Just for the record: Manson the muso was murder for a Beach Boy

Lifestyle

Just for the record: Manson the muso was murder for a Beach Boy

A fortnightly review of music on vinyl

Andrew Donaldson

The new Quentin Tarantino movie, released next month, is of particular interest to the film studies set. Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, it’s said, is another offering from a director whose work is driven by cultural nostalgia; the film clearly draws a line regarding an end of a “golden age” of film-making. Set in the summer of 1969, when the large studios were threatened by financial crises, its plot revolves around the grisly event often cited as the end of that era: the Manson Family killings of Sharon Tate and four others at the Los Angeles in the house at Benedict Canyon, north of Beverley Hills, that she shared with her film-director husband, Roman Polanski.

At the time of the killings, however, Charles Manson was a powerful and enigmatic cultural presence on the fringe of the Hollywood entertainment scene, not so much in the world of cinema, but in popular music. Charlie wanted to be a rock star and, given the often macabre twists in our obsession with celebrity, it’s perhaps unsurprising that a fairly robust “recording career” was fuelled by the notoriety that followed when Manson and several Family members were arrested and charged for the wave of murders in Los Angeles county that were intended to start a race war.

The arrests prompted the rush-release, in March 1970, of Manson’s first album, Lie: The Love and Terror Cult (Awareness Records). The sleeve’s artwork was crudely fashioned by removing the “F” from a December 1969 Life magazine cover story on Manson and his co-accused. (This was not the first time this had happened; in the late 1960s, many of Life’s cover stories on the war in Vietnam had been “effed out” in agit-prop graphic art.)..

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