Paul McCartney has revealed to NME that it took him decades to reclaim a song that he felt cult leader Charles Manson had indirectly stolen from the Beatles’ repertoire.
When The Beatles dropped the White Album on the world in 1968, it was an instant hit with millions of people, including former jailbird Charles Manson who decided to hijack the fab four’s first and only double album for his own ends.
In particular, Manson adopted the Paul McCartney song “Helter Skelter” as a moniker for his vision of an apocalyptic race war between blacks and whites that he felt was about to erupt and change the world forever.
In a 2009 documentary called Manson, one of Charlie’s followers, Catherine Share, described what the term “Helter Skelter” from the Beatles song of the same name meant to Manson and his followers.
“When the Beatles’ White Album came out, Charlie listened to it over and over and over and over again. He was quite certain that the Beatles had tapped in to his spirit, the truth—that everything was gonna come down and the black man was going to rise. It wasn’t that Charlie listened to the White Album and started following what he thought the Beatles were saying. It was the other way around. He thought that the Beatles were talking about what he had been expounding for years. Every single song on the White Album, he felt that they were singing about us. The song ‘Helter Skelter’—he was interpreting that to mean the blacks were gonna go up and the whites were gonna go down.”
Of course, Charlie’s predictions of racial carnage on the streets of Los Angeles never materialized.
Yet the Tate/LaBianca murders which Manson orchestrated in the summer of 1969 in an attempt to trigger his predictions of race war would soon make him, his family of killers, and their twisted philosophy household names.
After the phrase “Healter (sic) Skelter” was written in blood on the refrigerator of the LaBianca household and Manson was allowed to talk about his vision of “Helter Skelter” during his very public trial, the Beatles felt they had no choice but to distance themselves from the song.
At the time Paul McCartney thought he would never play it live again.
“Well, that put me off doing it forever. I thought, I’m not doing ‘Helter Skelter,’ you know, because it was too close to that event, and immediately it would have seemed like I was, either I didn’t care about all the carnage that had gone on or whatever, so I kept away from it for a long time.”
However, half a decade on, and with Manson dead and buried, the song has been finally given a new lease of life during McCartney’s concerts.
The Scouse songbird explained, “But then in the end I thought, you know, that’d be good on stage, that’d be a nice one to do, so we brought it out of the bag and tried it and it works. It’s a good one to rock with, you know.”