Recording: Helter Skelter

Studio Two, EMI Studios, Abbey Road
Producer: Chris Thomas
Engineer: Ken Scott

Having recorded the backing track of ‘Helter Skelter’ on the previous night, the song was completed during this 7pm-3am session with a number of further overdubs.

This was evidently a wild session, as chaotic in the studio as it sounded on record. The overdubs included lead and backing vocals, lead guitar (George Harrison), piano (heard at the end of the stereo mix), and a second drum track. Also recorded were amateurish saxophone and trumpet, played by John Lennon and Mal Evans respectively.

While Paul McCartney was recording his lead vocals, Harrison ran around the studio with a flaming ashtray above his head. This likely prompted McCartney’s spoken aside – audible on the multitracks but barely decipherable on the finished mixes – in a heavy northern accent: “Are you comin’, son? I saw you do that, you little bugger. Pop yer bloody hands on yer ’ead, come on!” It occurs just after the three-minute mark.

While Paul was doing his vocal, George Harrison had set fire to an ashtray and was running around the studio with it above his head, doing an Arthur Brown! All in all, a pretty undisciplined session, you could say!
Chris Thomas
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

‘Helter Skelter’ was given a mono mix on 17 September 1968, and stereo mixes were made on 12 October. The long gap between the two dates probably accounts for the disparities between the two versions; the mono mix omits almost a minute of the ending, including Ringo Starr’s famous shout “I’ve got blisters on my fingers!”

Lyrics for Helter Skelter, transcribed by Mal Evans

Lyrics for Helter Skelter, transcribed by Mal Evans

Last updated: 23 June 2023
Recording: Helter Skelter
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