Helter Skelter in the United States

Many consider the 60s-80s to be the golden age of modern music. During this time, bands like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and The Beatles came to the spotlight around the world. Also during this time (and likely correlated with the music), counterculture movements were popping up around the United States. In 1968, The Beatles released a song called “Helter Skelter” which is largely considered to be an influence for early metal music. The point of the song was to just be rough and rowdy, inspired by an earlier record from the Who. Charles Manson, a member of one of the countercultures described above, had another inspiration in mind.

Manson lived the hippie lifestyle in the late 60s and eventually started his own cult called the “Manson Family.” This group consisted mainly of impressionable college-aged women who were also hippies, allured by Charles Manson’s establishment as a guru. He heavily implied to his cult that he was the second coming of Christ which made them extremely radical and willing to do whatever he wished. This is where Manson’s inspiration from “Helter Skelter” becomes sinister, as he had been predicting a race war in America. This would eventually lead to the Manson family carrying out 9 murders in the summer following the release of the song.

The United States at the time was undergoing a lot of unrest due to the state of racial injustice in the country. The Civil Rights movement had just come to its climax in 1965, but there was still bad blood between blacks and whites in America at the time. Manson used this unrest to his advantage by recruiting vulnerable white people into his cult to lash out against black people. He told his cult that the newly empowered black people would attempt to wipe out the white people of America in an act of vengeance, and often used the term “Helter Skelter” to describe the events that would take place. Manson and his followers would carry out a string of murders on two nights, August 8th and August 9th of 1969.

Until he died in 2017, Manson still went on to say that it was The Beatles’ music which caused him to mastermind these murders, not his own twisted intentions. He claims that the messages hidden behind their music are extremely subliminal, and refuses to take blame for the anguish he caused. The running theory is that Manson was jealous of The Beatles’ success, and saw everything he wanted in their music. Fame, recognition, money, unfortunately for Manson, he was unable to obtain these things with his own music career as it never took off. When his career didn’t work out, he wanted to become the leader of the LA area through the race war he was anticipating. Ironically enough, it was only once he was put on trial and imprisoned that he was able to achieve the fame he desired.

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Adam Salem

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