Thursday, January 3, 2013

Whole Lotta Helter Skelter

When DT and I did our Top 50 Beatles Songs, our most concise write-up was for "Helter Skelter." We wrote, in its entirety: "In which the Beatles invent grunge." It's a funny line, and a catchy one. And the fact that it's true doesn't hurt.

One of the interesting things about getting old is being able to actually witness trends. And one of the things I've noticed is fewer and fewer music fans seem to realize just what a rock and roller Paul McCartney is. He's well past the Wings period—and that, too, seems almost forgotten by rock fans these days, actually—and beloved, not just for his work with the Beatles, but as an elder statesman still bringing the goods live.

But—pace John Fogerty—Paul was the world's greatest Little Richard student and, with "Long Tally Sally," perhaps the only artist ever to cover one of Little Richard's greatest hits and actually top it. And when Paul decided he wasn't going to let any Who song claim the mantle of "heaviest rock song ever," he was a man on a mission. And damn if he and the lads didn't succeed.

But, as I say, even as music fans know the song "Helter Skelter" inside and out, it feels like the importance of it, and the sheer audacity, sometimes gets missed. Which is why pairing McCartney the vocalist (as well as, in places, Lennon the bassist and Harrison the guitarist) with the unquestioned all-time hard rock kings is a welcome corrective. Any vocalist replacing the ingrained-in-the-DNA vocals of Robert Plant has to be able to bring the goods.

He does.

Yes, she is. 

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