In 1968 The Beatles released ‘Helter Skelter’, the Paul McCartney-written Beatles song which was attempting 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” as major early development which would later be credited as a major influence in the formation of heavy metal music.
Rumour has it that McCartney had become inspired by an interview conducted by the Who’s Pete Townshend who, at the time, described their song ‘I Can See for Miles’, as their “loudest and dirtiest” song to date. Seemingly set the challenge of pushing the public perception of The Beatles, McCartney had the words of Townshend ringing in his ear when he sat down to create ‘Helter Skelter’.
After its formation, The Beatles’ bass player described his new creation as something destined 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.’ 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: “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.”
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.
See the clip, below: