Charles Manson’s interpretations of The Beatles’ songs
Everybody was getting on the big Beatle bandwagon. The police and the promoters and the Lord Mayors – and murderers too. The Beatles were topical and they were the main thing that was written about in the world, so everybody attached themselves to us, whether it was our fault or not. It was upsetting to be associated with something so sleazy as Charles Manson.
Another thing I found offensive was that Manson suddenly portrayed the long hair, beard and moustache kind of image, as well as that of a murderer. Up until then, the long hair and the beard were more to do with not having your hair cut and not having a shave – a case of just being a scruff or something.
Five songs by The Beatles were particularly notable for Charles Manson, all from the White Album: Helter Skelter, Revolution 1, Revolution 9, Blackbird and Piggies.
Lines such as “Do you don’t you want me to make you/I’m coming down fast but don’t let me break you” and “Look out helter skelter” were, in Manson’s eyes, a warning of the uprising. Helter Skelter was written on the refrigerator in the LaBianca family home.
John Lennon‘s claim that “When you talk about destruction/Don’t you know that you can count me out, in” was taken to be an endorsement of revolution. “We’d all love to see the plan” was confirmation that Manson should reveal his plans to the Family.
Manson considered this sound collage as The Beatles’ most significant message. It contains a number of audio clips including shouts, explosions, pigs, the repeated phrase “Number nine”, and the word “Rise” (or, alternatively, “Right”). It ends with the sound of machine gun fire and screams, and was followed by Good Night. Manson believed the track was a parallel of the Bible’s Revelation 9. The word “Rise” was daubed in blood on the walls of the LaBianca home.
Manson saw the lines “All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise” as The Beatles encouraging black people to rise up against the white establishment.
Manson believed that Piggies was a reference to the establishment. “Clutching forks and knives” would have devastating consequences for the Family’s victims – Leno LaBianca was left with a knife in his throat and a fork in his stomach. “Death to Pigs” was written in LaBianca’s blood on a wall in his home, and “Damn good whacking” was a phrase particularly liked by Manson.
All that Manson stuff was built around George’s song about pigs and this one [Helter Skelter], Paul‘s song about an English fairground. It has nothing to do with anything, and least of all to do with me
All We Are Saying, David Sheff
A number of other songs also had significance for Manson and the Family. Most were from the White Album, and all were from The Beatles’ later period.
“And when at last I find you, your song will fill the air. Sing it loud so I can hear you, make it easy to be near you.” These words were interpreted as a search for Jesus Christ, which Manson saw himself as personifying. In response he began writing songs in earnest, hoping to initiate revolution as a result.
“Sail across the Atlantic to where you belong” was thought to signify that The Beatles were to join the Family in Death Valley. “The magic of your Hollywood song” was seen as a direct reference to Manson’s music.
Much of the lyrics, in which Ringo Starr waits for an absent lover, were taken by Manson to mean The Beatles were waiting for their messiah.
Manson believed that The Beatles belonged with him in California. Blue Jay Way, written about Derek Taylor becoming lost in fog, was seen as an admission by the group that they had “lost their way”. The song ends with the mantra: “Please don’t be long, please don’t you be very long”.
Prior to the release of the White Album, Manson had renamed Susan Atkins, a member of the Family, Sadie Mae Glutz. When he heard the song it reinforced the belief that the group was sending him coded messages.
The only one of Manson’s chosen songs to directly mention the Bible, Manson believed that Rocky Raccoon referred to ‘coon’, a derogatory term for a black person. “Rocky’s revival” was thought to be an anticipation of an uprising by black people.
Although much of the song’s lyrics are surrealist nonsense or references to heroin use, Manson believed the chorus was meant to encourage black people to arm themselves against whites.