‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ is my least favourite Beatles’ song, and my nomination for Paul McCartney’s worst, most annoying composition ever (it’s a jaunty number about a homicidal maniac with a hammer in case you’re suffering from post-trauma memory loss since you last heard it). But anyway, that’s a debate that could just run and run (I’ll leave it to the BBC to compile the public’s top 100). Here’s not the place. But, BUT, this is musicaltaste.com, and there is one moment of utter sublimity, in that misery of a song, a moment of incredible transcendent beauty. That very last chord. The final chord is indescribable wonder (it’s a D I think). Every time I hear that I just feel like the dark clouds of evil have lifted, the ring has been destroyed, and everything is gonna be alright for me and the hobbits. I remember having a really vicious fight with my first wife and ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ came on the radio and when we heard that final chord we just stopped, looked at one another and we both knew that from then on everything would be alright forever.
from Abbey Road
25 Sep 05 ·Mike: Unfortunately MacCartney, responsible for (or at least connected with) some of the best recorded rock/pop has also written such a huge quantity of absolute dross that I can't agree that "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" comes anywhere near being his worst. Can anyone name more than about three tracks he's come up with since the 60s that aren't dreadful? 26 Sep 05 ·rum: Well you can ignore his solo work, pretend it's not there, but 'Maxwell's Silver Hammer' is on an otherwise sterling Beatles set. Maybe if either the 'Frog Chorus' or 'Silly Love Songs' were on there instead they'd steal the crown. No, no, that's not true, i hate this track so much because it's meant to be funny (Paul was always the unfunny Beatle, listen to those early press conferences). If you listen very carefully you can hear the other Beatles wincing and grimacing at Macca's 'comedy'. It makes it so painful to listen to. Unbearable. Still I'd stick my thumbs aloft for 'The Girl Is Mine', now that's funny.
Despite '2002 - A Hit Song's insistent chorus of "it's gonna be a hit, hit, hit!", by the end you're not convinced, "it's not gonna be a hit is it Free Designers?" "No… I'm afraid not Rum. To be honest it hasn't a hope in hell. Oh yeah we're bitter, of course we are, but, you know, when you're in the idiom of soft rock you can't get away with angst, you've got to maintain this 'pleasing' façade, so that's why we sound so jolly, so 'up' on this song. But yeah, it's hard..." Yes, they may, as they sing, have "sealed it with a kiss" but the cracks show. And it's that that makes this song particularly memorable. It's fascinating to see the rips in their Peter Pan wonderland, a place where they usually spend their time flying kites, blowing bubbles, befriending dolphins. And so this palpable excitement you hear in their heady harmonies is not fuelled by a surefire optimism of success but by an almost delirious desperation, "hit, hit, hit, sure to be a hit, hit, hit, gonna make a hit, hit, hit" they sing, panting, shaking nervously, craving that big fix. The track is a flip-side to the Byrds' 'So You Wanna Be A Rock'N'Roll Star'. Both are bitter recipes for pop success but whereas the Byrds are pissed off that any talentless buffoon can follow their recipe to success get a hit, the Free Design are pissed that "We did all this last time, and it did not work!". I guess you have to suffer for your art, and maybe the Free Design were having too happy a time. Or maybe their hair didn't swing right or their pants weren't tight.
10 Feb 05 ·olli: heh..brilliant commentary. 11 Feb 05 ·konsu: Wow. I never thought of that song as such an exploded schematic. But it does shed light on their own self awareness even if unintentional at the time.
A bit like in that James Bond film, ‘Live and Let Die', when all those somber funeral marchers suddenly go ape and break out into that frightening carnival procession. That but ten hundred fold. Or like a farmers market massacre on a beautiful summers day in June. One of the two. The Pharoah admitted as much in a recent interview. He said it had nothing to do with the creator having a master plan at all. "yeah I'd just finished reading that James Bond book, you know, with the skulls and shit and on the box comes this quiz show with all these animals being ritually slaughtered on it. And I thought, hey up, I've got a crackin' idea!"
Regardless of the themes and inspiration, it's an unbelievable track. Even if the descriptions "free jazz" and "34 minutes" set off all your alarm bells, I urge you let it go this one time, I urge you to seek it out.
It's better than the five most recent recommendations COMBINED! Can I get away with saying something as stupid as that?
24 Feb 06 ·n-jeff: The only Pharoah Saunders I've heard is on Alice Coltrane's "Journey to Satchinanda" (Scuse the poor spelling) which is remarkable. Not only is the playing remarkable, but so is the fact I love it so much, considering it's not only a saxaophone, but it's also in the 'too many notes' style of Jazz. But Saunders playing just seems to float around on top of everything else. Beautiful stuff.
but anyway, what I really wanted to know was, is he really a Yorkshireman? (Ey up!?) Blimey.
24 Feb 06 ·rum: yes, it's a little known pharoah fact, he was born in a little village just outside Barnsley. 24 Feb 06 ·konsu: Thembi is another fine record for him as well.