The Ballad of Lennon & McCartney

So, my Helter Skelter shock therapy continues 🙂

I’ve been listening to it again today – just to see how I feel about it now that I know that it’s actually Paul singing and not John.

And it still hits me. For some reason I receive a little jolt from this song every time I hear it. Like a little electric prod to the brain.

I have no idea why this is. I am not one to analyse these things. Something about the analysis leaves me cold, makes me fear that the music will somehow lose some of it’s power and magic if I try to dissect it at all. So I leave well alone and just let the music do its thing.

Still, I did go and check out some of the background info on the song – my curiosity does extend that far at least! 🙂

Apparently, Paul composed this song “after reading a newspaper review of The Who’s latest single, most likely “I Can See For Miles.” The review described the single as the loudest, wildest song ever recorded, with distorted guitars, reverb, and screaming. McCartney took this as a challenge to write something louder and “Helter Skelter” was the result.” (full quote here).

I read this and was a little disappointed, I must admit. I mean, I still harbour hopelessly romantic delusions about the creation of art.

I have visions still of a flash of inspiration hitting the artist with a passion and a fury that he has to channel into art on pain of death. Either that or some delectable muse is the source of all the delight and creativity.

It’s all cliched nonsense of course, but nevertheless, I can’t help but be persuaded by the notion that great art becomes great because it is created with this passion, and it is this passion that is transferred to the viewer, reader, listener, observer when they come in contact with that art.

Yet here is Paul McCartney with “Helter Skelter” proving me wrong (turns out that McCartney wrote this song alone even though Lennon gets writing credits alongside him).

That song wasn’t written in a moment of fury or dislocation, much as I would love to believe it was (in fact that was always how I imagined it until last night).

Rather it was created as a sort of challenge, as the result of curiosity, competitiveness, hell, it was written simply because Paul knew he could write such a song.

Does that make it any less powerful? Do such “rational” reasons behind its creation, kill its potency?

Strangely not.

Which I suppose implies that art that isn’t necessarily born of passion is still capable of provoking that passion in another person.

The energy and anger and fear and chaos that I feel when I listen to that song, is simply my own response to it. It’s my own energy I’m feeling when that screaming wail hits my ears.

I am responding to the music personally. What I am feeling is not what Paul was feeling when he wrote it.

But is that necessarily a bad thing?

Perhaps all art is this way? It communicates to us the thoughts and feelings we have inside us. It makes us aware of them, takes things out of the shadows forces us to confront things about ourselves – good or bad – that would otherwise remain hidden.

Which is a good thing really,when I think about it. The thing that is created, be it music or literature or a painting or a building, becomes more personally significant. It is not merely the communication of one person’s thoughts or feelings about something. It’s your own thing, your own response, your own emotions. The art comes off the page, the canvas, the disc and you absorb it.

And the very fact that a work of art can provoke something inside you is, in the end, what makes it great, what makes it art, no?

So my ideas about Helter Skelter have now been put into perspective. Well, okay.

But do I still want to listen to it? Damn right I do!

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