Joan was quizzical, studied pataphysical
Science in the home
Late nights all alone with a test tube
Oh, oh, oh, oh

Maxwell Edison, majoring in medicine
Calls her on the phone
"Can I take you out to the pictures
Joa, oa, oa, oan?"

But as she's getting ready to go
A knock comes on the door

Bang! Bang! Maxwell's silver hammer
Came down upon her head
Bang! Bang! Maxwell's silver hammer
Made sure that she was dead

Back in school again Maxwell plays the fool again
Teacher gets annoyed
Wishing to avoid an unpleasant
Sce, e, e, ene

She tells Max to stay when the class has gone away
So he waits behind
Writing fifty times "I must not be
So, o, o, o"

But when she turns her back on the boy
He creeps up from behind

Bang! Bang! Maxwell's silver hammer
Came down upon her head
Bang! Bang! Maxwell's silver hammer
Made sure that she was dead

P. C. Thirty-one said, "We caught a dirty one"
Maxwell stands alone
Painting testimonial pictures
Oh, oh, oh, oh

Rose and Valerie, screaming from the gallery
Say he must go free
(Maxwell must go free)
The judge does not agree and he tells them
So, o, o, o

But as the words are leaving his lips
A noise comes from behind

Bang! Bang! Maxwell's silver hammer
Came down upon his head
Bang! Bang! Maxwell's silver hammer
Made sure that he was dead

Whoa, oh, oh, oh
Silver hammer man

Lyrics submitted by Ice

Maxwell's Silver Hammer Lyrics as written by Paul Mccartney John Lennon

Lyrics © BMG Rights Management, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Maxwell's Silver Hammer song meanings
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  • +9
    General CommentI don't think this song represents anything particular, and people read into it a bit too much. It's just a comical little song about college student Maxwell killing. If you really did want to read into it, you could say the whole song right down to it's composition is about life taking turns and surprising you.

    It starts out almost like a parody of beatles love songs intruducing two characters to go out to the movies on a date, making you think that it's a love song, then BAM, it couldnt be more different. This kinda shows that not only is the story in the song about life's surprises, but everything right down to the cheerful tune and vocals conflicting with the dark undertone. Things aren't always what they seem. ;)

    This song is way underappreciated. I suppose in comparison to the Beatles' other songs, it would be. :)
    clockworkdollyon April 04, 2010   Link
  • +6
    General CommentThis song was most likely inspired by the tragic incident involving talented English playright Joe Orton and his lover companion Kenneth Halliwell(Maxwell is a wordplay on Haliwell). Halliwell bludgeoned 34 year old Joe Orton to death with a hammer to his head (9 blows) on August 1967. Halliwell then took an overdose of 22 Nembutal and committed suicide. Joe Orton and Halliwell were known to play the fools and had been arrested fined L262 and jailed for 6 months for damaging library books. They would return library books with new sleeve covers and new blurbs. Orton felt that the punishment was excessive due to them being queers. Joe Orton later started having success with his plays (dark satirical comedies).Joe Orton was in touch with the Beatles and was writing a play (Up Against It) for them. He was supposed to meet with them or their representatives the day they found him murdered. A chaufeur that had been sent to take him to the meeting discovered the bodies. Halliwell had been depressed and was seeing a psychiatrist. Joe Orton had found a new boyfriend and was planning to break up with the already stressed out depressed and troubled Halliwell. The play Up Against It was eventually produced in 1989 with music by Tod Rundgren. Paul McCartney took the incident changed the players and some circustances somewhat but kept the tragic situation the same and put it to rhyme and unreason......and now you know the rest of the story.....
    joeo78501on May 29, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General CommentIn the first stanza (with Joan), I think McCartney is saying something about serial killing as a perversion of life force, and also a twist on the moral import of urban legends. Joan indulges the neurotic impulse to dabble in occultish things ("alternate" scientific models / theosophy) and masturbation (oh, that test tube!), and winds up with her head bashed in by a dapper fellow. The effect is sort of like an urban legend-style cautionary tale. But instead of being a warning that making out with your boyfriend on the couch during a babysitting gig will be causally linked to the murder of your young charges upstairs, it's a sort of ironically welcome twist; about how sexual *stifling* becomes a spur to your untimely demise. This, to me, seems typically McCartneyesque, in line with the down'n'dirty, matter-of-fact, "make love not war" approach to life that's often reflected in his lyrics.

    After that, it's a sort of banal defensive business; Maxwell uses murder to avoid answerability for classroom hijinks, then uses his little hammer to evade judgement.

    I'm suddenly remembering the effect these lyrics had on my when I first heard them as a kid. The "silver" of the hammer seemed really interesting. Why a *silver* hammer?; why not just a plain old steel ball peen or something? At the time I sensed something banally sinister, and connected it to American foreign policy, which had, at the time, been nothing if not banally sinister. Americans spent US$400B to kill 2.5M Vietnamese--quite the expensive hammer, wot?--and then got their panties in a bunch when anyone dared to question the morality of this state of affairs. Who's to say that Robt Kennedy and MLK--for that matter, JFK!--weren't killed by that very same silver hammer?

    Now I know that at this point people will remonstrate, "Hey! It's just a nice song! Back off!" But I think McCartney was a tremendous songwriter with that rare gift for channeling his subconscious, but doing so with awareness, artistry, and flair. There had to be a reason his subconscious was feeding him this bizarre image--a "nice" young man bashing in people's heads by expensive means and with a happy-go-lucky absence of compunction. Actually, that last bit--the lack of awareness of the wrongness of doing this--is key. So the first question is: Is McCartney trying to tell us something we need to know? If Maxwell is unaware that what he is doing is wrong, could someone else be? Who might that person be?

    Whoever that person may be, one thing is for certain: As long as that person is Someone Else, then nothing will ever change. It's when that person becomes Us that the possibility of moral awakening emerges from slumber.
    razajacon February 07, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General Commenti like this song-its kinda like a dark comedy but in music version-its a silly song about a mass murderer,only the beatles could accomplish such a feat.
    ladymadonna123on August 24, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General CommentMetaphysics is the branch of philosophy dealing in reality.
    Pataphysics, the real lyric (I'm sorry) is that that deals beyond metaphysics.) Ie, the unreal.
    Bobo192on September 09, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General Comment"Joan was quizzical, studied pataphysical
    Science in the home,
    Late nights all alone with a test-tube..."

    Wonderful completely non-serious song....
    3ssenceon September 16, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think this is just a song. I mean not everything has to be about something. I think its just a fun song that they wanted to play.
    yamahasixstringon October 24, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song is another version of instant karma. Death of the ego and false self. A sudden transfomation from what you were to a new enlighnment or consciousness expansion. It happened to many people from all walks of life in the 1960's.

    You're making the Beatles much too complicated.
    Their real message is quite simple and right beside all the giberish put there to fool the establishment.
    "come together right now" "all you need is love" " we can change the world"
    BeatleInsighton July 10, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is a funny song. I like it.
    song4juliaon January 21, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think this song is a silly, non-serious song Paul wrote for fun. I don't think it's about anything serious like the Manson slayings...the music's cool..
    Cherub Rockon August 19, 2002   Link

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