Maxwell’s Silver Hammer - The Beatles

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"Maxwell’s Silver Hammer" - The Beatles (1969)

The lyrics to "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" comprise a dark comedy about a medical student who kills people with his silver hammer. The name Maxwell Edison comes from combining the name of two scientists, Thomas Edison and James Clerk Maxwell. Or, he is a real man in Liverpool who killed three people in 1969 and was released from jail in 2003. Or, the song is based on a character in an Albert Camous story named Maxwell, who unceremoniously whacked a neighbor in the head with a silver hammer.

McCartney said that the song was his analogy for when something goes wrong out of the blue. When it happened, the fictitious character called Maxwell with a silver hammer appears and reminds the person that something unexpected has happened.

Lennon said he hated the track:

“He did everything to make it a single and it never was and it never could have been.”

Ringo said: 

“It went on for friggin weeks. I thought it was mad.”

In 1969, George also said of the song that they had been trying to record it for ages, adding:

“It's one of those instant whistle-along tunes which some people hate, and other people really like. It's a fun song, but it's kinda sick because Maxwell keeps on killing everyone.”

George’s purchased a Moog synthesizer in early 1969 to produce a series of basic tones. The backing track is based on a small ensemble of piano, bass guitar, and drums. McCartney’s single tracked lead vocal is delivered high in his range with remarkably laid back control.

Although it appears as a superficial song, it has its deeper meanings:

1) The silver hammer isn't a metaphor. It is literally a little silver hammer. The hammer in a gun. It was definitely a weapon because it was used to kill people. The hammer crashing down was the hammer hitting the back of the bullet before it killed the person.

2) It is simply another version of "instant karma" - the sudden enlightenment that many people in the 1960's experienced. It means death of the false self or ego and the beginning of asking question like "why in the world are we here, surly not to live in pain and fear.”

3) It’s about someone is getting revenge on people who did something he didn’t like. About wishing you could just make them all go away and it would solve your problems but it keeps getting deeper so he kills the judge and the people who are all trying to prosecute him.


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