Sunday Music – Maxwell’s Silver Hammer – The Paul McCartney Series (Part 1)

Posted on Sun 12/05/2010 by


Today’s music video is ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ from The Beatles.

This video was posted to You Tube by cobraman115

No mention of Paul McCartney’s long career would be complete without mentioning The Beatles. A whole further series could be devoted just to The Beatles, and that would be a very long series indeed. However, as I’m going to concentrate on McCartney’s long career after The Beatles, then I’ll just use this one post to mention in a short manner his career with that monster band.

Just what is it that makes a monster band like The Beatles so successful. It’s something that literally thousands of commentators have postulated on, and anything I say would just repeat that, the only difference being that I am adding my own personal observations on that.

Suffice it to say that they were immensely popular, and over the years, even those people who were not all that keen on their music at the time it came out have mellowed to the point where even they like their music.

They formed in 1960 and worked hard in the clubs of Liverpool and in Hamburg Germany before even going into the studio to record an album in late 1962, for an album released in early 1963, and the band folded in mid 1970, a mere seven year recording career which produced 12 studio albums. Because those albums were then redone and released in different parts of the World, those original 12 albums ended up as 27 studio albums. There were major live albums, numerous compilation albums, countless singles and numerous other collections of their music. Every one of those 12 original studio albums went to Number One, and not just in one place, but across the whole Planet. Numerous single releases were lifted from each album and nearly every one of them went to Number One. In one year alone, nine of the ten biggest selling singles in the UK were from The Beatles. Their songs sold faster than they could be released.

With each of those albums, the band evolved. They were never satisfied with just the one formula, and each album showed the band moving into a newer direction. They led the game, and were never content to just follow. The first few albums followed basically a type of formula (well maybe) but with ‘Help’, then ‘Rubber Soul’, and then ‘Revolver’, that progression became exponential.

They were never afraid to experiment with their music and the continuous nature of recording probably assisted their song writing. They used different instruments, different techniques, and everything they attempted proved successful. The band’s evolution never seemed to become static. No sooner had something new succeeded than they were trying something even more different. Probably hundreds of other bands followed what they were doing, and they too became successful.

After ‘Revolver’ came arguably what may be the Best album ever released by anyone, the magic ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’. This album involved more than 700 hours of studio sessions. After its release, some other bands looked on it as a crushing blow. For years, bands had been vainly attempting to keep up with The Beatles, and when ‘Peppers’ came out, the realisation sunk in that it was all over. The Beatles had reached a pinnacle no one could ever reach. Brian Wilson of the legendary Beach Boys thought that no one would ever produce anything near as good as this album, even though his band The Beach Boys later produced ‘Pet Sounds’, which made the Beatles envious, and the Beatles even brought out a song in tribute to a Beach Boys song later.

Success after such a masterpiece has eluded people throughout the ages. Authors who have written a monster novel have never been able to follow it up. Singers have produced monster singles and then stagnated, unable to reproduce anything on that scale again. The same applies with Albums. A band reaches that pinnacle and then cannot do the same again.

The Beatles didn’t look upon ‘Peppers’ as the end. They went upwards from there. In fact, the masterful double album now called the ‘White Album’ was in fact a bigger selling album for the band than anything that came before it, ‘Peppers’ included.

That wasn’t the end of it either.

Their album ‘Let It Be’ may have been released as their last album, but ‘Abbey Road’ was the last studio album the band worked on, released earlier than ‘Let It Be’, and both of those albums progressed even higher for the band than those earlier sets.

What causes a band like this, so successful, to break up while at the pinnacle of their career, a place they had reached almost seven years earlier, and just kept climbing.

Thousands of commentators have again gone over this, so there’s nothing I can add to that. It was mentioned that perhaps the outside influences of John’s and Paul’s new partners, Yoko Ono and Linda Eastman contributed to the band’s demise, but again, that would be an opinion from those outside of the four band members themselves, as they have both said that this was not really a contributing cause to the breakup.

Many of those commentators actually said that as single entities, the four band members would never achieve the success they had as a group. Luckily for all of us, that proved to be completely false. They all had huge careers on their own that were just as huge as they had as the band.

Sadly two of them have been taken from us while they still had so much to offer. Their music will live forever.

During those last sessions for the ‘Abbey Road’ album, Paul McCartney was actually working on his own material. Some of it he introduced to the band, and while most Beatles songs were attributed to the band as a whole, or Lennon/McCartney as the main writers, some songs did come specifically from the one person.

One of those is the song featured today, ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’. Credited to Lennon and McCartney, the song however is all Paul McCartney’s and if you watch this clip at You Tube at this link, you can see Paul teaching the song to the band. Again, it also shows the band’s willingness to experiment with anything that could be added into the song, in this case, a hammer banging onto an anvil.

Although the song seems to be about some very bloody murders, Paul said the song is an analogy. When everything seems to be going perfectly, there’s always something that comes along and messes it up.

Again, this is another almost perfect example of the band, as a group making a song that perhaps other bands would not even attempt for fear of a poor reaction.

It shows remarkably that something, seemingly so sinister can be attached to what is a very catchy melody, and made to sound less sinister than it might actually be from just a straight reading of the lyrics.

The Beatles as a band had done this a few times previously on earlier albums, and in fact this song from that wonderful ‘White’ album shows just that. This song is ‘The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill’, and on this occasion the main contributing factor behind this song was John Lennon, showing that all four members were willing to sing about things outside of the normal things bands concentrated on.

This video was posted to You Tube by EGGMAN909

As this Post mainly deals with that time prior to when McCartney went out on his own, then I would like to also include an earlier song from The Beatles. There could be any number of songs I could include that highlight that special sound that only The Beatles had, but a personal favourite of mine is this one, ‘In My Life’, taken from their sixth studio album ‘Rubber Soul’ from 1965. Again it shows The Beatles moving into different areas of songwriting, and then playing the song for recording purposes. The middle section featuring the keyboards was composed by the band’s manager George Martin, and influenced by the style of Bach. Martin himself played this piece on the piano, almost making it sound like a harpsichord, this achieved by some clever engineering. Martin could not get the piece to work in the same tempo as the song, so it was recorded to tape as being performed one octave lower and played slowly. Then the tape speed was doubled to get the correct tempo for the song, thus giving the piano this unique tone. Keep in mind that this was in 1965 barely two years after their first studio album, and this was their sixth album.

This video was posted to You Tube by starbug1313

As I mentioned, Paul was already getting together his own music for the time after he would leave The Beatles, and next week, I’ll start out on the journey through his long and extensive solo career.


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