MAXWELL’S SILVER HAMMER
When it comes to bones of contention between Lennon and McCartney, Maxwell’s Silver Hammer is a veritable skeleton. McCartney began working on the song in early ’68, while the band were still in Rishikesh, India, with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Outwardly a jaunty music-hall number, its lyric (inspired by French symbolist writer Alfred Jarry – hence McCartney’s deployment of Jarry’s word ‘pataphysical’ in its opening line) told of medical student Maxwell Edison’s predilection for mass murder.
While McCartney believed implicitly in the hit potential of his macabre composition, driving the band to distraction (with the exception of the absent Lennon, who hated this latest example of what he disparagingly referred to as “Paul’s granny music”) as he attempted to deliver a definitive version over gruelling sessions in July 1969, his fellow Beatles were less than enthusiastic. As successive takes ground on, Harrison told McCartney: “You’ve taken three days. It’s only a song.” According to Starr: “It was the worst track we ever had to record.” George Martin added an organ, McCartney a Moog solo and roadie Mal Evans the anvil blows. Despite the accolade of a Peter Glaze Crackerjack pastiche, Maxwell’s Silver
Hammer never became the hit single McCartney hoped for.