Nine Facts About Beatles' Songs
Updated: Sep 18
Maxwell’s Silver Hammer
A bouncy tune with an incongruous lyric about a mass-murderer. None of the Beatles but Paul McCartney liked this song, in fact John Lennon despised it so much that he refused to have anything to do with it. Which in hindsight - as the recording involved multiple takes over three days, including sixteen attempts at the rhythm track - looks like a smart decision.
Roadie Mal Evans was often required to be in the studio to attend to myriad Beatle needs, and as a spare pair of hands he was co-opted into musical duties and played the anvil. In Lennon’s absence, producer George Martin was on the organ. As far as John Lennon was concerned Maxwell’s Silver Hammer fell into the category he called Paul’s Granny Music. (Mrs B can attest to this last statement as her mum and her mum's friends all loved this murderous melody.)
Until the issue of remastered versions of this sweet McCartney tune, the big surprise was only revealed to those who listened on headphones. Paul McCartney, one of the finest bass players on the planet, opted to sing the bass part. The result? Gorgeous.
This was recorded over two days and sixty-seven takes were required to attain the necessary level of casual precision. George Harrison doesn’t feature on this one, and Lennon contributes only percussion.
Famously based on Bad Penny Blues by British jazz legend Humphrey Lyttleton. Fun fact: Humph can be heard on newsreel footage playing his trumpet while among the joyous London throng on VE day. https://www.mirror.co.uk/usvsth3m/unknown-ve-day-trumpeter-turns-5639031
Ronnie Scott, the club-owning jazzer, contributed tenor sax to Lady Madonna, as did Bill Povey. Baritone sax duties were handled by Harry Klein and Bill Jackman.
You Know My Name
Brian Jones appeared, after asking The Fabs, “Can I play anything?” To which The Stones might have cruelly replied, “Not anymore”.
Patti Harrison and Yoko Ono are credited on backing vocals. Together with Maureen Starkey (and others) Yoko also contributed backing vocals to The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill. Indeed, Yoko also has a lead vocal section in this song, thereby testing to the limit an earlier Beatles’ statement, And Your Bird Can Sing.
A World Without Love
A McCartney song, which would have made it onto a Beatles record had John Lennon not vetoed it. Why did he veto it? Because he didn’t like it. How do I know this? Because Peter Asher told me. Peter Asher being the brother of Macca’s then girlfriend, the actress, Jane, and 50% of Peter & Gordon who did record it and had a ball doing so. How do I know this? OK, I may have mentioned it already.
Ticket to Ride
Often oddities within great records go unremarked because of the sheer overwhelming greatness of the records themselves. The drum patterns that Ringo played on Ticket to Ride change throughout the song. And, according to this handy guide, they change A LOT: