Saturday, November 28, 2009

"Helter Skelter" by the Beatles (1968)

Ah, the White Album... that testament to the awe-inspiring power of the human ego. You know, George Martin apparently begged them to make it into a single album. Well, duh... With judicious editing, you can break the White Album into two different albums: one would be perhaps the greatest album they've ever made, and one would be perhaps the single worst slab of vinyl ever.

It'd be an interesting exercise to see how most people would accomplish that feat. While it's certain that everyone would deservedly put "Bungalow Bill" on the garbage disc, and most people of taste would put "Ob-la-di, ob-la-da" there too, I imagine a lot of people would put "Revolution 9" there, which personally I enjoy quite a bit. And most people would give "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" pole position on the good-disc, whereas I can't stand that song's overblown grandiosity.

There's a lot I could have chosen from this album. The atrocious "Birthday" and "Piggies" come to mind. Yet I've included the truly horrendous "Helter Skelter" because while it's every bit as cynical and smug as half the other songs I've mentioned (plus "Honey Pie" and "Savoy Truffle"), it is actually convinced of its own worth, being as pathetic an attempt at 'rocking out' as anything I've heard. Talented musicians pretending they can't play, misquidedly confusing weedy screeching with 'passion', the Betales here don't sound like they're just throwing crap out there to fill up a disc; they sound like people who are trying and just falling spectacularly far from the mark. As ridiculous as this song, with its fake fade-out and "I've got blisters on me fingers" bluster, there apparently exists a 15-minute outtake of it. Can you imagine if this song, interminably long at four minutes, actually did go on that long? Blisters on my ears. And blisters on my respect for the Beatles' craftmanship.

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