Useful Notes: Charles Manson
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In 1968, Charles Manson, a man who had spent half his life to date in prison and lived in a hippie commune, listened to The Beatles
' The White Album
. He heard hidden messages
on the album (or claimed to, at any rate) about a race war that would break out the following year, and got along with his mates, from then on known as the "Manson Family", to provoke said war - by committing several brutal murders (including Roman Polanski
's pregnant wife, Sharon Tate), leaving the message "Helter Skelter" (the name of a song on the The White Album
) written in blood
on the walls. He was arrested in December 1969, and three years later his death penalty was commuted to a life sentence. He has remained in prison since then (largely in solitary confinement, for his own safety) and is today perhaps the most internationally famous criminal in custody.
Unrelated to Shirley Manson
, but Marilyn Manson
's Stage Name
is based on him.
Charles Manson and the Manson Family murders in media:
- Manson (1973), documentary by Robert Hendrickson and Laurence Merrick that featured interviews with Charles Manson and other members of the Manson Family.
- Helter Skelter (1976), TV adaptation of the Bugliosi-Gentry non-fiction book (see below).
- Charles Manson Superstar (1989) by Nikolas Schreck, another documentary about Charles Manson, filmed mostly inside San Quentin Prison.
- Helter Skelter (2004), remake of the 1976 movie, with a greater focus on Charles Manson's backstory and motives.
- The US horror movie The Strangers (2008), as stated by its director Bryan Bertino, is partially based on the Manson Family murders.
- The Canadian film Leslie, My Name Is Evil (2009) revolves around a young juror falling in love with Leslie, a member of the Manson Family, during her trial for the LaBianca murders.
- He's played by punk rocker Robert Hecker in Raymond Pettibon's irreverent take on the Manson mystique, The Book Of Manson (1989).
Live Action TV
- Helter Skelter (1974), a bestselling non-fiction book by Vincent Bugliosi, the prosecutor in Charles Manson's trial, and writer Curt Gentry. Up to today the most important publicly accessible source of facts about the Manson Family murders.
- The character Alice McMillan in John Kaye's noir crime novel The Dead Circus (2003) is a former member of the Manson Family, which becomes a plot point.
- Claire Vaye Watkins's short story "Ghosts, Cowboys", from the collection "Battleborn" (2012) is about the weight of history, including her personal history as the daughter of Manson's right-hand man.
- Manson is a central character in Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon by David McGowan, a chronicle of the hippie music scene that grew out of Laurel Canyon and involved many Manson acquaintances.
- Manson was mentioned in the first episode of Series/Gangland, which covered the Aryan Brotherhood. The episode described Manson's brief alliance with the AB.
- The track "Never Learn To Love" on The Beach Boys' album 20/20 (1969) was written by Manson, but released before his arrest. If the album would have been released after the brutal murders it would definitely have been ommitted from the album.
- The Ozzy Osbourne song "Bloodbath in Paradise" from No Rest for the Wicked is about Charles Manson and his Family.
- Marilyn Manson takes his stage name from both Marilyn Monroe and Charles Manson. He's also taken a chunk of lyrics from Charles Manson's "Mechanical Man" and remade them into "My Monkey" for the band's debut, Portrait Of An American Family.
- "ATWA" from System of a Down's Toxicity album is about Manson.
- Neil Young's "Revolution Blues" is written from what may be Manson's PoV. Young claimed to have met Manson during his days hanging around the LA hippie scene.
- Britpop band Mansun were accused of having named themselves after Manson, although they insisted it was after an early track by The Verve called "A Man Called Sun". Their own first single, however, had spelt their name with an "o" on the label and cover.
- Deicide wrote a song called "Lunatic of God's Creation" about him (one of the few anti-religious/Satanic songs they've written, incidentally) on their Self-Titled Album.
- In addition to songs written about Manson, Manson wrote his own music, and even got an album published by producer Phil Kaufman called Lie: The Love and Terror Cult. Before the murders, he was for a time a hanger-on of Dennis Wilson, as a result of which The Beach Boys recorded one of his songs (with slightly altered lyrics) as the B-side "Never Learn Not To Love". Later on, Guns N' Roses recorded one of his songs, "Look at Your Game, Girl", as a hidden track on their Cover Album "The Spaghetti Incident?", to Troll. Not surprisingly, people were pissed, and Axl removed it from later releases because the public had misunderstood what he was going for and no longer deserved to hear it.
- He is also mentioned in "Glad To See You Go" by The Ramones from their album Leave Home.
- The Manson Family (1990), an opera by American composer John Moran.
- Charles Manson is an off-stage character in Stephen Sondheim's musical Assassins (1990). Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, a real-life member of the "Manson Family" who attempted to assassinate President Gerald Ford in 1975, figures on stage.