IF YOU DIDN’T KNOW already, Paul McCartney wrote a children’s book.
It’s called Hey Grandude.
The title is a play on “Hey, Jude”.
You know that song, right? It’s a pretty famous song… By the Beatles…that band from the sixties….
I’m not going to read McCartney’s book (because I’m not six years old, but especially because I don’t want to), but seeing Sir Paul on late-night TV plugging his new venture into literature has got me thinking about and listening to The Beatles.
You know the Beatles, right? That band…from the sixties…..
I’ve been listening to their album Abbey Road in particular.
The 50th anniversary edition of Abbey Road is out this year.
It’s remixed by Giles Martin.
Giles Martin is the son of the late George Martin.
You know who George Martin is, right? George Martin was the record producer for the Beatles…that band from the sixties…
The remix is pretty good.
You should all listen to it.
Anyway, I was listening to Abbey Road, enjoying the fantastic remixes of the first couple of tracks, when the song “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” came on.
It’s not a song a lot of people like.
The story goes even John Lennon hated it. Really hated it.
He called it Paul’s “granny music”.
Maybe the song sucked because Faul actually wrote it.
Paul is dead, folks.
John Lennon called “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” (along with a few more songs) Paul’s “granny music”.
Not trying to be a dick or anything, but John Lennon was kind of a hater.
It’s also kind of an odd thing for Lennon to say, considering that the song is about a serial killer.
I don’t know what kind of grandma John Lennon had, but I can absolutely declare with utmost certainty that my own memaw would not be entertained by a song about a guy going Jeff Dahmer on people.
Within a span of three and a half minutes, Maxwell Edison (majoring in medicine) bludgeons three people to death — including murdering a judge during his trial in the judge’s own courtroom.
….just like Jeffrey Grant did.
I freaking hate Jeffrey Grant.
God, there I go again.
Despite the fact that many people (especially John Lennon) despise “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”, Paul McCartney insisted that “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” is a good song.
I think he still does.
You gotta smoke a lot of weed to think that.
Or you think it is because you’re actually FAUL.
Now, the Beatlemaniac in me wants to believe Paul’s claim that Maxwell’s etc. etc. is a good song.
But, as a person who knows a shit song when I hear one, I’m inclined to say John Lennon was right about “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”.
The song is shite.
But the philosopher that dwells within me can’t stop thinking philosophically when I hear the word “good”. You see, whenever I hear the word “good” I start thinking about philosophy stuff like, ethics and ideal forms and utilitarian calculuses and all that jazz.
When I hear the word “good”, the philosopher in me wants to know if “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” isn’t just a good song, but a GOOD song.
Because we already know it isn’t a good song.
… sometimes, good songs aren’t GOOD songs and some GOOD songs aren’t good songs.
You see, whenever a philosopher says a word like “good” they usually don’t just mean a simple statement of one’s taste like, it’s got a good beat amd you can dance to it. It’s the natural inclination of the philosophers to complicate things by getting all Platonic about what’s good.
You read that right. I said Platonic.
Yes. I’m gonna be talking about Plato.
Well, actually Socrates.
But it’s really Plato.
He just wants us to think he’s writing about Socrates.
Because he writes as Socrates.
Well, actually as other people writing about Socrates.
Because Plato is Socrates.
And if you’re gonna do some talking about Socrates, you know you’re gonna do some talking about Plato’s Republic.
In particular, Book III…and also in Book V.
Just in case you felt like reading along.
Socrates tells us that — wait. I gotta clearify a term, here.
When we use the term “music”, we’re generally referring to songs — lyrics set to instrumentation. This is the kind of music I’m referring to when I talk about a song like “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”. However, Socrates uses “music” to describe the arts, including poetry. The purpose of music, according to Socrates, isn’t merely recreational. Music isn’t meant to just entertain or to provide the s soundtrack for a work-out or a romantic encounter.
Socrates says music is important because it is an essential element in the (philosophically correct) development of the citizen. Socrates describes music as “a moral law” and that music is “the essence of order and lends to all that is good, just, and beautiful.” Socrates also says this about music:
Musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul, on which they mightily fasten, imparting grace, and making the soul of him who is rightly educated graceful, or of him who is ill-educated ungraceful.
So…what Socrates means, is music is important because it is a tool of civilization. We must be mindful, Socrates says, of what kind of music we listen to. We must listen to the right kind of music. Listening to the right kind of music produces the right effects.
The right effect is we’re closer to TRUTH.
In case you didn’t know, TRUTH is a GOOD thing.
…or at the very least, listening to the right kind of music will re-enforce the natural hierarchy and guarantee that the people will obey the ruling class without question.
Because noble lies.
Anyway, like Socrates, Aristotle says the type of music we listen to is important. Aristotle says music has the power to stir “ignoble passions”. Repeated exposure to passion-inflaming music (according to Aristotle) influences our disposition.
That is to say, listening to music that stirs the “ignoble passions” makes us ignobelly passionate people.
According to Aristotle, people governed by their passions can’t be GOOD people.
And a city full if people who aren’t GOOD can’t successfully maintain a city conducive to philosophical living.
So what does this have to do with The Beatles and “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”?
Well, let’s first look at the song’s subject matter: serial murder.
“Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” is a song about a man who gleefully and unrepentantly murders three people, culminating in Maxwell murdering a judge while he’s presiding over Maxwell Edison’s murder trial.
You see, for dudes like Socrates and Aristotle, the guys in charge — the people that run things — are put there by NATURE.
They’re born that way
Flip side, the folks who aren’t naturally predisposed to rule (i.e. you and me), are supposed to follow the leaders.
Because we’re too dumb to rule ourselves.
Kings and presidents are kings and presidents because they possess the innate qualities required to be presidents and kings — namely, kings and presidents possess a higher degree of wisdom (and philosophical insight) than you and me.
Socrates would call the wise, philosopher leader-type the Philosopher-King.
Socrates says that obedience to our rulers is not only vital to the survival of society, but to defy their rule is UNATURAL.
SO! Long story short (too late) a society’s leaders primary function is to make and protect the law. If we assume that the administrative state is a product of the natural order, we might also assume that average-guy Maxwell Edison’s murder of a law-giving magistrate’s is a flagrant act of anti-philosopher-king violence.
That ain’t natural.
Mother Nature’s Son my ass.
I think it’s reasonable to assume that Maxwell’s murderous rampage is driven by his “ignoble passions”.
Actually, McCartney never tells us the reason why Maxwell Edison commits triple homicide.
Shits and giggles, I guess.
No matter the reason, Maxwell Edison (majoring in medicine) isn’t just a bad guy, he’s dangerous to society.
The song already tells us of Maxwell Edison’s corrupting influence on society, demonstrated by Maxwell’s acolytes, Rose and Valerie, who scream from the courtroom gallery that “Maxwell must go free”.
LISTEN: We don’t have to read Plato to know that the murder-prone are a threat to society.
I mean, they kill people.
It also goes without saying that it’s not wise to venerate homicidal people.
Songs that are not only popular but also celebrate the unsanctioned killing of people may be the kind of music that stirs the “ignoble passions” in others and lead people to —
Oh god, I sound like the PMRC.
“Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” isn’t just a bad song, it’s not a GOOD song, either.
Songs about guys like this are precisely the kind if songs Socrates says we shouldn’t teach or sing.
Socrates would not mark this song “fab”.
*Socrates says there is a right kind of music. If you want to know what kind of music Socrates says is the correct kind of music, read Book III of Plato’s Republic*
But for Socrates, protecting society from bad music isn’t merely slapping a parental advisory sticker on an album cover. Not-GOOD music corrupts the soul (people with corrupt souls cannot maintain a functioning society). We must be vigilant in protecting society (especially the youth) from soul-destroying music, like Paul McCartney’s so-called “granny music”.
If Socrates had his way, the Beatles would have never recorded “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” in the first place.
That might be a good thing.
Especially if you are — you were — John Lennon.