Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Maxwell's Silver Hammer

Robert Bunter: We're faced with a problem here. It's the eternal Paul McCartney question: how could such an abundantly gifted man turn out so much sub-par material? The same man who served up such sumptuous feasts as "For No One" and "Power Cut" was just as happy doling out a ladleful of weak soup from the cheap tin stockpot on tracks like "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" or "Morse Moose And the Grey Goose." But the problem goes deeper than that. These songs are all good, without exception. The man truly can do no wrong, and that's what's so frustrating. I mean, who in their right mind is going to complain about one of the songs on Abbey Road? "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" is wonderful - it's easy to get your head around, and has a lot of appeal to little kids. The melody is catchy and the chorus has an infectious, lurching groove that has a lot to recommend it. I'm glad this thing exists, and I'm glad it's taking up precious space on side one of Abbey Road. Space that could have been filled instead by an immortal masterpiece like "Junk" or "Back Seat of My Car." Sigh. Thank you, Mr. McCartney. I really appreciate all that you've done for my life. I'm sorry for implying that, despite your considerable gifts, you have so often squandered your potential with tossed-off potboilers and second-rate ballast.

Richard Furnstein: Oh my. I've been dreading pulling this card. "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" is behind probably forty percent of any ill will towards Mr. McCartney. It's like if "Rocky Raccoon" and "Honey Pie" and "Teddy Boy" had a disfigured gloss child. I can sit here and tell you that the drums sound great and the synthesizer in the third verse is lovely, but we would both know that I was hiding my silent rage. And to think this overlong turd comes after the one-two punch of "Come Together" and "Something." "Maxwell's" is Paul taking his last step towards Wings freedom (and to be fair, it would have been an excellent single in the post Wild Life era) in both sound and self-focused control (the sessions were notoriously tedious and long). I'm having trouble here. I love this band, but I wish this song never happened.

Robert Bunter: Paul is playing for the broadest possible audience, just like when he shoehorned "Til There Was You" into the raucous rock assault of With The Beatles. You have to realize, he's not trying to please the Bunters and Furnsteins of the world. He'd already done that with glorious triumphs like "Mother Nature's Son," "I'm Down," "The Night Before" and "Helter Skelter." "Listen, lads: I've written enough for you. You and I both know what I'm capable of, and it's truly great. You can sit there and wet your pants over the rare "Carnival of Light" bootlegs (which I've decided to let you listen to and keep) but there is a whole world of children and old ladies out there who also need music to listen to. I'm inclined to please everybody, unlike John who only cares about himself and George who only cares about God. Sure, it's possible that my eagerness to please comes from my traumatic childhood and emotionally distant father. I'm willing to grant you that. Please, everybody, if we haven't done what we've could've done, we've tried.

I'm skipping to the next track. Dang, it's the crummy "Oh! Darling." Can we jump past this one? "Octopus's Garden"? What is wrong with this album?

Richard Furnstein: Oh please, don't compare this to "Til There Was You." That was a nice breather that suggested their gentle musical roots while looking forward to future treats like "Yesterday" and "I Will." This is Paul trying to write a story song (and failing) with more high handed/misguided social commentary than your standard issue early 70s Lennon song. It's all audio candy.

I guess it's neat when Paul giggles after singing the word "behind" (supposedly in response to John mooning him). That's a fun story but I don't have to sit through this. I'm skipping to the next track. Dang, it's the crummy "Oh! Darling." Can we jump past this one? "Octopus's Garden"? What is wrong with this album?

Robert Bunter: "Oh! Darling" is the best song on Abbey Road's first side and you're just being difficult. What about my point? It doesn't matter if you think "Maxwell's" represents failed candy or misguided social commentary. It's not there for you. Weren't you listening earlier when I pretended to be Paul McCartney talking to us? Wouldn't it be great if that had really happened, including the part about getting the "Carnival of Light" recording to keep? I think the best thing for us to do is keep listening to "You Won't See Me" and "Lady Madonna." Songs like "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" are there for the other people. The other dumb people who caused Paul to squander his considerable potential on insipid fluff. AAAAArgh. I'm about ready to hit myself over the head with a goddamn hammer. It's difficult to simultaneously hold two contradictory opinions.

Richard Furnstein: Paul is a dead man. Miss him. Miss him. Miss him.

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