50 Years of Beatlemania...Part II, the Music
Knox County — This blog will study the music of the Beatles as a continuation of the first Beatlemania blog which can be found in the February archive.
The music of the Beatles defined the Beatles. In fact, the music eventually took on a mind of its own. It gave us mystery; sparked controversy in more than one case; led to tragedy in at least two murders we’d rather forget. What happened to the Beatles from the first time they left their home country of Great Britain and their home town of Liverpool? It’s a story of great success and at the same time of great sorrow.
Would we like to hear the Fab Four on stage one more time? You betcha. The question is…what version of the Beatles would we like to hear? For myself, I prefer the “early Beatles” as most people of my age do rather than the music influenced by the Marharishi Mahesh Yogi and others who came later on. Some may say that some of their music may have been influenced by whatever drug they were on at the time such as the most popular drugs of the day, LSD and marijuana.
I will focus on a small part of their music, those albums that mostly influenced Rock ‘n Roll at the time as well as the music that impacted our society the most. By society, I mean the world society because they surely did have a world-wide influence.
What’s in the Catalogue
The Beatles catalogue includes 27 studio albums; 4 live albums; 57 compilation albums; 21 EPs (Extended Play); 55 singles; 10 video albums; 37 music videos. Remember that they also made three movies: “A Hard Day’s Night”; “Help”: and “Yellow Submarine.” Most of their work was done in Mono. Remember that stereo music was just beginning to come into use. In those days we didn’t have stereos, we had “record players.” The stereo mixes of their albums were done later without their supervision. “Abbey Road” and “Let it Be” were the only two albums that were mixed and released in stereo only.
The albums were made by both Capitol Records in America and later mostly at their own studios, Apple Records in Great Britain. They were mostly written and co-written by the dynamic duo of Paul McCartney and John Lennon.
When the Beatles broke up John and his wife Yoko made their own music and of course Paul had Wings for his own music.
The White Album and Abbey Road
I will only discuss these two albums because of space reasons and because I believe they made the most impact on the Rock ‘n Roll scene at the time and also sparked the most controversy.
Probably the Beatles most notorious album, the White Album, was not liked when it first came out. People were expecting Sgt. Pepper Number Two, that magical, whimsical album that preceded it. But like the world at that time and especially the world of the Beatles, everything was constantly changing and they were always trying to shake things up in the music world of the day. Eventually, though, it climbed to number 10 on the Rolling Stone list of “The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time.”
The White Album was a double album and contained 22 songs. You may remember some of the most popular ones: “Rocky Racoon,” “Sexy Sadie,” “Revolution 1,” “Revolution 9,” and “Helter Skelter.”
Disaster in a Song
The song “Helter Skelter” probably became the most hated song to come from the Beatles because of the notorious Charles Manson. He and that song could make a whole new blog and probably a book. In fact, the prosecutor in his trial, Vincent Bugliosi, did write a book about the murders with the same title. Look to Vincent if you want further information.
I will try to hit on the highlights of those tragic murders, including Sharon Tate, which was carried out by that psycho and his band of followers which included Squeaky Fromme. I do not wish to give him any more ink than I would give any other murderer and despot such as Hitler.
The Beatles were prone to “Peace” music; often war protest music. I’m sure that these four Brits who came to the U.S. and protested our participation in the Vietnam War were not liked by either the returning Vietnam Vets or Veterans groups as a whole. Manson thought there were coded messages and hidden meanings in their music and believed that the Beatles were evil and part of the apocalypse. As for “Helter Skelter,” Manson believed it signified an apocalyptic race war he believed would arise between blacks and whites.
To quote the monster: “Look at the songs: songs sung all over the world by the young love. It ain’t nothin’ new…It’s written in…Revelation, all about the four angels programming the holocaust…the four angels looking for the fifth angel to lead the people into the pit of fire…right out to Death Valley. It’s all in black and white, in the White Album – white, so there ain’t no mistakin’ the color.”
Here are some of the words to Helter Skelter. Read them and then I’ll tell you where the words may have come from in actuality.
“When I get to the bottom I go back to the top of the slide
Where I stop and I turn and I go for a ride
Till I get to the bottom and I see you again
Yeah yeah yeah hey
Do you, don’t you want me to love you
I’m coming down fast but I’m miles above you
Tell me tell me tell me come on tell me the answer
Well you may be a lover but you ain’t no dancer
Now helter skelter helter skelter
Helter skelter yeah
Helter Skelter means confused or disorderly. The words may also have come from other artists on other albums; or an amusement park ride. It sure sounds like a kids’ playground slide to me. There was also a 1949 British romantic comedy directed by Ralph Thomas of the same name.
Paul wanted to go off in another direction and be more of a heavier rock band. Helter Skelter is considered to be a key influence in the early development of heavy metal.
Manson said of the song: “Like, Helter Skelter is a nightclub. Helter Skelter 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. It says ‘Rise!’ It says ‘Kill!’ Why blame it on me? I didn’t write the music. I am not the person who projected it into your social consciousness.”
A complete manic to be sure. I can’t see how he still alive.
Or maybe Manson saw other meanings such as in “Revolution.” Look at some of the words to that song:
“You say you want a revolution
Well you know
We all want to change the world.
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know that you can count me out.
…You say you got a real solution
Well you know
We’d all love to see the plan
You ask me for a contribution
Well you know
We are doing what we can
But if you want money
For people with minds that hate
All I can tell you is brother you have to wait…”
Let me tell you that these words sound like a myriad of other protest songs of the day. I should know because I used the lyrics to every one of them in my Master’s thesis at Fairfield University.
Besides Helter Skelter, other Beatles songs were used during their murdering spree. “Maxwell’s Hammer” was referred to by a follower after the murder of two people and the injury of another in an attack on a beach in Santa Barbara. The fictional story of the song talks about Maxwell Edison who murdered his girlfriend, Joan, with a hammer, then his teacher, and finally the Judge during his murder trial.
I never remember hearing Helter Skelter sung by anyone after the murders. I was surprised therefore when I found Paul singing it in what looks like present day with another band on YouTube. He had a tee shirt on which read “No More Land Mines” which probably referred to recent times when children were maimed by land mines in an ongoing conflict in a third world country I believe. Still protesting after all these years.
There were so many other songs with supposedly hidden meanings in them. John got fed up with all the insinuations so that he finally tried to squelch some of the talk by writing this song “Glass Onion.” Here’s some of the words:
“I told you about Strawberry Fields
You know the place where nothing is real
Well here’s another place you can
Go where everything flows.
Looking through the bent back tulips to see how the other half lives
Looking through a glass onion.
I told you about the walrus and me man
Well here’s another clue for you
You know we’re as close as can be man
Well here’s another clue for you all
The walrus was Paul…”
You can hear for and decide for yourself what the implications may or may not have been with the White Album by bringing up the songs on YouTube and listening to them. As I’ve said before, you can probably find any Beatles song you’d like to hear on YouTube. I’ll leave the White Album now.
To be continued next month…
Thanks for listening.