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Book: The Beatles in Perspective

Chapter: 10. "Misunderstanding All You See": Charles Manson Reading the Beatles at the End of the World

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.25036


As their work progressed, The Beatles’ music offered to its audiences portals to alternative forms of knowledge; but these were only fully accessible to those immersed in psychedelic culture. This chapter considers how a range of listeners – but most notoriously, Charles Manson – interpreted the band as the principal shapers of cultural consciousness in the sixties, and how this burden of significance mutated to configure the Beatles as functionaries of disillusion at the decade’s catastrophic close. Focusing on The Beatles’ 1968 ‘White Album’ as a foundational text, the chapter analyses closely the songs ‘Glass Onion’ and ‘HelterSkelter’ before surveying and comparing Manson’s statements on The Beatles with Lennon and McCartney’s differing responses to radical interpretations.

Chapter Contributors

  • Gerry Carlin ( - gcarlin) 'University of Wolverhampton'
  • Mark Jones ( - mjones) 'University of Wolverhampton'