The Paul McCartney Song the Other Beatles Hated With a Passion
By the time The Beatles got to their White Album (1968), it didn’t take much to tell a Paul McCartney song from a John Lennon track. If you heard a throwback tune like “Honey Pie” or “Martha My Dear,” you knew you were listening to a song by Paul.
John called tracks in this vein “Paul’s granny music,” and he countered with songs like “Revolution” and “Happiness Is a Warm Gun.” But John didn’t let it go at that. When Paul insisted on running through endless takes for “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” John stormed out of the studio in disgust.
After the disaster of the Let It Be sessions in early ’69, The Beatles regrouped for one last studio album. That would become Abbey Road, but it wouldn’t come easy. While Paul kept asking for new takes of “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” several Beatles lost their patience.
Though John again took his leave of the studio during the “Maxwell” sessions, George Harrison and Ringo stuck it out with Paul. Later, all three spoke about the grind “Maxwell” became — and how much they hated the song.
Ringo said ‘Maxwell’ was the worst track he could remember recording.
John showed up late to the Abbey Road sessions because he and Yoko were recovering from a serious car accident. On one of his first days in the studio, he watched silently as Paul guided George and Ringo through the backing vocals for “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.”
Trying to get John involved, Paul asked if he’d like to join in. But John wanted nothing to with “Maxwell” and declined before heading home for the day. However, the nursery-rhyme nature of the song and its oom-pah style weren’t its most maddening aspects.
Unsatisfied with the percussion, Paul actually had studio employees go out and get a blacksmith’s anvil. George and Ringo were then subjected to a number of failed takes with Ringo and another guy hammering the anvil for the record. (It went poorly.)
Looking back on this time in a Rolling Stone interview (via Beatles Bible), Ringo didn’t recall it fondly. “The worst session ever was ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,'” he said. “It was the worst track we ever had to record. It went on for f**king weeks.” John and George concurred.
George called Paul’s song ‘really fruity’ and argued with him about it in the studio.
Many Beatles fans will recall the scene in Let It Be when George and Paul argue while the cameras rolled. (George decided to quit the band for a while shortly thereafter.) Not coincidentally, that week in January ’69 was when the band took its first stab at “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.”
When Paul resurrected the song — anvil and all — six months later for Abbey Road, it became a genuine source of annoyance. In fact, chief engineer Geoff Emerick witnessed an argument between George and Paul during the “Maxwell” sessions. Emerick thought another blow-up was near.
Somehow, George remained calm, but he later voiced his opinion of the song. “Sometimes Paul would make us do these really fruity songs,” he told Crawdaddy (via Beatles Bible) in the 1970s. “I mean, my god, ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ was so fruity.”
As for John, Beatles fans can imagine his assessment of “Maxwell.” Speaking to Playboy’s David Sheff to 1980, he didn’t mince words. “I hated it,” John said. “All I remember is the track – he made us do it a hundred million times.” And John didn’t stop before taking a dig at the song’s quality.
“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.”