Monday, July 26, 2010

I'm Coming Down Fast


The next song on side three (vinyl) or disc two (CD) from the Apple release "The Beatles"(White Album) is an original Lennon/McCartney composition written mainly by Paul entitled "Helter Skelter". A helter skelter is an English slide, you see. The song was inspired by an earlier Who single "I can See For Miles" when it was heard by McCartney who throught that the Beatles could do a similar "heavy" feeling number like the Who's single. "Helter Skeler" is definitely one of the heaviest sounding songs from the catalogue.

"Helter Skelter" was also interpreted by that piece of shit C. Manson who twisted the meaning of the song in order to justify the murders of various Los Angeles residents. Enough said.

The recording for "Helter Skelter" began on July 18 1968 at EMI studio two. There were three takes recorded and at this point the song was merely a bluesy plodding song with Paul inserting various verses and chorus vocal throughout. The instruments were the Beatles' usual line up of two guitars by John/George, bass by Paul and Ringo on the drums. The three takes consist of some of the longest tracks recorded by the Beatles in a continous performance. Take one lasted 10 minutes and 40 seconds, the second take lasted 12 minutes and 35 seconds while the third and final take lasted 27 minutes and 11 seconds !! These takes were probably considered more rehearsal recording than proper recording as all the instruments were lumped onto one track with the vocal on the other track. None of these takes were used on the commercial version although a heavily edited portion of take two appears on the Apple 3-LP/2-CD "Anthology 3".

The Beatles returned to "Helter Skelter" almost two months later on September 09 1968 at EMI studio two where they recorded a further 18 takes of the song with the last take (take 21) becoming the commercial version. The instrumentation at this session consisted of Paul on great raunchy vocal and guitar, John on bass and Ringo on drums.

The next night on September 10 1968 once again at EMI studio two, overdubs for "Helter Skelter" were completed with a second lead guitar by George, backing vocals, a second drum overdub, a bit of piano and various trumpet and sax noises "played" by Mal Evans and John respectively.

The mono mix for "Helter Skelter" was attempted in one take on September 17 1968 from the control room of EMI studio two. There is speculation that this mono mix may have been a rough mix since the last minute of the song only appears in stereo ! This sole mix was the one used on the commercial version of the LP/CD.

The stereo mix for "Helter Skelter" was attempted in five takes almost a month later on October 12 1968 again from the control room of EMI studio two. The fifth attempted is the commercial version.

There are many differences between the mono and stereo mix of "Helter Skelter": the mono mix is almost a minute shorter and does not feature the fade-in/ending/ quote from Ringo whereas the stereo mix features all of the above. Also, some of the trumpet and sax noises are more prominent in the mono mix as well as the drum overdub being also more prominent on the mono mix.

"Helter Skelter" is available on the Apple 2-LP/2-CD "The Beatles"(White Album), as well as on the EMI/Capitol 2-LP compilation "Rock and Roll Music" and on the North American version of the Capitol LP "Rarities" where it is featured in mono. "Helter Skelter" was also released as the B-side of the single "Got To Get You Into My Life" (Capitol 4274) in North America only. Interestingly, "Helter Skelter" was the A side for the promotional single issued to radio stations (Capitol P-4274).

"Helter Skelter" was performed live during Paul McCartney's 2005 tour and can be viewed on the DVD "The Space Within US".

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