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This is about a medical student who kills people. The lyrics are dark comedy.
Paul McCartney said of this song: "It epitomizes the downfalls in life. Just when everything is going smoothly, Bang! Bang! Down comes Maxwell's Silver Hammer and ruins everything."
George Harrison played a Moog synthesizer, but there is a much more unusual instrument on this song as well: an anvil. It's a blacksmith's tool that showed up in a lot of those wonderfully violent Looney Tunes cartoons when a heavy object was needed for comic effect. Ringo is the one who banged on the anvil, which was rented from a company that supplied stage props.
John Lennon was not at the sessions for this because he was recovering from a car accident.
McCartney wrote this. He would often make up characters for his songs, while Lennon would base his on real people and events.
The recording sessions went on for 3 days as McCartney tried to get it just right. This strained the already tense Beatles, who broke up soon after recording Abbey Road. In a 2008 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Ringo Starr said, "The worst session ever was 'Maxwell's Silver Hammer.' It was the worst track we ever had to record. It went on for f--king weeks. I thought it was mad." (thanks, VinnyVegas - Durham, NC)
The Beatles performed this in their movie Let It Be.
The cover of the album fueled rumors that Paul McCartney was dead. The cover shows all four Beatles walking in a crosswalk of Abbey Road. John is leading, followed by Ringo, Paul, and finally George. According to the rumor, what they were wearing signified a funeral procession. John was dressed in white as if he was God, Ringo was dressed in a black suit as if he was a Preacher, and George was wearing grungy clothing, as if he was the grave digger. Paul was dressed in a dark-gray suit, was carrying a cigarette, and has his eyes closed. Also, he is the only one walking barefoot. (thanks, Patrick - Conyers, GA)
This originally opened with a brief instrumental intro that was edited out. It was the same chords as the ending of the song. (thanks, Barry Kesten - Bellmore, United States)
McCartney's handwritten lyrics for this song were sold at auction for $192,000. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)