Notorious madman Charles Manson is infamous for heading the brutal slayings of an estimated nine innocents, including the pregnant actress Sharon Tate, his cult ‘family’ adhering to his twisted commands. One thing the general public may not know about this fascinating monster of a man is that he claims he is primarily an underground musician, caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time. In fact, he flatly denies killing or instructing anybody to be killed. His life as a musician is often as bizarre and interesting as that of the celebrity serial killer he has become known as.
Aside from the obvious connection to Marilyn Manson, whose name is partially indebted to Charles, Manson has some astonishing links to the strange world of music. He’s been covered by Guns N’ Roses and The Lemonheads, praised by Neil Young and completely plagiarised by The Beach Boys in “Never Learn Not To Love”. His music is a multidimensional insight into the mind of the world’s most dangerous and interesting madmen ever to exist.
Born to a world of pain, his first legal name was ‘no name Maddox’. He spent his childhood visiting his uncaring mother in prison. His only enjoyment came from singing at a church he hated and committing small crimes. Once his mother was free, he was sent to boarding schools and abandoned by her. He soon burned down his school, and petty crimes escalated to armed robbery and grand theft auto.
In prison he picked up the guitar when he befriended former gangster Alvin Creepy Karpis. Along with this necessary musical skill, he picked up a unique way of thinking. He spent much of his time writing songs in prison, which were never repeated the same way twice.
Assumptions of what his music sounds like is very different to the truth. It’s not evil, or scary. In fact, it’s scarily lovely. It has an innocent and likeable quality you would never expect from the mastermind of so many savage deaths. His most famous song, “Look At Your Game Girl” was originally recorded to pay for court costs. The song sounds full, yet features nothing but his Sinatra-like voice, accompanied by an acoustic guitar. On another track, “Mad World”, he sings “My world is a sad world” over a soft sounding jazz guitar, and you almost want to offer sympathy.
“Close To Me” is written, played and sung so beautifully an immense sense of guilt comes over many listeners for simply enjoying it, due to his overshadowing heinous monstrosities. The Family Jams album, containing songs performed by his followers, has become a sought after collectable and features songs with names like “Scratching Peace Symbols On Your Tombstone” and “Love Never Dies”. All songs mentioned are worth checking out on YouTube, along with more footage of America’s most interesting psychopath.
His legend constantly bombards and intertwines itself in news and pop culture even today. Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor recorded his classic The Downward Spiral album in 10050 Cielo Drive, the very house where Sharon Tate and her friends were murdered. Not so coincidentally, it’s also the same place he produced Marylin Manson’s Portrait Of An American Family.
Henry Rollins recently admitted that he had been contacted by Manson to produce an album of songs he had recorded in prison. While Rollins accepted the offer, death threats and record label pressures prevented anything more than a few copies being made.
What he realised though, is that Manson had potential to be a musician. A great one in fact. Though he has been convicted of his part in the crimes, if he is, against all odds, innocent, it is a loss for the music world. But the tragedies of the atrocities he committed far outweigh any art forms loss.
Maybe people only hear of his music because of his crimes. If it wasn’t for his ill minded path he actually could have become a successful musician. Neil Young even made efforts to acquire a recording contract for him. Charles often cited music as the reason he garnered such a devoted following, who he manipulated to get whatever he wanted. So perhaps it is better he was never discovered, because his impact could have been even worse. “Believe me” he says “if I started murdering people… there’d be none of you left.”