The Song Paul McCartney Made to Rival The Who

While the Beatles were certainly a force in rock & roll, they were never the most hard-edged of their crop. While their brand of pop melody-laced rock, and their eventual turn into psychedelia, worked for them on several levels, Paul McCartney once felt they paled in comparison to another rock outfit: The Who.

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In particular, McCartney felt they needed to ramp things up in the hard rock department. While The Who had their fair share of gritty tracks, the Beatles were markedly soft in comparison.

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“The Who had made some track that was the loudest, the most raucous rock ‘n’ roll, the dirtiest thing they’d ever done,” McCartney once said. “It made me think, ‘Right. Got to do it.’ I like that kind of geeking up. And we decided to do the loudest, nastiest, sweatiest rock number we could.”

Their effort in making a loud, nasty, sweaty rock number resulted in “Helter Skelter.” It’s unarguably the band’s most controversial track. It might even wear the crown for the most controversial song in rock history. But, that was out of the group’s control.

On McCartney’s side of things, he was attempting to write a song about an amusement park ride, which was often used as a metaphor for disorder. It was less about the lyrics’ message and more about the grungy instrumentation.

However, nefarious forces got ahold of the song and ran with their interpretation. Of course, the Beatles never meant to incite the kind of violence Charles Manson ordered his cult members to do, but it happened nonetheless.

“Some intellectual would read us, some symbolic youth generation wants to see something in it,” John Lennon once said of “Helter Skelter.” “We also took seriously some parts of the role, but I don’t know what Helter Skelter has to do with knifing someone. I’ve never listened to it properly, it was just a noise.”

It was an innocent goal with evil results, but I guess we can say that McCartney succeeded in making a rough-and-tumble rock song. Revisit the track, below.

(Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

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