‘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.
'Metal Warriors' is Manowar's call to arms, a joyous rallying cry to all the "Brothers of True Metal" of the world. Stand tall and proud, they implore, for the magic of the metal has brought you here. The power within each and every one unites them, and to exclusion of everybody else ("if you're not into metal, you are not my friend!"). Anyone that tries to suppress their might will be met with fearless defiance, "we don't turn down for anyone, we do just what we please!". And they live and die metal, and will not tolerate fakes and frauds and softies, "heavy metal, or no metal at all, wimps and posers, leave the hall!" rings out the epic chorus, "heavy metal, or no metal at all, wimps and posers… go on get out!"
So, anyway, put your reservations aside and head out into the streets to find this one, just this one*, awesome, thumping Manowar track. Spinal Tap were playing for laughs, this however, is frighteningly real.
*although 'Achilles, Agony, and Ecstasy in Eight Parts: Prelude/I. Hector Storms' their 30 minute interpretation of Homer's Iliad is certainly worth a listen.
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.
The lyrical theme of ‘6060-842’ seems pretty mundane for the B-52s. Tina goes to the ladies room, sees a phone number scrawled on the wall, and so decides to ring it. Hmm… doesn’t sound like it’s gonna be a tale the measure of “the time our car was hijacked by the devil” and the like. Still this IS the B-52s, and recognisably so, “if you’d like a very nice time, just give this number a call” reads the unlikely graffiti. So something must happen. The band are optimistic too, bouncing along excitedly on a jumpy new wave rhythm. Tina, we reckon, is much like the band. She lives for wild parties and crazy adventures. This 6060-842 could be just the ticket. “Oh my gawd! I’m gonna give that there number a ring. You see if I don’t!” So she drops a dime in the phone slot and, “prays she gets the line.” She’s biting her lip, stabbing her nails into her finger tips, “come on… come ON!!!”
But pause a moment. Is she really so naïve? Does she really think a “really nice time” awaits her? In the gnarled and weather beaten hands of a social realist singer-songwriter, the number 6060-842 would lead to abuse, to prostitution, and ultimately, to death. In the hands of the B-52s? I don’t know, you tell me. A debauched toga party in a 1950s vision of the future…? Well, it’s neither. It’s just a brilliant anti-climax. You see Tina and the B-52a might be deranged, but the world they live in is not. It’s bloody typical. She dials 6060-842, and can’t get through! “The number’s been disconnected…” monotones the operator. But Tina won’t accept this, no, and neither will the band. They can’t end the track with Tina accepting the disappointment with a sigh of weary resignation, “ah well, nevermind… maybe next time.” No, no, this anti-climax has worked them up into an angry frenzy. Ricky Wilson vents his frustration with viscious slashes of electric guitar whilst Tina just keeps dialing and dialing, and getting rebuffed and rebuffed, “HELLO!!!” “sorry…” The track probably ends with them all smashing up the phone box. A superb, and much over-looked track.
I was utterly smitten with this track when I heard it in the film Jesus’ Son. It’s a gorgeously sentimental Philly soul-pop number with Ms Mason cooing sheepishly to her lover that she, “doesn’t even know how to kiss [his] lips… in a moment like this”, before a choir from an ancient realm of heaven peer over the scene and ask if she’s ready to learn, and she says yes she is, she’s ready, she’s ready to, “FALL IN LOVE WITH… [him]…”, and how the strings swoop and soar! For good or bad, songs will never sound like this again.