Recording and mixing "Maxwell's Silver Hammer"

Thursday, July 10, 1969 • For The Beatles

Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the Abbey Road LP.
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Songs recorded


1.

Maxwell's Silver Hammer

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • SI onto take 21


2.

Maxwell's Silver Hammer

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Stereo mixing - Remix 1 from take 21


3.

Maxwell's Silver Hammer

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Stereo mixing - Remix 2 from take 21


4.

Maxwell's Silver Hammer

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Stereo mixing - Remix 3 from take 21


5.

Maxwell's Silver Hammer

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Stereo mixing - Remix 4 from take 21


6.

Maxwell's Silver Hammer

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Stereo mixing - Remix 5 from take 21


7.

Maxwell's Silver Hammer

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Stereo mixing - Remix 6 from take 21


8.

Maxwell's Silver Hammer

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Stereo mixing - Remix 7 from take 21


9.

Maxwell's Silver Hammer

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Stereo mixing - Remix 8 from take 21


10.

Maxwell's Silver Hammer

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Stereo mixing - Remix 9 from take 21


11.

Maxwell's Silver Hammer

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Stereo mixing - Remix 10 from take 21


12.

Maxwell's Silver Hammer

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Stereo mixing - Remix 11 from take 21


13.

Maxwell's Silver Hammer

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Stereo mixing - Remix 12 from take 21


14.

Maxwell's Silver Hammer

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Stereo mixing - Remix 13 from take 21

Staff

Musicians on "Maxwell's Silver Hammer"

Paul McCartney:
Vocals, Harmony vocals, Bass ?, Piano, Guitar
Ringo Starr:
Anvil, Harmony vocals
George Harrison:
Guitar, Harmony vocals
George Martin:
Hammond organ ?, Piano ?

Production staff

George Martin:
Producer
Phil McDonald:
Engineer
John Kurlander:
Second Engineer

About

On the previous day, The Beatles had started recording Paul McCartney’s “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer“. On this day, they continued working on the track during this 2:30 pm – 11:30 pm session, adding overdubs onto take 21:

In addition to the original performance of bass on track one, drums on two, and piano on three, various guitar parts were recorded on tracks four and five. Paul’s original lead vocal recorded on track eight was used for all the song, except the third verse, which had to be overdubbed once he had finalised the words. Track six has anvil strikes in the first chorus, Paul singing in all the choruses while playing acoustic guitar, extra piano arpeggios, ‘do-do-do-do-do’ harmonies, and Paul and George singing ‘Maxwell must go free’; an organ, anvil strikes for the second and third choruses, more singing from Paul and his harmonies in the choruses are on seven; and the lead vocal is on eight. The choral singing of ‘Silver hammer man’ by Paul, George and Ringo was recorded with the higher notes on six, lower notes on seven, and a combination of low and high on height.

From “Abbey Road” Super Deluxe edition book (2019)

Regarding the piano arpeggios, Paul mentioned the following in the 2021 “McCartney 3,2,1” documentary series:

I was wondering about the arpeggios because that’s a little bit flash for me. Makes me think that was George Martin because, y’know, I can play piano but not that good. If we wanted anything a little bit difficult, George Martin was like our teacher.

Paul McCartney – From the “McCartney 3,2,1” documentary series, 2021 – Quoted in beatlesebooks.com

Various sources (like Mark Lewisohn in “The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions“) indeed indicate a contribution from George Martin on Hammond organ, not mentioned in the “Abbey Road” Super Deluxe edition book (2019).


George had played the bass when recording the backing track on the previous day. But Geoff Emerick relates that Paul may have replaced George’s contribution by his own:

There was a good deal of discussion about Paul wanting the bass on ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ to sound like a tuba, to make the recording sound old-fashioned. We accomplished that by having him articulate the bass like a tuba by sliding into the notes instead of hitting them spot on. A fair amount of time was expended on getting that sound, but Ringo and George Harrison made a point of absenting themselves, so there was no one to raise an objection. At this late stage of the Beatles’ career, it seemed that the best way for them to approach making a record – perhaps the only way – was for each band member to work on his own.

Geoff Emerick, who apparently attended this session but didn’t engineer it – From “Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles“, 2006 – Quoted in beatlesebooks.com

Paul corroborated this in the 2021 “McCartney 3,2,1” documentary series:

I think I was trying to get that effect. You play it very short, y’know, don’t let the bass ring on…the character of the song is a parody, y’know.

Paul McCartney – From the “McCartney 3,2,1” documentary series, 2021 – Quoted in beatlesebooks.com

During the rehearsals of “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” in January 1969, Paul had the idea to use an anvil as a percussive instrument. Mal Evans was then tasked to bring an anvil and a hammer in the studio and to hit it.

Paul brought back the idea on this day, and according to Geoff Emerick, Mal Evans again contributed:

[Paul] did spend a lot of time working on “Maxwell,” which irritated George Harrison a bit. One afternoon, they got into a heated argument about it and I started to think, Uh-oh, here we go again. But it died down relatively quickly, and the tension was broken when it came time to do the anvil overdub on the choruses. There was no thought given to finding a way to approximate the effect. Paul wanted the sound of an anvil being struck, so Mal (Evans) was dispatched to track one down…There was a proper blacksmith’s anvil brought to the studio for Ringo to hit. They had it rented from a theatrical agency…I have a clear memory of him dragging it into the studio, struggling under its weight as the rest of us laughed our heads off. Both he and Ringo had a go at hitting it. Ringo simply didn’t have the strength to lift the hammer, so Mal ended up playing the part, but he didn’t have a drummer’s sense of timing, so it took a while to get a successful take.

Geoff Emerick, who apparently attended this session but didn’t engineer it – From “Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles“, 2006 – Quoted in beatlesebooks.com

This statement is however contradicted by Kevin Howlett in the “Abbey Road” Super Deluxe edition book (2019):

The Beatles’ trusted friend and assistant Mal Evans had bashed the anvil in January, but missed the opportunity to repeat his cameo at Abbey Road. He was on holiday at the time.

From the “Abbey Road” Super Deluxe edition book (2019)

We, therefore, assume that Ringo Starr played the anvil overdubs recorded on this day.

Mal Evans playing hammer on an anvil, in January 1969. From Peter Jackson’s film “The Beatles: Get Back“, 2021

John Lennon was present on this day but didn’t contribute to “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” and left before the end of the session according to Geoff Emerick:

There was a distinct change in the atmosphere after John and Yoko arrived, although personally, I felt it had more to do with Lennon being there than his bedridden wife. He was grouchy and moody, and he flatly refused to participate at all in the making of “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” which he derisively dismissed as “just more of Paul’s granny music.” The day after John arrived, the group were recording the backing vocals for the song, with both George Harrison and Ringo joining Paul at the mic as an impassive John simply sat in the back of the studio and watched them. After a few uncomfortable moments, Paul strode over and invited his old friend and collaborator to join in. I thought it was a nice gesture, an olive branch. But an expressionless Lennon simply said no, I don’t think so. A few minutes later, he and Yoko got up and went home. With nothing to contribute, John just didn’t want to be there.

Geoff Emerick, who apparently attended this session but didn’t engineer it – From “Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles“, 2006 

Towards the end of the session, thirteen stereo remixes were made, but those mixes would remain unused, as more overdubs would be added the next day.

From Facebook – 10 July 1969 Photo by Linda McCartney / Linda Enterprises Ltd. © Paul McCartney (https://www.lindamccartney.com/)
From Facebook – 10 July 1969 Photo by Linda McCartney / Linda Enterprises Ltd. © Paul McCartney (https://www.lindamccartney.com/)
From Facebook – 10 July 1969 Photo by Linda McCartney / Linda Enterprises Ltd. © Paul McCartney (https://www.lindamccartney.com/)
From Paul McCartney and George Harrison for Abbey Road at Abbey Road | Lot #4207 | Heritage Auctions – Paul McCartney and George Harrison for Abbey Road at Abbey Road Studio 2, July 1969, Gelatin Silver 20″ x 16″ Contact Photo by Linda McCartney. Vintage gelatin silver semi-gloss double-weight 20″ x 16″ contact photo (from 35mm negatives) of Paul McCartney and George Harrison at recording sessions for ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ at Abbey Road Studio 2, July 10, 1969, by Linda McCartney. Printed later. From the collection of Shepard Sherbell. Very Good, with heavy creases at the upper right corner. Comes with a COA from Heritage Auctions.

Last updated on December 8, 2023

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