The Paul McCartney Beatles song John Lennon hated: "He made us do it a hundred million times. He did everything to make it into a single and it never was, and it never could've been"

John Lennon and Paul McCartney
(Image credit: Getty Images/Cummings Archives)

As Beatles fans, we'll always be grateful to Peter Jackson's 2021 epic Get Back documentarty series for showing the band's final throes in a more positive, rounded and less wholly antagonistic light than the 1970 Let It Be movie. Despite the forces pulling and pushing the band apart, there's plenty of mutual respect, creative energy and, yes, fun to go around.

But the sessions did come freighted with plenty of tense moments, and there was at least one song that every Beatle except McCartney would have happily binned from those sessions, one that Lennon in particular took unambiguously against.

When Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick ran through the Abbey Road track-by-track for MusicRadar he bluntly recalled “John absolutely hated Maxwell's Silver Hammer. 

“My word, that song drove him totally mad, and he certainly made everyone aware of how much he hated it."

My word, that song drove him totally mad, and he certainly made everyone aware of how much he hated it

Engineer Geoff Emerick

"There were two struggles going on with this song: Paul and John fighting over whether it should even exist! [laughs] John called it 'more of Paul's granny music.' But there was my own struggle coming up with the sounds."

Granny Music it may have been, but Maxwell's Silver Hammer also saw the Beatles, never shy of exploring technology, getting the hang of a new-fangled instrument, the synthesizer.

"The other thing was the Moog synthesizer solos in the middle and end,” said Emerick. “It sounds almost like a Theremin. 

“The Moog was a fascinating new instrument for everybody - George, in particular, loved working with it – but Paul played these solos. He tinkered around until he got a really incredible, spacey sound that worked quite well."

McCartney first brought the song to The Beatles on 3 January 1969, during the Get Back/Let It Be sessions so meticulously documented in Peter Jackson’s 2021 documentary, where you can see McCartney’s first tentative run-throughs with the rest of the band.

"I hate it,” recalled John Lennon in an interview with Playboy in 1980. “He made us do it a hundred million times. He did everything to make it into a single and it never was and it never could've been… we spent more money on that song than any of them in the whole album." 

Ringo Starr was equally blunt. "The worst session ever was Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” he said. “The worst track we ever had to record. It went on for f*****g weeks. I thought it was mad."

To be fair, George Harrison was more ambivalent, if not enthusiastic. “Sometimes, Paul would make us do these really fruity songs. I mean, my God, Maxwell's Silver Hammer was so fruity… We spent a hell of a lot of time on it. 

“And it's one of those instant sort of whistle-along tunes, which some people will hate, and some people will really love it.”

Just this month McCartney has defended the song (again), while admitting his perfectionist approach to recording may have been too much at times. 

“I was very keen on it, it took a little bit long to record,” he says in the latest episode of his A Life in Lyrics podcast

“I remember the guys getting pissed with me. Occasionally, I in particular would take too long because I was trying to get what was in my head.” 

• Read more: Abbey Road track-by-track
• Listen: Paul McCartney's A Life in Lyrics

Will Groves

I'm lucky enough to be MusicRadar's Editor-in-chief while being, by some considerable distance, the least proficient musician on the editorial team. An undeniably ropey but occasionally enthusiastic drummer, I've worked on the world's greatest music making website in one capacity or another since its launch in 2007. I hope you enjoy the site - we do.