Gloomy Tunes: Charles Manson/Beach Boys

Charles Manson, one of the vilest people to ever walk the earth, died yesterday. Obit’s Merle Ginsberg does a fine job of raking over his ashes here. But Manson fancied himself a musician, and with Phil Kaufman (who is better known as the man who stole Gram Parsons body, brought it to Joshua Tree, he doused it was gasoline and attempted to set it on fire) producing, recorded an album’s worth of psychedelic folk. It would barely rate a footnote if not for his notoriety.

But one of his songs made it onto a Beach Boy album. Dennis Wilson, the band’s good-looking, libertine drummer, picked up two girls hitchhiking on Sunset Boulevard. They were members of Manson’s “family,” who convinced Wilson to meet their leader. Wilson then introduced him to Terry Melcher, the son of actress Doris Day and a record producer in the Beach Boys orbit. Melcher expressed interest in Manson’s music and possibly directing a documentary about the “family.”  They met with him at the house he was renting at 10050 Cielo Drive. Melcher was soon freaked out by Manson, and both he and Wilson abandoned the project. But not before the Beach Boys recorded one of Manson’s songs, “Cease To Exist.”

They rearranged it somewhat, changed the opening line from cease to exist,” to “resist,”  the title to “Never Learn Not To Love,” and didn’t credit Manson as songwriter.  When he heard the finished track, Manson was incensed. Some have speculated that he chose Cielo Drive as the target of his followers murderous as revenge on Melcher. (NB— Royalties from both songs go to the estate of Manson victim Wojciech Frykowski)


Steven Mirkin

Steven Mirkin’s diverse career has taken him from politics to pop culture to high art, offering him a front row seat to some of the most fascinating events and personalities of our time: writing speeches, fundraising appeals and campaign materials for Ed Koch, John Heinz and independent presidential candidate John B. Anderson; chronicling the punk/new wave scenes in New York and London; interviewing musicians such as Elton John, John Lydon and Buck Owens; profiling modern masters Julian Schnabel, Paul Schrader and Jonathan Safran Foer; and writing for TV shows including 21, The Chamber, Let's Make A Deal, and Rock Star: INXS.

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