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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Beatles "White Album" Showdown: The Final Round

8:51 AM Posted by Nicole M

Our Beatles "White Album" Showdown has finally arrived at the end, the final matchup, the round that will determine which of the 30 tracks on "The White Album" double LP is the best of the bunch.

The Final Round

#4 Helter Skelter vs #3 Happiness is a Warm Gun

Paul wanted to write the heaviest song ever put to record, something sweaty, nasty, loaded with loud guitars, thudding bass, crashing drums, and screaming vocals. He succeeded with "Helter Skelter," and is often credited with inventing the "heavy metal" genre in the process.

The song is about an amusement park slide, and appropriately, begins with a shrieking guitar note that slides down the scale into immediate dissonance, as the riff works its way backwards through a "Secret Agent Man" type of chromatic lick. From then on it's a banger, and Paul's raucous vocal is perhaps one of his finest "shredders" captured on tape.

The high, wailing background vocals add a thrill factor and do plenty of their own "sliding" around throughout the song.

It's a tour-de-force and easily one of the best songs on the album.


John's multi-faceted "Happiness is a Warm Gun" is likewise heavy, but in a more grinding and even-paced fashion, slightly less hyper than "Helter Skelter." The opening is lyrically fascinating, with its talk of multicolored mirrors, hobnail boots, lizards on window panes, soap sculptures being eaten, and the touch of a velvet hand.

The middle section is equally compelling, with low and distorted guitar riffs, driving the song into a near frenzy of repeated exclamations, "Mother Superior, jump the gun!"

And then suddenly it's in doo-wop territory, but with an almost jarring background vocal: "Bang, bang, shoot, shoot!" John delivers one of his best vocal performances in this final phase of the song, screaming, "I feel my finger on your trigger, I know nobody can do me no harm!" The shivering high falsetto ending just puts the icing on the cake.

This song, too, is one of the best of the album.

But in the end, a winner must be declared, and so the victory goes to ...

[drum roll]

[screeching guitars]


Yes, the honor of Best Song on "The White Album" goes to "Helter Skelter." That raw energy, sustained for so long, is absolutely unbeatable.

Now that we've completely disassembled this epic double LP, be sure to put it all back together again soon and give the whole thing another listen, in its entirety. Make an event out of it. Enjoy the photo collage, crank up the volume, and experience the saga again with fresh ears.

The final word goes to Paul McCartney, quoted from Anthology: "You know, I'm not a great one for that -- you know, 'maybe it was too many,' or that -- look, what do you mean? It was great! It sold, it's the bloody Beatles White Album, shut up!"