‘This is a song Charles Manson stole from the Beatles...’

For my entry in the macabre post of the month sweepstakes, it was 40 years ago tonight that Charles Manson sent four of his followers to Cielo Drive in Los Angeles to commit the gruesome murders that were supposed to lay the groundwork for his vision of Helter Skelter.

As Manson interpreted it, Helter Skelter would be an apocalyptic war that would arise from tension over racial relations between blacks and whites. In his courtroom testimony, prosecution witness and Family hanger-on Paul Watkins explained how it would happen: “There would be some atrocious murders; that some of the spades from Watts would come up into the Bel-Air and Beverly Hills districts and just really wipe some people out, just cut bodies up and smear blood and write things on the wall in blood.

“So, in retaliation,” Watkins continued, “this would scare; in other words, all the other white people would be afraid that this would happen to them, so out of their fear they would go into the ghetto and just start shooting black people like crazy.”

The resultant rampage by frightened whites would be exploited by militant blacks to provoke a war of mutual near-extermination between racist and non-racist whites over the treatment of blacks. The militants would arise to finish off the few whites that had survived.

In this holocaust the members of Manson’s Family would have little to fear; they would wait out the war in a secret city underneath California’s Death Valley. As the sole remaining whites, they would emerge from underground to rule the now-satisfied blacks, who, as the vision went, would be incapable of running the world.

When you’re discussing how Manson managed to twist the Beatles’ lyrics into these bizarre ideas, your guess is as good as mine. We’re obviously not dealing with a rational mind. According to Vincent Bugliosi, prosecutor on the Manson case and author of the book “Helter Skelter,” Manson believed that the lyrics “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” was an obvious reference to the Family's emergence from “the Bottomless Pit” – the underground hideaway. Manson also twisted “Helter Skelter... She's coming down fast” to mean that race war was imminent.

Of course, the Beatles were shocked to learn of Manson's interpretation of their lyrics. As Ringo Starr would later say, all the Beatles ever stood for was peace, love, and harmony.

Helter Skelter.mp3 ~ The Beatles
Helter Skelter (take 2).mp3 ~ The Beatles
Helter Skelter (live).mp3 ~ U2
Helter Skelter.mp3 ~ Aerosmith
Helter Skelter.mp3 ~ Motley Crue
Helter Skelter (live).mp3 ~ Motley Crue
My Monkey (demo).mp3 ~ Marilyn Manson
Helter Skelter.mp3 ~ Henhouse Prowlers
Helter Skelter (Dizmaster remix).mp3 ~ Sam Punk

By the way, if you haven't read "Helter Skelter" by Vincent Bugliosi, it's a fascinating and very readable account of the events leading up to the Tate/LaBianca murders and the subsequent trial. I fully recommend it to you.

Also, if you're wondering, the bottom picture is an actual Helter Skelter.

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