Maxwell’s Silver Hammer

Who says The Beatles never had a dark side? And woe to those who acknowledge the dark side but think it was all John. Although it usually was mostly John, in this case it was Paul McCartney who thought that a serial killer who hammers people to death is fine as “my analogy for when something goes wrong out of the blue.” Yes, Paul, that’s a great metaphor for all the unexpected little things that happen in life. I must say, though, that it’s one of the funniest Beatles songs, and definitely the funniest serial killer song. I think every great songwriter eventually tires of writing about the usual things and turns to songs about killing people (some write about nothing but killing people.) The murder ballad is an old and time-honored musical tradition; the murder ditty less so. Murder ballads have always been meant as cautionary tales, or at the very least to send a shiver down your spine. Happily singing along to lyrics about very bad things is a relatively new development, though not one that’s going away (see Pumped Up Kicks.)


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