Hear John Lennon’s Isolated Bass on The Beatles’ ‘Helter Skelter’
Mandatory Credit: Photo by Alan Messer/REX/Shutterstock (133333jj) DON McLEAN VARIOUS
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It’s no secret that more than being one of the greatest songwriters in rock, John Lennon was also a multi-instrumentalist. And during the recording of the wildly controversial song “Helter Skelter”, Lennon took over bass duties.
After reading The Who’s Pete Townshend comments on their song “I Can See For Miles”, Paul McCartney was determined to outdo them. And so he came up with something that became influential in the development of heavy metal – “Helter Skelter”. He wanted it loud, he wanted it raunchy.
McCartney recalled, “I was in Scotland and I read in Melody Maker that Pete Townshend had said: ‘We’ve just made the raunchiest, loudest, most ridiculous rock ‘n’ roll record you’ve ever heard.’ I never actually found out what track it was that The Who had made, but that got me going; just hearing him talk about it. So I said to the guys, ‘I think we should do a song like that; something really wild.’ And I wrote ‘Helter Skelter’.”
While “Helter Skelter” itself is undoubtedly stellar, it got dragged through the mud because cult leader Charles Manson interpreted it a different way. He explained to the court that the song “means confusion. Literally. It doesn’t mean any war with anyone. It doesn’t mean that those people are going to kill other people. It only means what it means. ‘Helter Skelter’ is confusion. Confusion is coming down fast. If you don’t see the confusion coming down fast, you can call it what you wish. It’s not my conspiracy. It is not my music. I hear what it relates.”
Lennon then told Rolling Stone, “We used to have a laugh about this, that or the other, in a light-hearted way, and some intellectual would read us, some symbolic youth generation wants to see something in it. We also took seriously some parts of the role, but I don’t know what ‘Helter Skelter’ has to do with knifing someone. I’ve never listened to it properly, it was just a noise.”