Friday 12 May 2023


Paul McCartney put the word “pataphysical” in a song from The Beatles’ Abbey Road. Notably, the phrase has comedic origins. Subsequently, Paul explained why he used the word.

In the 1997 book Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now, Paul discussed his friendship with countercultural author Barry Miles. Miles was interested in a surrealist movement called Pataphysics, a spoof of science.

“Miles and I often used to talk about the ‘Pataphysical Society,” he said. “So I put that in one of the Beatles songs, ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer:’ ‘Joan was quizzical, studied ‘pataphysical science in the home.’ Nobody knows what it means; I only explained it to Linda just the other day. That’s the lovely thing about it. I am the only person who ever put the name of pataphysics into the record charts, c’mon! It was great. I love those surreal little touches.”

Paul felt his relationship with Miles showed he had an avant-garde side. “John’s ended up as the one that’s the avant-garde guy because he did all that with Yoko,” he said. “Well, actually quite a few years before he’d ever considered it, when he was living out in the suburbs by the golf club with Cynthia [Lennon] and hanging out there, I was getting in with a guy called Miles and the people at Indica. I used to be at his house a lot of nights, just him and his wife.”

Paul felt Miles was fascinating because he was well-read. He also credited Miles with introducing him to the work of experimental novelist William S. Burroughs. Burroughs is known for countercultural books such as The Naked Lunch, The Wild Boys, and The Soft Machine.













“Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” never charted on the Billboard Hot 100. Despite this, the tune appeared on the megasucessful album Abbey Road. That album reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 for 11 weeks, remaining on the chart for 489 weeks in total.


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