Watch Paul McCartney write The Beatles’ song ‘Helter Skelter’ on acoustic, 1968
We’re dipping into the Far Out Magazine vault to bring you this perfect clip of Paul McCartney creating one of his most beloved songs, ‘Helter Skelter’. In 1968 The Beatles released the track and people soon realised that the song was an attempt to make the band sound as dirty as they possibly could.
Famously released as the second single from The Beatles’ ninth studio record The White Album, music historians consider the addition of “proto-metal roar” on ‘Helter Skelter as major early development for music. In fact, it would later be credited as a major influence in the formation of heavy metal music. Below find a rare clip of Macca writing that track with his acoustic.
Macca has grabbed inspiration from everywhere when writing his songs. However, rumour has it that The Beatles bassist had become inspired to write ‘Helter Skelter’ after seeing an interview conducted by the Who’s Pete Townshend. Townshend, who at the time as a cantankerous young upstart, described the song ‘I Can See for Miles’ as their “loudest and dirtiest” song to date.
With those comments, Townshend had seemingly set Macca the challenge of pushing the public perception of The Beatles. McCartney, with the words of Townshend ringing in his ears, sat down to create ‘Helter Skelter’.
After its formation, The Beatles’ bass player described his new creation as something destined to be their dirtiest to date, ensuring the band add in the “most raucous vocal, the loudest drums, et cetera” before adding that 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.”
Shortly before the release of The White Album,McCartney sat down with Radio Luxembourg as part of an exclusive interview when the conversation turned to ‘Helter Skelter’ and its creation: “Umm, that came about just ’cause 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,” McCartney said at the time. “And I just remember thinking, ‘Oh, it’d be great to do one. Pity they’ve done it. Must be great—really screaming record’, he added.
He continued: “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 White Album is often beloved by fans for it’s rawer edge and it’s what made John Lennon call it his favourite. The guitarist picked the 1968 record, perhaps largely because it would’ve annoyed his songwriting partner. McCartney was never a fan of that album and Lennon revealed his theory as to why: “[Paul] wanted it to be more a group thing, which really means more Paul. So he never liked that album.” It’s a record that is full of hits, from ‘Back in the U.S.S.R’ to ‘Blackbird’ to ‘Helter Skelter’ and beyond, it’s an undeniable powerhouse of an album.
He continued with a swipe at Paul’s favourite Beatles recordSgt. Pepper: “I always preferred it to all the other albums, including Pepper, because I thought the music was better. The Pepper myth is bigger, but the music on the White Album is far superior, I think.”
While the end result of his creation became a noisy, raucous and dirty song, rare footage has been unearthed of McCartney in the studio with his bandmates, quietly strumming away on an acoustic guitar on his own.