Cast your mind back quite a few months. September 11th was just a pointedly ignored memo on the president's desk. The Queen Mother was still alive. I was still single. It was about this time that I was losing faith in modern music.

Everything in the current UK charts is a manufactured band, and that's not an exaggeration. EVERYTHING. And believe you me, there are only so many untalented but hot girls baring their midriffs gyrating in front of a camera this little boy can take. What ever happened to the time when bands were signed up on the basis of musical talent rather than how many record producer penises they are prepared to inhale?

So I started rifling through my dad's music collection, much to my own chagrin, as I can't say I like him much and I didn't want to be caught liking the same sort of music he did. Also much to my own chagrin I discovered a developing fondness for ABBA, which I quickly quashed, then to slightly less chagrin I listened to some 60's and 70's albums. Ah, those were the days. David Bowie, Status Quo, the Beatles ... no end of artists I could say I enjoyed in order to sound clever and pretentious.

But the point of this article is still coming. The first Beatles collection I listened to was a cassette, and the third song on this cassette was a little ditty by the name of Maxwell's Silver Hammer. I'm not sure what I was expecting of this title, but certainly not the following.

(Lyrics as heard by me)

Joan was quizzical, studied pataphysical science in the home,*
Late nights all alone with a test tube, oh-oh-oh-oh.**
Maxwell Edison, majoring in medicine, calls her on the phone,***
"Can I take you out to the pictures, Jo-oh-oh-oan?"****
But as she's getting ready to go, a knock comes on the door,

BANG BANG Maxwell's silver hammer came down upon her head,*****
BANG BANG Maxwell's silver hammer made sure that she was dead.******

* The first line of the song introduces our first character, one Joan, and we realise this is going to be another of the Beatles' storytelling songs like Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da, which was about people getting together and getting married, or Yellow Submarine, which was about a yellow submarine. Incidentally 'pataphysical' is defined in my dictionary as 'the science of pata', so that clears that up.

** Does this line seem dirty to anyone else? Think about it. Test tubes. Late nights. All alone. I'm pretty certain Ringo was sneaking lines like this into all the songs for a laugh.

*** Oh, it's another 'people get together and get married' song, OR SO WE THINK. At this point we're relaxed. It's an entertaining little tune, and we think we know what to expect.

**** Yawn. Yeah, yeah, they'll go to the pictures and probably have six kids and a spaniel by the end of the next verse. Sometimes the Beatles can be so predictab-

***** We stop in our tracks, our ears prick up. What - I didn't just hear what I think I just heard, did I? No, no, of course not. It's obviously more of that tiresome innuendo. Mentally we block out all words except 'hammer', 'came' and 'head', and we wonder if the Beatles were really so sexually frustrated.

****** No doubt there. We're caught completely off guard. Our expectations foiled, screwed up, stamped on, kicked around the room, mauled by the dog and put out on the garden table for birds to nibble on. We start considering when this song was written, and try to remember if any of the Fab Four had just come out of rocky marriages at the time or had a history of mental illness. Are we really listening to a jolly little song about bludgeoning murders? Urge to fast-forward to the next song is quashed. We listen on to the next verse.

Back in school again, Maxwell plays the fool again, teacher gets annoyed,
Wishing to avoid an unpleasant sce-ee-ee-ene,*
She tells Max to stay when the class has gone away, so he waits behind,
Writing fifty times "I must not be so-oh-oh-oh",**
But when she turns her back on the boy, he creeps up from behind,***

BANG BANG Maxwell's silver hammer came down upon her head (do-doot-do-do-do),****
BANG BANG Maxwell's silver hammer made sure that she was dead.

* This line sort of hints at the fact that the teacher is aware of Maxwell's recessive personality and doesn't want to anger it by forcing it to write lines in front of the rest of the class. But as we will soon learn, Max can be very vindictive.

** We're not told what he must not be so, unless 'oh-oh-oh' is an adjective I wasn't aware of. Perhaps 'psycho-oh-oh-pathic' didn't fit into the rhythm very well.

*** Why is this line sung in such a jolly fashion? Why is any of this song sung like this? We're talking about a delusional sociopath who is about to bludgeon his teacher to death. It's like seeing someone watching a fatal road accident while sitting in a deckchair, eating popcorn, laughing and pointing. Incidentally when you listen to it you'll notice that Paul (who I think sang this song) almost bursts out laughing at the beginning of this line. Make of that what you will.

**** I'm sure all of us at some point have wanted to do this to their teachers. Perhaps Maxwell is a visionary. Maybe he has the makings of a working-class hero, if he wasn't rapidly going completely insane, of course. Still, we've heard the chorus a second time and it isn't any different, but just to be sure, maybe we should listen to the third verse as well.

PC thirty-one says "we caught a dirty one", Maxwell stands alone,*
Painting testimonial pictures, oh-oh-oh-oh.
Rose and Valerie, screaming from the gallery, say he must go free,**
The judge does not agree and he tells them so-oh-oh-oh.***
But as the words are leaving his lips, a noise comes from behind,****

BANG BANG Maxwell's silver hammer came down upon his head (do-doot-do-do-do),
BANG BANG Maxwell's silver hammer made sure that he was dead (whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa).*****

* Well, blimey, I mean, how long did he think he was going to get away with it? And I bet the police were really glad of their big helmets when they came to arrest him.

** I've no idea who Rose and Valerie are supposed to be, but my guess is that they're two students from Maxwell's class who were supposed to hand in their unfinished coursework the day teacher was found sprawled across her desk with her head stoved in. Perhaps Max is the campus contract killer. Perhaps Joan got on Rose and Valerie's bad side as well. Maybe their test tubes were cheating on them with her. Ha ha.

*** Obviously the judge feels pretty safe saying this, as he's protected from passing murderers by several bailiffs and his lovely white wig. But he really should know that we're only two lines away from the chorus, someone has to die, and he's the one saying nasty things about our hammerite hero.

**** I know what I said about the last line, but think about this. There are ways of stopping the defendant in a courtroom from attacking the judge or anyone else. For a start he'll be in the dock, surrounded by wood on all sides, and there'll probably be bailiffs around him just in case. Let's not also forget that it's very difficult to smuggle even a sharp stick into a courtroom, let alone a two-time murder weapon which has probably been confiscated unless Max was hiding it in a very uncomfortable place. All I can say is that everyone must have been incredibly distracted by Rose and Valerie to allow their partner in crime to creep up behind the judge, but if that's the case they'd better have been taking off clothing or performing an elaborate song and dance routine.

**** The song's over, but our lives will never be the same again. Granted, this is now my all-time favourite Beatles song, and is certainly in my top five favourite songs by anyone, possibly going between 'Rocking all over the world' by Status Quo and the Inspector Gadget theme. But can you really carry on listening to this Beatles album knowing that the lads from Liverpool condone lethal violence upon women and authority figures?

Well, yes, because it's Octopus' Garden next, and I like that one.

Quality Rating: 87%

One-Word Summary: "Bang"

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