After finishing off “Cry Baby Cry” — adding vocals, guitar, harmonium, tambourine, and “tea party effects” — today The Beatles turned their attention to a new song that Paul had written in an attempt to compete with the Who:

I was in Scotland and I read in Melody Maker that Pete Townshend had said: “We’ve just made the raunchiest, loudest, most ridiculous rock’n’roll record you’ve ever heard.” I never actually found out what track it was that The Who had made, but that got me going; just hearing him talk about it. So I said to the guys, “I think we should do a song like that; something really wild.”

The Who song in question is often identified as “I Can See for Miles,” which is curious, as that one is not particularly raunchy, loud, or ridiculous by Who standards.

In any case, today The Beatles recorded three epic takes of the new tune, which Paul was calling “Helter Skelter” — extended jams that clocked in at 10’40”, 12’35”, and 27’11”. I am both disappointed and relieved to report that none of these are in circulation — I would be curious-slash-obligated to listen to them, but 50 minutes of “Helter Skelter” is a lot.

According to The Beatles Bible, author Mark Lewisohn tried to convince George Martin to include the 27-minute version on Beatles Anthology 3, but Martin was having none of it. Instead he approved a four-and-a-half minute edit of take 2. Well, you take what you can get.

This one plods a bit, and scores about a 2.5 out of 10 on the raunchy/loud/ridiculous scale. The full takes probably score higher; according to engineer Brian Gibson, “One of the versions developed into a jam which went into and then back out of a somewhat bizarre version of ‘Blue Moon.’ ” It is possible that they will appear on the White Album 50th anniversary reissue, which now appears to be a done deal, though no release date has been set. Paul was recently quoted as saying,

It’s all in place. I’ve just got a couple of essays [to approve]. It’s all lined up and it’s really good … we were a great little band.

But like the Sgt. Pepper reissue, this one will clearly arrive too late for our purposes here. Thanks for nothing, McCartney.