys are waking up in Paul’s apartment-
John: “Alrighty boys, it’s our big day! Gonna pull off old Maxy to-day!”
Ringo: “Hmm hullo, what time is it George?”
George: “Tis 12 o’clock on a Friday morning, Ringo.”
—The phone rings–
Paul: “Hello! Yes George, it’s Paul. Where are we you ask? Well we’re just at John’s about to have a splendid cup of tea. What?! The recording? We missed it?!”
Bloody hell boys, Max is gone! We were supposed to be in yesterday!
— All swear and sigh —
So they actually rehearsed the song three months later than they were supposed to and then recorded it six months after that – which took 3 days due to McCartney’s fussiness over the song – early “Moog Days” (“Moog” is the name of the analog synthesizers invented by Robert Moog in the 1960s; McCartney recorded a solo on it to finish the last of the 16 rhythm takes of the song) work he called it. The song was given its name by McCartney, symbolizing some of the random misfortunes in life; “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.”
Lyrics written by Paul McCartney © Apple Records 1968
Miles, Barry (1997). Paul McCarney: Many Years from Now. London: Secker and Warburg
Wells, John C. (2009). “Moog”. Longman Pronunciation Dictionary. London: Pearson Longman.