On September 9th, the boys returned to the number and began that version. This just happened to be the first day of producer George Martin's holiday from the protracted sessions for the double album. That left 21-year-old Chris Thomas in the producer's chair and gave the lunatics the opportunity to take charge of the asylum. And, by all accounts, the Beatles were clearly under the influence of various substances that evening. The proof is in the pudding.
Takes four through twenty-one featured Paul on rhythm guitar, George on a distorted lead guitar, John on piano and Ringo pounding away on his drum kit. Paul persuaded the engineers to push the sound equipment past its normal limits and then some, capturing as much noise as possible. The final take proved to be the best. Good thing, too, because Ringo's hands were actually bleeding after that take, prompting his famous cry of, "I've got blisters on my fingers!" Paul then recorded his screaming lead vocal, as George reportedly ran around the studio with a flaming ashtray on his head.
Overdubs were all added on the following night of September 10th. These included an occasional, more prominent lead guitar part played by Paul, a thumping bass from John, backing vocals by John, George and Paul, and squealing saxophone from John and an equally amateurish trumpet attempted by assistant Mal Evans. The resulting cacophony was everything Paul had been hoping for.
The mono mix of the song was made on September 17th while Chris Thomas was still nominally producer, though McCartney was probably present. It ended at the 3'36" mark - long before the band came crashing to a halt. It was not until work on the album was nearing completion on October 12th that the stereo mix was prepared. By this time, George Martin was back at the helm and an old trick that the group had used on Strawberry Fields Forever was revived. The song faded out completely, slowly came back to full volume, started to fade again then quickly came back up for the chaotic conclusion, including Ringo's scream. This brought the total time of the track to 4'29".
The "White Album" was released in late November of 1968 in both mono and stereo in the UK, but it was only available in stereo in the US. Helter Skelter did not appear again until 1976 on the Rock and Roll Music compilation. In the US, it was also the B-side of a single released a week ahead of that album. American fans finally got to hear the truncated mono mix of the song on the US version of Rarities in 1980. And the slow rendition I refer to at the beginning of this entry surfaced on Anthology 3 in 1996.