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Beatles - Helter Skelter (Beatles Chronology 2) [HD]

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Published on Mar 29, 2010

Helter Skelter on The Beatles Chronology 2. "Helter Skelter" is a song written by Paul McCartney, credited to Lennon/McCartney, and recorded by The Beatles on their eponymous LP The Beatles, better known as The White Album. A product of McCartney's deliberate effort to create a sound as loud and dirty as possible, the clangorous piece has been noted for both its "proto-metal roar" and "unique textures." It was one of several White Album compositions interpreted by Charles Manson as coded prophecies of a war to arise from racial tensions between blacks and whites.

McCartney was inspired to write the song after reading a 1967 Guitar Player magazine interview with The Who's Pete Townshend where he described their latest single, "I Can See for Miles," as the loudest, rawest, dirtiest song The Who had ever recorded. McCartney then "wrote 'Helter Skelter' to be the most raucous vocal, the loudest drums, et cetera" and said he was "using the symbol of a helter skelter as a ride from the top to the bottom—the rise and fall of the Roman Empire—and this was the fall, the demise." In British English, the term helter-skelter not only has its meaning of "in disorderly haste or confusion" but is the name of a spiralling amusement park slide. McCartney has used this song as a response to critics who accuse him of only writing ballads.

On 20 November 1968, two days before the release of The Beatles, McCartney gave Radio Luxembourg an exclusive interview, in which he commented on several of the albums songs. Speaking of "Helter Skelter," he said the following: "Umm, that came about just 'cuz I'd read a review of a record which said, "and this group really got us wild, there's echo on everything, they're screaming their heads off." And I just remember thinking, "Oh, it'd be great to do one. Pity they've done it. Must be great — really screaming record." And then I heard their record and it was quite straight, and it was very sort of sophisticated. It wasn't rough and screaming and tape echo at all. So I thought, "Oh well, we'll do one like that, then." And I had this song called "Helter Skelter," which is just a ridiculous song. So we did it like that, 'cuz I like noise."

The Beatles recorded the song multiple times during the The White Album sessions. During the 18 July 1968 sessions, a version of the song lasting 27 minutes and 11 seconds was recorded, although this version is rather slow and hypnotic, differing greatly from the volume and rawness of the album version. Another recording from the same day was edited down to 4:37 for Anthology 3, which was originally twelve minutes long. On 9 September, 18 takes of approximately five minutes each were recorded, and the last one is featured on the original LP. After the 18th take, Ringo Starr flung his sticks across the studio and screamed, "I've got blisters on my fingers!" The Beatles included Starr's shout on the stereo mix of the song (available on CD); the song completely fades out around 3:40, then gradually fades back in, fades back out partially, and quickly fades back in with three cymbal crashes and Ringo's scream (some sources erroneously credit the "blisters" line to Lennon due to the fact that in the video he can be seen screaming at the end; in fact, Lennon can be heard asking "How's that?" before the outburst). The mono version (originally on LP only) ends on the first fadeout without Ringo's outburst. The mono version was not initially available in the US as mono albums had already been phased out there. The mono version was later released in the American version of the Rarities album. In 2009, it was made available on the CD mono re-issue of the White Album as part of the Beatles in Mono CD box set.

According to Chris Thomas, who was present, the 18 July session was especially spirited. "While Paul was doing his vocal, George Harrison had set fire to an ashtray and was running around the studio with it above his head, doing an Arthur Brown." Starr's recollection is less detailed, but agrees in spirit: "'Helter Skelter' was a track we did in total madness and hysterics in the studio. Sometimes you just had to shake out the jams."

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