On Music: Beatlemania Week – No. 5

"Helter Skelter"

This song off The White Album probably wouldn't be so famous were it not for the Manson murders. More on that in a sec. But first, the inspiration for "Helter Skelter." Paul McCartney has said he'd read a 1967 Guitar Player magazine interview with Pete Townshend where the Who's guitarist described their latest single, "I Can See for Miles", as the loudest, rawest, dirtiest song the band had ever recorded. Not to be outdone by The Who, McCartney cooked up the "Helter Skelter," a fairly forgettable song (again, were it not for the Manson murders). The band did a whole bunch of takes/versions of the song in the studio - so many that Ringo developed blisters on his fingers from hitting the cymbals so much. In fact, in one version of the song, you can hear him throw his drumsticks and shout: "I got blisters on my fingers!"

But now for the juicy part: In 1968, Charlie Manson heard the song and decided there were secret messages encoded in the lyrics put there by John and Paul just for Manson and his family of followers. He used bits of the lyrics (along with quotes from the Bible) as proof that an apocalyptic war between the white man and black man was coming. Further, he used the song to motivate the family to carry out the senseless murders of Sharon Tate (Roman Polanski's wife) and her friends during the summer of '69, as well as the Leno and Rosemary LaBianca murders.

After members of the Manson family committed the LaBianca murders, one of the killers wrote "Healter [sic] Skelter" with the victim's blood on the refrigerator of the house in which the murders took place.

For all episodes in this week-long Beatlemania mini-series, click here.

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