- Published on 1968
- Author: Lennon/McCartney
- Track 23 on “The Beatles – White Album“
PAUL 1968: “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.”
JOHN 1980: “That’s Paul completely. All that (Charles) Manson stuff was built ’round George’s song about pigs and this one… Paul’s song about an English fairground. It has nothing to do with anything, and least of all to do with me.”
PAUL 1985: “The Who had made some track that was the loudest, the most raucous rock ‘n roll, the dirtiest thing they’d ever done. It made me think, ‘Right. Got to do it.’ I like that kind of geeking up. And we decided to do the loudest, nastiest, sweatiest rock number we could.”
About “Helter Skelter”
“Helter Skelter” is a song appearing on their 1968 double album, “The Beatles – White Album”. It was written primarily by Paul McCartney, with some input from John Lennon. The term “Helter Skelter” originally referred to a British fairground ride, which is essentially a tall spiral slide.
The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” is notable for its heavy and raucous sound, which was quite different from their earlier, more melodic work. McCartney was inspired to write it after hearing that the Who had recorded a particularly loud and raucous track. He wanted to create something even louder and more chaotic.
The song is often cited as an early influence on the development of heavy metal music due to its aggressive and powerful instrumentation. It features loud, distorted guitars and McCartney’s aggressive vocal delivery. The lyrics are somewhat abstract, with imagery evoking a sense of frenzied chaos.
Interestingly, Charles Manson, the infamous cult leader, misinterpreted the song as a prediction of an impending race war. He believed that “Helter Skelter” was a call to action, and his followers committed a series of brutal murders in the belief that they were carrying out the song’s apocalyptic message. This association with Manson and his crimes has added a dark layer of infamy to the song.
Despite this tragic association, “Helter Skelter” remains an important and influential piece of rock music history, showcasing the Beatles’ willingness to experiment with new sounds and styles.
Meaning of “Helter Skelter”
“Helter Skelter” is a song that, on the surface, doesn’t have a clear, straightforward meaning. The lyrics are somewhat abstract and filled with vivid imagery, which has led to various interpretations. At its core, “Helter Skelter” is often seen as a high-energy, raucous rock song that captures a sense of chaos and frenzy. The phrase “helter-skelter” originally referred to a British fairground ride, which was essentially a tall, spiraling slide. In this context, the song might simply be about the excitement and energy of a fast-paced, unpredictable experience.
However, due to its intense and somewhat chaotic nature, the song has also been associated with various cultural and historical events. Most notably, it became infamously linked to Charles Manson and his cult’s interpretation of it as a call to action for a supposed impending race war. In this context, Manson believed that “Helter Skelter” was a prediction of a coming apocalypse, and he and his followers committed a series of brutal murders with the belief that they were fulfilling the song’s apocalyptic message.
It’s important to note that the Beatles themselves have disassociated the song from Manson’s interpretation, emphasizing that it was never intended to be a call for violence or chaos. Paul McCartney, who primarily wrote the song, has stated that it was simply meant to be a loud, raucous rock ‘n’ roll track.
In summary, the meaning of “Helter Skelter” is somewhat open to interpretation. It can be seen as a high-energy rock song, an exploration of chaos and frenzy, or in the darker context of the Manson murders, although the latter was not the song’s intended meaning according to the Beatles themselves.
- Paul McCartney – lead vocal, backing vocal, lead/rhythm guitar
- John Lennon – backing vocal, six-string bass, sound effects (through tenor saxophone mouthpiece), piano
- George Harrison – backing vocal, lead/rhythm guitar, slide guitar
- Ringo Starr – drums, vocal shout
- Mal Evans – trumpet