10 HAPPINESS IS A WARM GUN
White Album track, November 1968
TIM BURGESS: I really love the fact that it’s a growing, cinematic song that starts somewhere, finishes somewhere else, and never revisits any point in between. Some people will take the gun reference as a joke, some could get really angry about it, and others could get confused and say that guns are great. People in the Southern states of America might have thought it was ok- teach your kids how to use guns.
MARK “LARD” RILEY: The sound of John lusting after Yoko? Is the penis a warm gun that shoots you or is this cod psychology? The guitar, the vocals…another example to hold up to the memory of Lennon, a man who inexplicably never rated his own voice.
HOWE GELB: One of the first songs we played in our punk band in ’78…only faster.
DAVE BIELANKO: I’d be surprised if it isn’t a culmination of about four or five different songs that were simultaneously half-way done being brought together. I pretend that I can hear the differences between John and Paul as it moves from section to section. Those two, super talented guys coming together-breaking the rules in a major way. They set the bar so high for people to come after them.
CASEY CHAOS: Growing up, “The White Album” was interpreted as evil in America. I read things into the lyrics that a lot of people did with what the intentions of trying to decipher what Manson’s vision was. I take the gun as a sexual image, but I would say the general population of America would take the literal interpretation. That’s the difference between American and European media.
9 HELTER SKELTER
White Album track, November 1968
JOHNNY GREENWOOD: Because Macca’s really screaming, it’s got some sort of fire about it, which is nice. And because it’s quite dismissively done. I also quite like “Blue Jay Way” and “Rain” and things that have that sound that’s quite fat. That’s what I’m listening to at the moment, anyway.
STEVEN SEVERIN: I’d never, ever heard wall-of-noise guitars like that before, particularly the end of the track. I hadn’t heard things like The Velvet Underground at that point. McCartney had a great screaming voice as well, and “Helter Skelter” is one of the prime examples of that. Good basslines, too. It had a lot going for it, even before the myth that went around it once Manson did his dirty deed.
BUDGIE: This, to me, was…just seeing The Beatles in a different way- the marriage of slabs of noise with the best lyrics. Other bands still couldn’t express emotions this way. What I love about it is the power. You feel every sinew has been stretched and thrust into the performance.
JOE ELLIOTT: Possibly the most outrageous McCartney vocal that he ever did. When he gets to the top of the slide…no, his range!…right at the intro, he’s really going for it. It’s got a great riff, one of the heaviest things they ever did. At two in the morning, when me and a few buddies are playing pool and it’s on a jukebox, the money goes in. It makes you want to play air guitar on your pool cue.
BRETT SPARKS: This is the first punk rock song I ever heard. I played this with a band in high school…I set my guitar on fire and smashed it against a garbage can.
GUY GARVEY: I was stunned when I realised that Paul was responsible for the vocal on this essentially punk crack-up. I’m a terrible guitarist and I flatly refuse to get any better, but there’s nothing more satisfying than hitting one really hard. It’s my favourite tune to walk round town to.
CASEY CHAOS: This is the only reason I ever got The White Album. For me, it was probably their most visceral work. It seems like they were into something that was ahead of its time- this seems to be almost like proper punk rock. As time has progressed, Charles Manson has taken this song from a band in England and created the voice of a generation of murdered. You still get all the Hollywood stars, and mothers and fathers in Beverley Hills shaking in their boots.
Single B-side to “Paperback Writer”, June 1966
ROGER MCGUINN: I love the modal quality of this song, and the drone.
DOUGIE PAYNE: The best B-side they ever did. It’s a sign of their quality control being so high. Some bands have based an entire career on that song. It’s one that I remember from years ago being around the house, from my sister’s record collection. It’s Paul McCartney’s bass playing at its best- bubbling. Those octave leaps are so exciting. The acid influence was starting to come into it. A benevolent feeling towards the world that Lennon was feeling is encapsulated in this song. Obviously, it’s hippy-dippy- “I’m cool and turned on, you squares should get turned on too”- but it’s real beautiful and there’s a naivety to it. The rhythm section is just so on it, and Ringo says that this is his finest drumming on record.
JOHN SIMM: The greatest B-side of all time. The sheer innovation of the sound…McCartney’s bass playing is unbelievable.
RICHARD WARREN: “Rain” is the most perfect pop song ever. You can really tell they were enjoying being experimental. Lennon’s backwards verse…nobody had done that before. The playing, the bass line…that’s been nicked by so many people. I’ve nicked it. Everybody’s nicked that bassline.
PAPA CRAZEE: Another blast of Ringo’s brilliance and a high water mark for Lennon’s rebellious lyricism. The idea is timeless, everything that the boring old people told you is bad becomes beautiful with a little help from the LSD. There is no negative judgement. Splash in that mud puddle, you uptight British class-mongers! Great guitar riff, too.
WILLIE CAMPBELL: It sounds like a little bit of A Hard Day’s Night and a little bit of Revolver, just moving into a new direction.
ANDY PARTRIDGE: The apex of what The Beatles could do with two guitars, bass and drums. A crashing bronze nursery rhyme. In fact, everything sounds like it’s made of bronze, from the snare drum to the metallic double tracking of the vocal via the guitars. And what guitars! Boisterous, argumentative, positively grinding together like turns of swarf from two competing lathes. Worth the price of admission just to hear the conversation between McCartney’s gulping, flute-like bass and Starr’s lolling clatter. John’s simple, narrow melody and lyrics are so typical they verge on caricature…My only confusion was about the backwards vocal. As a kid, I couldn’t work out why they would sing in praise of my mum’s hair remover, Nair!