My first encounter with Revolution 9 was in a... pub. Yes. A "rock" pub; of course. It was circa 1974, I was 16, I asked a glass of beer and heard that sound. In that context, it didn't scare me at all. I was just a bit amazed. I wanted to look cool and I had already read about German rock (not yet called Krautrock at that time) so I asked the waiter: "What's that? Faust? Can? Neu!"? How stoopid I felt when he answered scornufully to the teenager I was then: "The Beatles". And me, very low, "Oh!".
I bought "The Beatles" in 1977 only. Apart from their very first albums, it was the last "great" Beatles album I discovered.
In Belgium, we had known about Charles Manson, of course. But for some reason, I didn't know anything about the words painted with blood, "pigs", "helter skelter" and the like.
So when the needle reached Helter Skelter, I had no préjugé about it. And THIS song scared me almost to death, without warning. I mean, I had heard very violent songs before. It was 1977, after all. And I had swallowed "Raw Power" a couple of years before. But there was something, er, wrong with Helter Skelter. Its violence was, how to say that?, kind of forced, non natural, subhuman, abnormal
. With its false endings and no track limitations on the vinyl, I didn't know at all when that mess would stop. I used to hang on the sheet with the lyrics to tell myself that the side would end with a Harrison song, and I counted on it to comfort me. But Helter Skelter seemed to last for long (in fact, no more than 4:30) so I feared Long Long Long would be only one minute long. It appeared not to be, but it also happened that it was not a comfortable song at all! Probably the gloomiest song Harrison ever recorded.
Then after that trauma, side 4. Apart from the enjoyable Revolution 1, it was another traumatic experience. Honey Pie is light and funny, but Savoy Truffle is another sinister blow. Cry Baby Cry is a nightmarish nursery rhyme. And then that eight minutes long block!
Like on side 3, even the last track, Good Night, is not a relief at all. It looks like Revolution 9 has infected all its neighbours and that you can't hear them apart without thinking ("oh, Rev 9 is about to come" or "I still have the sounds of Rev 9 in my head even when Ringo starts singing").
I think the Rev 9 virus has even affected the whole Disc 2 (for once, there's the same feeling on vinyl and on CD), Helter Skelter being the warning sign of something very very wrong.
Of course, it all sounded worse when I learned, years later
, that Manson had probably lived the same feeling as me. Fortunately, I still haven't killed nobody...