This August marks 50 years since The Manson Murders. The tragic and violent story of the cult leader, which culminated in the brutal Tate/LaBianca murders in 1969, is inextricably intertwined with the 1960s musical counter-culture – and not solely because Charles Manson himself was a (slightly rubbish) singer-songwriter.
He moved in musical circles – The Beach Boys’ Dennis Wilson was an acquaintance. Plus, it was The Beatles song ‘Helter Skelter’ that indirectly inspired his crimes. Not understanding the homely English reference in the title, Manson convinced himself the song was a coded secret message urging him to initiate an apocalyptic race war.
Then of course there’s that persistent, though long-since discredited, rock myth about Charles Manson auditioning for The Monkees in 1965 (he couldn’t have done: he was in prison at the time). In recent years, Kasabian took their name from one of Manson’s disciples. Here are 10 tracks that reference the cult leader.
1. Sonic Youth – ‘Death Valley ’69’
Inspired by the hiding place Manson told his followers would be waiting for them when his predicted race war broke out.
2. Nine Inch Nails – ‘Gave Up’
The video was shot entirely at 10050 Cielo Drive, scene of the Tate murders, in the summer of 1993. Much of NIN’s breakthrough album ‘The Downward Spiral’ was recorded there too.
3. Neil Young – ‘Revolution Blues’
Young knew Manson, and occasionally hung out at his house on Sunset Boulevard. He recalled in 2008: “Spooky times. I didn’t know what it was; I was meeting them and he was not a happy guy but he seemed to have a hold on girls”.
4. Cabaret Voltaire – ‘Hell’s Home’
One of three tracks on the underground electro pioneers’ 1985 album ‘The Covenant, The Sword And The Arm Of The Lord’ that incorporated chilling samples of Manson’s voice taken from various radio interviews.
5. The Ramones – ‘Glad To See You Go’
If any song can be accused of glamorising and trivialising the Manson murders, it’s surely this, a stupidly fizzy and upbeat thrash from their 1977 album ‘Ramones Leave Home’.
6. System Of A Down – ‘ATWA’
‘ATWA’ being an acronym used by Manson, meaning both “Air, trees, water, animals” and “all the way alive”.
7. Alkaline Trio – ‘Sadie’
In this track the verbose goth-punks reference Sadie G, Ms. Susan A and “Charlie’s broken .22”, which refers to two cult members, plus the gun that Tex Watson used to bludgeon Polish actor Wojciech Frykowski to death.
8. Marilyn Manson – ‘Beautiful People’
Paramedics and police arriving at the scene of the Tate murders were confronted with a message daubed on one of the doors in blood: “How does it feel to be one of the beautiful people?”
9. Ozzy Osbourne – ‘Bloodbath In Paradise’
A typically sensitive and thoughtful response from Ozzy, which starts with orgasmic female moans, bristles with widdly hair-metal riffage, and features the line, “Watch what you do/’cos Charlie and the family might get you, yeah!”
10. N.W.A – ‘Straight Outta Compton’
OK, so Manson is fairly tangential to the song, but Ice Cube does say at one point: “Here’s a murder rap to keep you dancin’/With a crime record like Charles Manson”.