Even though it took The Beatles only a decade to amass the scale of the musical empire they achieved, they were able to change with the times, evolving from boyband pop music to rock and roll and back to drug-fueled psychedelia. However, when they began to battle for creative control, the members’ individual personalities changed along with the evolution of their music.
Gaps started to appear in the Fab Four’s harmony as a result of changes in the band’s chemistry and outside influences from new romantic and artistic partners; no song better illustrates this than the contentiously disputed hit “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.”
Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, a song by Paul McCartney that appears on the album Abbey Road, was written during the difficult Get Back recording sessions when band relationships were at an all-time low. In taking command of the group, McCartney had a distinct vision for the song and required the band to put in many hours of session time to get it down as he envisioned.
“The worst session ever was ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’,” Later, in a Rolling Stone conversation, Ringo Starr recounted. “It was the worst track we ever had to record. It went on for fucking weeks,” he added.
Of all, it had to be problematic if Ringo Starr, who is often cheery, was offering criticism. Following suit was John Lennon, a musician who was considerably more eager to express his displeasure:
“I hated it,” Lennon revealed to David Sheff for Playboy in 1980. “All I remember is the track – he made us do it a hundred million times.” It was McCartney’s signature song, and his determination on making it perfect visibly drained the energy out of the other band members.
“He did everything to make it into a single, and it never was, and it never could’ve been. But [Paul] 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.”
By this time, McCartney’s control over the group was at an all-time high, with the bassist serving as the de facto leader in the wake of the death of the previous manager Brian Epstein. McCartney was upbeat at the time of its recording despite his unhappiness with how “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” supported most interviews during this time and the problems it eventually produced.
“It was the best radio play I had ever heard in my life, and the best production, and Ubu was so brilliantly played,” in Barry Miles’ book Many Years From Now, he commented.“It was just a sensation. That was one of the big things of the period for me,” he also added an overly confident display of swagger.
McCartney also contributed the following in the same book, which was authored by a close friend of his:
“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’,” he stated, before elaborating on the lyrics. “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, it would seem that McCartney was on his alone with this one as even George Harrison expressed contempt for the song:
“Sometimes Paul would make us do these really fruity songs,” he revealed to Crawdaddy in the 1970s. “I mean, my God, ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ was so fruity.”