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Charles Manson: A notorious cult leader's obsession with music, rock track 'Helter Skelter' and the Beatles

While the show focuses on criminal psychology delving deeper into the childhood and past experiences of criminals, it will be interesting to see if it also puts the spotlight on Manson's passion for music and his obsession with the Beatles!
UPDATED JUL 27, 2020
Charles Manson (Getty Images)
Charles Manson (Getty Images)

Charles Manson has intrigued many for decades. A notorious killer and cult leader, who had the power to influence minds, his life will be shown 50 years after the murder of Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger, Wojtek Frykowski, and Steven Parent and Manson’s subsequent trial. Why, after 50 years, do this ragtag group of hippies and their two-night murder spree still fascinate and perplex us?

In a six-episode series, ‘Helter Skelter: An American Myth’ is the most definitive recounting of the Manson Family story ever put on screen. But the biggest fascination with the subject is if it would put the spotlight on Manson's passion for music and his obsession with the Beatles.

A criminal and cult leader, Charles Milles Manson was born in the year 1934. He was first named "no name Maddox" and got his real name only a few weeks later. His childhood was quite traumatic and full of ups and downs. Manson may have never properly known his biological father as his mother filed a paternity suit against his father very early on. It is said that his father was a "con-artist" although he made his son believe that he was an "army colonel".

In 1939, his mother was arrested for five years for a petty robbery. During that time, he was sent to live with his aunt and uncle. In 1942, when his mother paroled, Manson described the first few weeks as the "happiest time" in his life. He later moved to Charleston in West Virginia where his mother spent her evenings drinking and Manson had no way to attend school. Soon, he started stealing from stores and his home. In 1947, he was found to have stolen a gun from his aunt and uncle's house.


Manson is infamous for forming a group in 1967 that came to be known as the Manson Family, that murdered nine people at four locations between July and August 1969. The mastermind behind it, he was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy for seven deaths. Before the murders, he was a singer-songwriter on the borderline of getting a break into the Los Angeles music industry. A chance association with Dennis Wilson, drummer and founding member of the Beach Boys got him into the spot and the band recorded one of Manson's songs 'Cease to Exist' retitled 'Never Learn Not to Love' as a B-sided single. Wilson later found a bullet in his bed from Manson for changing the lyrics.

It was also found that Manson was obsessed with the Beatles, particularly their 1968 album 'White Album'. Reports say he used to play the album on repeat, forwards and backward in search for concealed messages in the lyrics. Some of his favorites were 'I Will', 'Blackbird' and 'Piggies' — which, in his twisted mind, represented an impending race war.

The metal-hard rock track 'Helter Skelter' influenced him the most as he went on to declare an apocalyptic race war after thinking the words in the song were symbols of "confusion" and "chaos". His quest for fame wasn't to be popular. He simply wanted to tell the stories of his people through his songs. Despite his infamy, a pop culture arose around him making Manson a figure of lunacy and hysteria. Poetry, melody, and music spelled his personification long after he was arrested. Recordings of songs written and performed by Manson were released commercially, starting with 'Lie: The Love and Terror Cult' (1970).


Did you know rock band Guns N' Roses recorded Manson's 'Look at Your Game, Girl'? The song was an unlisted 13th track on their 1993 album 'The Spaghetti Incident?'. Rock band Marilyn Manson, which is said to have derived their name from the serial killer, recorded the song 'My Monkey'. The lyrics, "I had a little monkey / I sent him to the country and I fed him on gingerbread / Along came a choo-choo / Knocked my monkey cuckoo / And now my monkey's dead," are from his song 'Mechanical Man'.

While The Family Jams includes two compact discs of Manson's songs recorded in 1970, Crispin Glover covered 'Never Say Never To Always' in his album 'The Big Problem ≠ The Solution'. In the 1970s, newspapers Los Angeles Free Press and Tuesday's Child publicized him, with the latter dubbing him "Man of the Year". What's more, he was on a Rolling Stone cover story titled 'Charles Manson: The Incredible Story of the Most Dangerous Man Alive'. 

A bunch of movies, novels, Broadway musical, and television series — right from 'The Manson Family' (1997), 'Live Freaky! Die Freaky!' to 'American Horror Story: Cult' — have major plots and storylines that revolve around his life. At the age of 83, Manson breathed his last on November 19, 2017. Gastrointestinal bleeding made him "too weak" for surgery and he lost his life to his fragile health.