What does Maxwell's Silver Hammer mean?

Beatles: Maxwell's Silver Hammer Meaning

Album cover for Maxwell's Silver Hammer album cover

Song Released: 1969

Maxwell's Silver Hammer Lyrics

Joan was quizzical, studied pataphysical
Science in the home
Late nights all alone with a test-tube
Maxwell Edison, majoring in medicine
Calls her on the phone
Can I take you out to the picture
But as she’s...


    #1 top rated interpretation:
    click a star to vote
    Feb 26th 2008 !⃝

    McCartney said: "'Maxwell's Silver Hammer' is my analogy for when something goes wrong out of the blue, as it so often does, as I was beginning to find out at that time in my life. I wanted something symbolic of that, so to me it was some fictitious character called Maxwell with a silver hammer. I don't know why it was silver, it just sounded better than Maxwell's hammer. It was needed for scanning. We still use that expression now when something unexpected happens."
    He also later said: "In the past I may have written tongue-in-cheek, like 'Maxwell's Silver Hammer', and dealt with matters of fate in a kind of comical, parody manner. It just so happens in this batch of songs I would look at these subjects and thought it was good for writing. If it's good enough to take to your psychiatrist, it's good enough to make a song of."

    Although I would love to believe that Maxwell Edison was a real person, I could not find anything saying so, and McCartney obviously refers to him as fictional.



    #2 top rated interpretation:
    click a star to vote
    May 19th 2007 !⃝

    There is no Cedric...it's "says we caught a dirty one" the cop catches him...tells the chief of police...judge...friend...newspaper whoever you care because it doesn't matter...that they "caught a dirty one"....meaning they caught Maxwell...and it is all one guy...he was in school...probably college. Joan was "studying pataphysical" whatever that may be and "Maxwell Edison" was "practicing in medicine". He kills his girlfriend...goes to school and kills his teacher...then gets caught....but kills the judge and continues his rampage during his trial.

    It's just a fictional story about a serial killer with just a little silver hammer...don't look too much into the details.


    #3 top rated interpretation:
    click a star to vote
    Oct 13th 2007 !⃝

    Ok the silver hammer is not a gun, it's a hammer, actually more like a mallet and Maxwell Edison is a real man in Liverpool, who killed three people in 1969, who got out of jail in 2003. The song is absolutely true every word of it there are no "hidden meanings". McCartney stated that it merely epitomizes the downfalls of life: " 'Maxwell's Silver Hammer' is my analogy for when something goes wrong out of the blue, as it so often does."

  4. Biblo
    click a star to vote
    Mar 23rd 2022 !⃝

    Joan was quizzical, studied pataphysical
    Science in the home
    Late nights all alone with a test-tube

    I think the start of this song is very tongue in cheek. As pataphysical Science is the science of imaginary solution, I interpret this as a reference to Joan spending nights masturbating! Possibly wanting a relationship, she unfortunately goes on a date with a serial killer.

  5. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Nov 23rd 2021 !⃝

    Someone asked, above, what "pataphysical science" meant. Pataphysique is an absurdity invented by Alfred Jarry (8 September 1873 – 1 November 1907), a French "pre-dadaist" actor, pupeteer and aburdist playwright whose writings Paul McCartney had been looking into. There are more than 100 definitions of pataphysique, the most commonly referenced being "the science of imaginary solutions" Jarry invented the character "Ubu" to make fun of a teacher he did not like. His best known work is "Ubu Roi," which makes fun of Sophocles (of course) as well as several of Shakespeare's plays.

    The Beatles said that Maxwell's Silver Hammer was the most difficult song they ever had to record.

  6. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Jul 31st 2020 !⃝


    OK, as it apparently HAS to be stated out loud, MOST people that write lyrics don't give a second thought as to what the words actually mean. If they sound good together and fit with the music they are, in general, satisfied. This song means exactly what the lyrics describe. It's a fictional story about a med school student turned murderer. Whatever Paul had in his head at the time is entirely irrelevant. He, himself likely does not remember the true inspiration and so his most recent explanation is the one we live with.

    I was in a very popular local band in the 90s and I wrote several songs that everyone loved. Some of the lyrics got printed on T-Shirts and bumper stickers. None of them meant anything at all. They just sounded good with the music and they had a nice flow to them. Do SOME songs have hidden meanings and/or describe real events? Of course! But when that meaning or event is so obscured that even the AUTHOR'S explanation is not believed it points to the adolescent feeling that music is magic, mystical, and somehow secret. I LOVED that feeling of playing albums backwards looking for messages but the truth is much less exciting. Music is AMAZING and possibly the most important thing in my life ...... but 99.9% of all lyrics don't mean a single thing past what they actually say. and some of THOSE are entirely fictitious. Paul was not killed and supplanted with a fake Paul. Just THINK of how totally ridiculous that sounds. The Beatles had a brilliant publicist. That's it. Now go enjoy the music. The Beatles have DOZENS of EXCELLENT songs. And then, move on. There are literally THOUSANDS of wonderful bands to discover.

  7. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Aug 27th 2018 !⃝

    I never heard this roumur in the Sixties, although I wasa great Beatle fan.Today I read about it first. And I must say, I*m really sad about lovely Paul who always was friendly and had fun if he performed on stage. I liked him. So I*m shocked of such an act to replace him by a look-alike! I can imagine how strange it must have been for the 3 other Beatles. I don*t believe he was killed but had unfortunately had a car accident. Certainly I believe that not only Brian Epstein wanted to keep silence over Paul death but also british administration. Therefore I think this Maxwell song is based on Maxwell of M15 who observed the remaining Beatles that they keep the secret too.

    I can*t believe that such a thing really happend but Paul obviously is replaced by this Billy Shears and therefore no surprise that the Beatles splitted in the end, because they couldn*t take ist anymore. Poor Paul RIP.

    click a star to vote
    Jun 27th 2018 !⃝

    Maxwell is the secret mi5 agent who was always following them and telling them what to do. You can see maxwell in the back of the abbey road cover on the right side staring at them from the sidewalk in all black. They are making fun of him, someone of authority who always thought violence and force was always the answer. They were making fun of him, putting him in all these situations kind of saying how fucking silly his ways were. Hes also mean mr mustard

  9. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    May 28th 2014 !⃝

    Well, he wasn't real. I would appreciate it if people didn't trust wikipedia because any one can say anything on there. Paul McCartney is still alive. It is based off true events but I don't recall exactly what.

  10. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Sep 5th 2013 !⃝

    Maxwell is a man that worked for MI5 and covered up the murder of the real Paul McCartney. He threatened John George Ringo and fake Paul "Faul" to keep this a secret their who lives or he would have them killed. Watch Paul McCarntey really is dead: the last testament of George Harrison and any question you had in regards to the Beatles will be answered.

  11. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Feb 12th 2013 !⃝

    Maxwell is an MI5 agent referred to in George Harrison's last testament,keeping the beatles in line after James Paul McCartney died. McCartney "blew his mind out in a car" after rolling his austin-healey convertible in 1966. The Queen could not allow the news to be spread for fear of mass suicide. The silver hammer could be part of a gun,used by MI5 to silence anyone who claimed Paul was dead. Lennon wanted to tell all, then 2 weeks later was shot by Chapman. Harrison also wanted out from the deal,and he was attacked in his home,but survived. Ringo? he was the replacement drummer and was so happy to be there,he said nothing. In interviews with Harrison in the 80's,he refers to Paul as Faul,short for False Paul.

  12. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Dec 18th 2012 !⃝

    maxwell was a serial killer,he in the song murders a teacher & gets sent to court in wich he kills the judge .

  13. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Jul 19th 2012 !⃝

    Nestman got that from wikipedia. I saw the wikipedia page.

  14. stevie
    click a star to vote
    May 28th 2012 !⃝

    When the pope dies, a cardinal taps him on the forehead 3 times and calls his name, making sure he's dead. Paul may have been referring to that.

  15. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Nov 9th 2011 !⃝

    I thought it was a sexual metaphor until the 3rd verse... I wish I'd stopped listening after the second verse and kept believing this =p

  16. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Oct 4th 2011 !⃝

    I always thought the first sentence was the greatest. Although released on Abbey Road, this song was scheduled to be released on the "White Album". This album had many sexual references. Joan was quizzical, studied pataphysical science in the home. She was doing some late night self exploration. Late night all alone with a test tube .... ohh, oh oh oh...
    Not much question what that is. If you can't figure it out, ask President Clinton.

  17. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Aug 20th 2011 !⃝

    I am getting the feeling that the song is about a rebeliouse child taking his rebelion too a major extrem. They again im only 11, but that is truly how I feel. If you want a better explanition, LOOK TO THE PERSON WHO WROTE THE SONG!!! I have read many interpretations were Mr.MCcartney said it was a way of life, how things are great and then "bang, bang. Clang, clang." A silver hammer ( bad news, bad event, ect.) Comes down apon your head and ruins everything.

  18. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Jul 31st 2011 !⃝

    Just a song about a killer. But what I want to know is who let a murderer have a hammer in court, who let him have a hammer in school, why'd he kill his date, isn't medicine wierd thing for him to study, what is patapsysical science , and what does this have to do with werewolves.

‹ prev 12345

More Beatles songs »


Latest Articles


Submit Your Interpretation

[ want a different song? ]

Just Posted

Them Bones anonymous
Pain anonymous
Meeting Across the River anonymous
A Pearl anonymous
If You Want Love anonymous
ROCKSTAR anonymous
You Raise Me Up anonymous
25 Minutes Ayam
Green-Eyed Lady anonymous
Nine Ball anonymous
Slippery anonymous
This Is Not An Exit anonymous
Call It What You Want anonymous
Again anonymous
Girl Crush anonymous

(We won't give out your email)