Recording "Maxwell's Silver Hammer"

Wednesday, July 9, 1969 • For The Beatles

Part of


"Abbey Road" sessions

Feb 22 - Aug 25, 1969 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Abbey Road

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

Master release


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About

On July 1, 1969, John Lennon was on holiday in Scotland and got involved in a car accident along with his wife Yoko, his son Julian, and Yoko’s daughter, Kyoko. He was hospitalised and stayed at this hospital till July 6. He rejoined The Beatles’ sessions on this day, having missed five days of work.

We were all waiting for him and Yoko to arrive. Paul, George, Ringo downstairs (on the studio floor) and us upstairs (in the control room). They didn’t know what state he would be in. There was a definite ‘vibe’; they were almost afraid of Lennon before he arrived, because they didn’t know what he would be like. I got the feeling that the three of them were a little bit scared of him. When he did come in it was a relief and they got together fairly well. John was a powerful figure, especially with Yoko – a double strength.

Phil McDonal, engineer ​ – From “The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions” by Mark Lewisohn

Yoko was pregnant at the time and, following the accident, was ordered by doctors to stay in bed. John then decided that a bed needed to be installed in the recording studio.

The door burst open again and four men in brown coats began wheeling in a large, heavy object. For a moment, I thought it was a piano coming in from one of the other studios, but it soon dawned on me that these were proper deliverymen: the brown coats they were wearing had the word ‘Harrods’ inscribed on the back. The object being delivered was, in fact, a bed. Jaws dropping, we all watched as it was brought into the studio and carefully positioned by the stairs, across from the tea-and-toast setup. More brown coats appeared with sheets and pillows and somberly made the bed up. […]

It wasn’t as if Yoko was just lying in that bed resting quietly, either – there was a long line of visitors there by her bedside paying supplication, almost all the time. Various Beatles would be recording in one end of the room, and she would be lying there at the other end, chatting with friends, making her presence all the more obvious – and aggravating – to the rest of the band. George Martin had returned on the premise that it was going to be like the good old days, but we had never had a Beatle wife in bed in the studio with us in the old days. That probably explained why he seemed so depressed and frustrated during those weeks.

Geoff Emerick, who 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

We were setting up the microphones for the session and this huge double-bed arrived. An ambulance brought Yoko in and she was lowered down onto the bed, we set up a microphone over her in case she wanted to participate and then we all carried on as before! We were saying, ‘Now we’ve seen it all, folks!’

Martin Benge – technical engineer ​ – From “The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions” by Mark Lewisohn
From Quora – Unknown date

The Beatles had rehearsed Paul McCartney’s “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” during the “Get Back” sessions in January 1969, but they finally discarded it for the “Get Back” project.

On this day, Paul brought it back, and they recorded the basic track with Paul on piano (on track three) and guide vocals (on track eight), George Harrison on bass (on track one) and Ringo Starr on drums (on track two).

John decided not to contribute to this track:

It’s a typical McCartney sing-a-long, or whatever you call them. He did quite a lot of work on it. I was ill after the accident when they did most of that track, and it really ground George and Ringo into the ground recording it, you know. I wasn’t on ‘Maxwell,’ but I think I was on everything else. I was just away for that.

John Lennon – September 1969 interview

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.’

Geoff Emerick, who 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

They recorded 16 takes, numbered 1 to 21 as there were no takes 6 to 10.

Take 5 was the first complete take and was released on “Anthology 3” in 1996.

Written by Paul in the White Album period and rehearsed at Twickenham Film Studios during the Get Back/Let It Be sessions, Maxwell’s Silver Hammer was recorded for Abbey Road, the Beatles spending this day working on the basic track. To preserve the feel, Paul sang with every take, planning to re-record the vocal when the best instrumental recording was decided upon (this turned out to be Take 21). Presented here is the previously unreleased Take 5, lacking the many overdubbed elements – the anvil for one – that would feature in the master.

From Anthology 3 liner notes

Take 12 was another complete take and was released on “Abbey Road (50th anniversary boxset)” in 2019.

George Martin: How do you feel about it?

Paul McCartney: One more. It was good, you know, it had nice bits in it. It would be nice to have the nice bits and the other bits.

George Harrison: And the bad bits.

Paul McCartney: And the bad bits, yeah.

Some dialogue after take 12

Take 21, the final one recorded, was considered to be the best. The first overdubs (some guitars played by Paul and George) were added at the end of the session. Work on “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” would continue for the next two days.

The session which started at 2:30 pm ended at 10:15 pm.

From Facebook – 9 July 1969 – Photo by Linda McCartney / Linda Enterprises Ltd. © Paul McCartney (https://www.lindamccartney.com/)
From Facebook – 9 July 1969 – Photo by Linda McCartney / Linda Enterprises Ltd. © Paul McCartney (https://www.lindamccartney.com/)
From Facebook – 9 July 1969 – Photo by Linda McCartney / Linda Enterprises Ltd. © Paul McCartney (https://www.lindamccartney.com/)

Last updated on December 24, 2021

Songs recorded


1.

Maxwell's Silver Hammer

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 1


2.

Maxwell's Silver Hammer

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 2


3.

Maxwell's Silver Hammer

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 3


4.

Maxwell's Silver Hammer

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 4


5.

Maxwell's Silver Hammer

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 5

Album Officially released on Anthology 3


6.

Maxwell's Silver Hammer

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 11


7.

Maxwell's Silver Hammer

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 12

Album Officially released on Abbey Road (50th anniversary boxset)


8.

Maxwell's Silver Hammer

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 13


9.

Maxwell's Silver Hammer

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 14


10.

Maxwell's Silver Hammer

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 15


11.

Maxwell's Silver Hammer

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 16


12.

Maxwell's Silver Hammer

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 17


13.

Maxwell's Silver Hammer

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 18


14.

Maxwell's Silver Hammer

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 19


15.

Maxwell's Silver Hammer

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 20


16.

Maxwell's Silver Hammer

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 21

Staff

Musicians on "Maxwell's Silver Hammer"

Paul McCartney:
Piano, Vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums
George Harrison:
Bass

Production staff

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

Going further


The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions • Mark Lewisohn

The definitive guide for every Beatles recording sessions from 1962 to 1970.

We owe a lot to Mark Lewisohn for the creation of those session pages, but you really have to buy this book to get all the details - the number of takes for each song, who contributed what, a description of the context and how each session went, various photographies... And an introductory interview with Paul McCartney!

Shop on Amazon


If we like to think, in all modesty, that the Paul McCartney Project is the best online ressource for everything Paul McCartney, The Beatles Bible is for sure the definitive online site focused on the Beatles. There are obviously some overlap in terms of content between the two sites, but also some major differences in terms of approach.

Read more on The Beatles Bible

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