Ever wondered what Maxwell's Silver Hammer was all about?
If you pay close attention to the lyrics, you might be surprised the song tells the story about a serial killer, who kind-a kills every person he meets. Yeah, that's what it's about.
The serial killers name is Maxwell Edison, and he's 'majoring in medicine'. Hmm, a would-be doctor. His murder weapon of choice… a silver hammer. His method: Bang! Bang! You know how he does it.
If the song was the storyline of a movie, it would be a suspense-thriller. Foreboding music would play when Maxwell is about to strike his victim with the silver hammer.
But, the irony is, much of the song is played with a light comical tune, a children's song. Except the part after Maxwell (in the song) kills his victim, the music sounds like a satirical dirge at a funeral march.
Maxwell's Silver Hammer was the creation of Paul McCartney. He's the Beatle with the knack for fun, crazy, sometimes dark ideas. He enjoys the 'pataphysical science' of things, whatever that means to you.
But for Paul McCartney, pataphysical science meant something profound. Paul followed the works of Alfred Jarry, a French writer of the Theatre of the Absurd, who himself coined the word 'pataphysical'. Pataphysical science (philosophy) was a method of expressing symbolic truths using absurdity and irony.
This was the underlying thought in Paul McCartney's head when he wrote Maxwell's Silver Hammer. He was expressing a symbolic truth through absurdity and irony: the downfalls of life. He says that sometimes even when your life is going smoothly, a downfall comes. And how did he express it in the song?
Bang! Bang! Maxwell's silver hammer came down on his/her head.
Maxwell's first victim was Joan. It's ironic that Joan herself was a student of pataphysical science. Things were going just fine with Maxwell and Joan, who's now his new girlfriend. Maxwell asks Joan if she'd go out to the movies with him.
"Can I take you out to the pictures, Joan?" says Maxwell. Joan's implied answer is positive, because she was getting ready to go. And 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.
Maxwell kills Joan. And he made sure of it.
Maxwell's second victim was his school teacher, who was just doing her job as a good disciplinarian. Maxwell fools around in class... again. His teacher was discreet enough not to make a scene out of it. But as his punishment, Maxwell was asked to stay after school and was asked by his teacher to write "I must not be so (play the fool)" fifty times. When she turns her back, he creeps up from behind her.
Maxwell murders his school teacher. And made sure she was dead.
Maxwell's third victim, the judge who convicts him (of a crime he committed). When the judge was about to declare the verdict, a noise comes from behind. It was Maxwell. He kills the judge.
Maxwell is a gruesome serial killer. He not only murders his victims with a hammer. He makes sure they're dead. Ugh!
But we're not really revolted by the song, right?! We love singing along when it's played because it was set to music that was meant for children, a sing-along melody.
But also, because Paul McCartney tells the story of Maxwell Edison's murders in a surreal way that bends reason, space, and time. It all sounds absurd. And that's why it's fun to sing it.
Bang! Bang! Maxwell's silver hammer...