Glastonbury: Paul McCartney virtually duets with John Lennon
When The Beatles were laying down the music for their now-iconic 11th studio album, Abbey Road, they did not know just how influential the record would become. Although it sold more than 7 million copies within two years, the recording process was extremely contentious. Every member of the Fab Four brought some songs to the table to record for the album, but one of Paul McCartney’s left the rest of the group utterly furious.
The song in question was Maxwell’s Silver Hammer. The jaunty track was a little different to the rest of the band’s music, and involved a staggering amount of attention was given to the song’s final mix.
Ringo Starr, John Lennon and George Harrison simply did not enjoy the song, it has since been revealed. But McCartney fought to record the song as he saw fit, leaving the rest of the band furious.
Starr, who usually had no complaints about the band’s recording, even hit out and said: “The worst session ever was Maxwell’s Silver Hammer. It was the worst track we ever had to record. It went on for f****ng weeks.”
He was not the only member of the band to reveal their true feelings about the complex recording process of the Beatles flop.
Lennon didn’t hold back when he spoke to Playboy in 1980. He said: “I hated it. All I remember is the track – he made us do it a hundred million times.”
As if the process of recording the song wasn’t bad enough, Lennon hit out at the song’s quality, as well. He went on: “[McCartney] did everything to make it into a single and it never was and it never could’ve been. But [McCartney] 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.”
Lennon was right, Maxwell’s Silver Hammer was never given Single status on Abbey Road. Instead, it just became an infamous inclusion in the band’s most famous album of all time.
Harrison was equally as frustrated by the process, and hit out in his own way, as well.
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Harrison, who was known as The Quiet Beatle – on account of his reluctance to speak out – also hated working on Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, but would only admit it in his own reserved way.
“Sometimes Paul would make us do these really fruity songs,” he said in the 1970s. “I mean, my God, Maxwell’s Silver Hammer was so fruity.”
McCartney later looked back on the song positively while defending the work he and the rest of his band put into it.
McCartney said: “It was the best radio play I had ever heard in my life, and the best production, and Ubu was so brilliantly played. It was just a sensation. That was one of the big things of the period for me.”
He also surreally added: “Miles and I often used to talk about the pataphysical society and the Chair of Applied Alcoholism. So I put that in one of the Beatles songs, Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.”
Referencing the lyric: “Joan was quizzical, studied pataphysical science in the home,” he added: “Nobody knows what it means; I only explained it to Linda just the other day. That’s the lovely thing about it. I am the only person who ever put the name of pataphysics into the record charts, c’mon! It was great. I love those surreal little touches.”
However, over the years, he eventually revealed he was not completely happy with how the song turned out.
McCartney said the song was a musical rendition of how things were beginning to sour in his life. He may have been talking about The Beatles, or even his marriage. He said: “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.”
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