“Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” is A Beatles’ song on their 1969 album, Abbey Road. The song is about a fictitious medical student (Maxwell Edison) who is also a murderer and uses a hammer as the weapon. However, the song disguises this with a rather upbeat tune in a music hall style.
Recorded: 9th – 11th July and 6th August, 1969
Genre: Pop, pop rock, music hall
Track Duration: 3:27
Record Label: Apple
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Phil McDonald
Paul McCartney: lead and backing vocals, piano, electric guitars, Moog synthesizer
George Harrison: backing vocal, acoustic and lead guitar, six-string bass
Ringo Starr: backing vocal, drums, anvil
George Martin: organ
Maxwell’s Silver Hammer
Written by Paul McCartney (first verse while in India), the credit obviously goes to Lennon-McCartney. Although Lennon, not surprisingly, calls it “more of Paul’s granny music”. Be that as it may, the song has dark lyrics about murder.
“Maxwell’s Silver Hammer was 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 even now when something unexpected happens”.
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
Although the song is not as bad as some make out, Author Ian MacDonald claims, “If any single recording shows why The Beatles broke up, it is Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”.
This was the late 1960’s when the band were just not seeing eye to eye. Paul McCartney was a workaholic and would often press his bandmates to work at length on some songs. However, John Lennon doesn’t actually play on it at all.
“That’s Paul’s. I hate it. ‘Cuz all I remember is the track – he made us do it a hundred million times. He did everything to make it into a single and it never was and it never could’ve been, but he put guitar licks on it and he had somebody hitting iron pieces and we spent more money on that song than any of them in the whole album. I think”.
All We Are Saying, David Sheff
Perhaps the band members were just sick of each other at this point, either way, the niggles clearly set in:
“The worst session ever was Maxwell’s Silver Hammer. It was the worst track we ever had to record. It went on for fucking weeks. I thought it was mad”.
Rolling Stone, January (2008)
“Sometimes Paul would make us do these really fruity songs. I mean, my god, Maxwell’s Silver Hammer was so fruity. After a while we did a good job on it, but when Paul got an idea or an arrangement in his head…”
Crawdaddy magazine (1977)
“They got annoyed because Maxwell’s Silver Hammer took three days to record. Big deal”.
The Beatles began recording the song on the 9th July, 1969, in Studio Two of the EMI Studios, London during the 2.30pm-10.15pm sessions. They recorded takes 1-21 on that day and track 5 is now on their 1996 album, “Anthology 3”. Take 21 was suitable for overdubbing which took place on the 10th and 11th of July. They also rented a real blacksmith’s anvil from a theatrical agency for Ringo Starr to bang on.
Finally, on the 6th of August, overdubbing of Paul McCartney’s Moog synthesiser solo took place and the song was now complete.