Friday, March 07, 2008

Friday PSTSS: "Maxwell's Silver Hammer"

Just answer me honestly: is there anything that we as a people have learned from the glut of serial-killing-obsessed entertainments we've endured over the past couple of decades--anything about voyeurism, horror, dark humor, mass hysteria, or all the rest--which the Beatles hadn't anticipated nearly forty years ago with this song? I think not. After I realized how one could fit it all together with our present cultural moment, I couldn't stop laughing. I picture a video to this song featuring a young Hannibal Lecter singing along, perhaps while doing a jolly little dance.

Depending on the day of the week and the phase of the moon, I might say this is my favorite Beatles song, off of--again, depending on whatever mood I'm in when you ask--possibly my favorite Beatles album (and one of the Essential Pop Recordings of Western Civilization), Abbey Road. So put on the cd and sing along, sympathizing with poor Maxwell Edison. As another pop artist would later put it, he's just an excitable boy, that's all.

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,
Joa-oa-oa-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.

Back in school again
Maxwell plays the fool again.
Teacher gets annoyed.
Wishing to avoid an unpleasant
Sce-e-e-ene,

She tells Max to stay
when the class has gone away,
so he waits behind.
Writing fifty times "I must not be
So-o-o-o."

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.
Bang! Bang! Maxwell's silver hammer
made sure that she was dead.

P. C. Thirty-one
said, "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 (Maxwell must go free).
The judge does not agree and he tells them
So-o-o-o.

But a
s the words are leaving his lips,
a noise comes from behin
d.

Bang! Bang! Maxwell's silver hammer
came down upon his head.
Bang! Bang! Maxwell's silver hammer
made sure that he was dead.

Whoa-oh-oh-oh,
Silver hammer man.

3 comments:

Doug said...

That and the pina colada at Trader Vic's...

Anonymous said...

A great pop song, but a "pop song that says something"?

Russell Arben Fox said...

Doug, I'd be using a lot more references to Warren Zevon in this series, except that I'd be afraid of being seen as even more of an LGM suck-up than I already am.

Anonymous, of course it says something! Think about it post-structurally: the song pretty much encapsulates a huge chunk of our whole pop culture universe. (Though maybe not quite so much as it once did; one hopes that serial-killer entertainments have finally run their course.)