Charles Manson is finally gone. Good riddance. Yet the fascination of who he was and what he did (and what he inspired others to do) remains with us.
Manson would not have become the murderous figure he was without music. Before things turned dark in the late 60s, Manson was a wannabe musician and failed songwriter.
The Beach Boys Connection
Well, mostly failed. There was that one time with the Beach Boys.
One day in the middle 60s, Dennis Wilson picked up a hitchhiking Manson along with a couple of acolytes. This led to Manson and those his cult followers living at Wilson’s house at 14440 Sunset Boulevard. Some songs were written, which later showed up on a Manson solo album called Lie: The Love and Terror Cult. This song was co-written by Wilson.
Rather tuneless, yes, but Wilson liked it enough to record it with the Beach Boys, retitling it “Never Learn Not to Love,” which got stuck on the B-side of a 1968 single called “Bluebirds Over the Mountain.”
The 13-track Lie album was independently released in March 1970 with the purpose of raising money for his defense fund.
The Neil Young Connection
While Manson was living with Wilson, Neil Young had an encounter with him.
The Terry Melcher Connection
Wilson then introduced Manson to Terry Melcher, the son of actress/singer Doris Day, a music producer who worked with Paul Revere and the Raiders as well as The Byrds on their first two albums, Mr. Tambourine Man and Turn! Turn! Turn! An audition was arranged but Melcher didn’t find much merit in Manson’s music, so he declined to work with him. Sensing some extra weirdness in Manson, but Melcher and Wilson cut ties with him.
Manson was enraged by the snub and decided to teach Melcher a lesson. Plans were made to scare Melcher at his home at 10050 Cielo Drive where he lived with actress Candice Bergen and Mark Lindsay, singer of Paul Revere and the Raiders. However, Melcher and his crew moved out of the home in the summer of 1969, leasing it to director Roman Polanski and his pregnant wife, Sharon Tate.
Although Manson apparently knew that Melcher was no longer living at the house–Day was frightened by the who Manson encounter and urged Terry to move out–Manson’s family invaded the home anyway on August 9. Killed in the spree was Tate, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, writer Wojciech Frykowski and hairdresser Jay Sebring. Melcher was in the studio that night, working on recordings for singer Jimmy Boyd.
The Beatles Connection
Manson became convinced that the Beatles were sending him secret messages via the group’s white album and especially the song “Helter Skelter.” In Manson’s mind, the Beatles were directing him to start a race war in America. The Beatles, of course, disavowed everything Manson said.
The Sonic Youth Connection
If you go back through Sonic Youth’s 1985 album, Bad Moon Rising, you’ll find all sorts of references to Manson.
The Nine Inch Nails Connection
The house at 10050 Cielo Drive became one of the most infamous murder scenes in all of America, a fact that somehow eluded Trent Reznor. Having moved to LA to find a place to record what would become The Downward Spiral album, a real estate agent showed him the house. Reznor signed on the spot.
It was only later that he realized that he was recording in the Manson murder house, a place where Manson Family followers had smeared the word “PIG” in Sharon Tate’s blood on the living room wall. Trent chose to call the temporary facility “Le Pig Studios.” (The words “Healter Skelter” [sic] were also written on the walls in blood.)
The house no longer exists. It was destroyed by an earthquake in 1995.
The Guns ‘N Roses Connection
If you go back to GNR’s cover album, The Spaghetti Incident, you’ll find a hidden song called “Look at Your Game, Girl.” That’s also a Manson original.
The Lemonheads Connection
Evan Dando thought it was a good idea to include a Manson original entitled “Home is Where You’re Happy” on the 1988 album, Creator.
The Marilyn Manson Connection
When Brian Warner was in the process of forming his shock-rock band in Fort Lauderdale in the late 80s, it was decided that each member would have to adopt a pseudonym in which the first name would come from a pop culture figure while the surname would have to be adopted from a mass murderer. Brian chose Marilyn (as in Monroe) and Manson.
Charles Manson was jailed on April 22, 1971, and was originally sentenced to death. But after California abolished the death penalty, he was merely locked away for the rest of his life. He died on November 19 at the age of 83.
Like I said, good riddance.
BONUS: Still not weirded out enough? Check out this story about my friend who became pen pals with Manson.