By Courtney Jerk & Max Dropout
“Cease to resist, come on say you love me
Give up your world, come on and be with me
I’m your kind, I’m your kind, and I see”
Fans of the Beach Boys may recognize the above lyrics from the song “Never Learn Not To Love,” a B-side for the 20/20 LP’s first single, “Bluebirds over the Mountain.” What they might not be aware of is that “Never Learn Not To Love” is, in actuality, a Charles Manson song. Originally titled “Cease to Exist,” Dennis Wilson made a few minor lyrical changes and re-titled it before recording it in 1968. Lyrical credit was given solely to Wilson, much to Manson’s dismay and anger.
Charles Manson is generally perceived by the public as a figure of revulsion and fear: a societal poster boy for the dangers of dementia — a scruffy pack of bones putrefying in the flower power movement’s closet. However, prior to the notorious Manson Family murders, Charlie was largely perceived as a charismatic and talented folk musician, well known amongst a network of Hollywood actors and actresses, record producers, promoters and rock stars at the time. While many recognised Manson’s almost eerie ability to coerce and control the minds of those around him with his catchy chatter and sedative aura, few would have ever imagined it would yield so much bloodshed and tragedy.
In the spring of 1968, Dennis Wilson, drummer and singer from the Beach Boys, twice picked up a pair of hitchhiking teenage girls, Ella Jo Bailey and Patricia Krenwinkel, while driving through Malibu. The second time that Dennis picked them up he brought them back to his palatial Sunset Boulevard home. The girls stayed for a few hours and spoke frequently of a man they knew named Charlie.
At the time, Charlie and the girls were living with Gary Hinman, a music teacher who was also an acquaintance of Wilson’s.
That night, Wilson went to a recording session and returned home at about 3:00 AM. As he pulled into his driveway he saw a strange man stepping out of the back door of his house. Dennis was frightened and asked, “Are you gonna hurt me?” The man replied, “Do I look like I’m gonna hurt you, brother?” Kneeling down, he kissed Wilson’s feet. He introduced himself as Charles Manson, and proceeded to usher Dennis into his own home. The house was full of people, mostly girls, none of them familiar to Wilson.
“This guy Charlie’s here with all these great-looking chicks. He plays guitar and he’s a real wild guy. He has all these chicks hanging out like servants. You can come over and just screw any of them you want. It’s a great party.”
-Dennis Wilson (From Papa John: An Autobiography, by John Phillips)
The group stayed at the house for several months, and in that time more than doubled in number. Charles “Tex” Watson, Brooks Poston and Paul Watkins, who would later be involved with the infamous murders, joined the group around this period. Wilson and Manson got along very well; the two would sing and talk while the girls cleaned, cooked, and did the chores. Manson tried several times to get Dennis to join the family, but he declined. The other Beach Boys were also given an invitation, but they declined as well, saying that they did not share the same fondness as Dennis for the “scruffy little guru.”
Although Wilson denied having any conflicts with Manson and “the Family” during the time that they stayed with him, he moved in with Gregg Jakobson in August of 1968, three weeks before the expiration of his lease. His manager was left with the unpleasant task of evicting everyone from the house. In the time that Manson and his family stayed with Wilson, they racked up an estimated $100,000 in expenses. They were constantly borrowing money, using his things, and wearing his clothes. Wilson’s (uninsured) $21,000 Mercedes was completely demolished when one of the family members drove it into the side of a mountain. On several occasions the entire group was taken to Beverly Hills for penicillin shots (Wilson recalled, “it was probably the largest gonorrhea bill in history”), and one of the members, Sadie, had her teeth fixed, compliments of Wilson. Manson was even given nine of the Beach Boys’ gold records.
After leaving Wilson’s residence Manson met George Spahn, and somehow conned the elderly man into letting the family live at the ranch. Spahn Ranch was an old movie set located in Santa Susana Mountains, north of the San Fernando Valley. George Spahn was eighty-five years old, blind and feeble. He was afraid of Manson, but allowed the family to stay because he enjoyed the attention he received from the girls. They would cook and clean for him, and Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme made sure that all of his sexual needs were satisfied. To sustain themselves during this period, the family would scavenge for food from local supermarket dumpsters, and would steal anything they could.
At this time, Manson was focusing most of his attention on his “philosophy.” To a large extent, this philosophy was something that he concocted to impress his followers, though some suggest Manson never took much stock in it, personally. The philosophy revolved around the idea of a racial Armageddon. Manson said that the black man would rise up against the whites, killing them and turning the city into an inferno of revenge. In the end, the black man would win the war, but would be unable to keep a grip on the new power because of an innate inferiority.
In the time that he knew Manson, Wilson introduced him to a number of important names in the entertainment industry, including Doris Day’s son and record producer Terry Melcher, his associate Gregg Jakobson, and talent agent Rudi Altobelli, who represented stars like Katherine Hepburn and Henry Fonda.
Manson had met Melcher at a party that Wilson threw at his house, and went with Wilson to Melcher’s home on occasion to visit him. This same house, at 10050 Cielo Drive, would eventually be leased to film director Roman Polanksi and his wife Sharon Tate. Jakobson gradually grew more and more intrigued by Manson’s “philosophy,” and when he learned that Manson was interested in pursuing a musical career, he urged Melcher to record him. Eventually he convinced Melcher to come down to Spahn Ranch to listen to Manson play. Manson sang his songs and played his guitar; some of the girls played tambourines and sang as well. Melcher returned for a second listen a week later, but the music was nothing that he wanted to record. Jakobson recalled, “I think Terry showed some interest in the music, but there was nothing positive. There was never any, ‘Yes, I will record you’ talk going on. It was like that was the preliminaries and nothing ever came of it.”
Melcher didn’t realize that Manson had actually built this up to something very real and concrete in his mind. He was angry when he was turned down, and blamed Melcher for his disappointment. He had been planning on getting Melcher to finance a film with his music.
Around this period in time, the Beatles’ White Album was released. Manson heard the record, and one of the songs had lyrics that fit Manson’s apocalypse theory to a tee: Helter Skelter. “Look out helter skelter helter skelter helter skelter/She’s coming down fast/ Yes she is/Yes she is.” This would be the philosophy’s new name. One of Manson’s followers said that Helter Skelter was to begin “with the black man going into white people’s homes and ripping off the white people, physically destroying them… A couple of spades from Watts would come up into the Bel Air and Beverly Hills district…and just really wipe some people out, just cutting bodies up and smearing blood and writing things on the wall in blood…all kinds of super-atrocious crimes that would really make the white man mad…until there was open revolution in the streets, until they finally won and took over. Then the black man would assume the white man’s karma. He would then be the establishment…” Manson and the Family would survive this war because they were to be hiding in the desert, specifically in a cave underneath Death Valley, which held the entrance to a bottomless pit. This concept was something he pulled from the Book of Revelations. After the black man’s failed attempt at holding power, the Manson Family would emerge — their numbers would equal 144,000 by this time. Manson, the fifth angel (Jesus Christ), would then rule the world, along with the other four angels, the Beatles.
Incidentally, Manson also saw a connection between the Beatles “Revolution #9” and the book of Revelations, while other songs on the album held significance as well. “I Will,” urged Manson to record an album so that the Beatles could find him (“sing it loud“). “Honey Pie,” pleaded with Manson to come to the Beatles “across the Atlantic,” as they were too “lazy” to look for him. Manson thought that the song was a direct message to him, after all, he did live near L.A. “Sexy Sadie” was about family member Susan Atkins, since she had been renamed Sadie Mae Glutz by Manson. The oinking sounds, followed by what seems to be machine gun fire at the conclusion of “Piggies,” was obviously the start of the racial apocalypse. “Blackbird” was a symbol of the black race, particularly Black Panthers.
Rudi Altobelli purchased the house on Cielo Drive from Melcher. Since he was an important man in the entertainment business and was constantly traveling, he rented out the property to the Polanksis and would stay in the guesthouse when he was in the area visiting. In March of 1969 Manson went to the house looking for Melcher. Sharon Tate’s houseguest Abigail Folger (heiress to the Folger coffee fortune) sent him away, but not before he saw Sharon, who wondered what the “creepy looking guy” had wanted. Manson then went to the guesthouse and told Altobelli that the people in the house had told him to ask him about Melcher. Altobelli berated Manson for bothering his tenants and sent him away, telling him that he didn’t know where Melcher had moved. Manson was angry. He knew the layout of the house, and it is almost certain that the first murders were committed at the house to pay back the residents for rejecting him, and to terrify Melcher for not backing his recording career. In Susan Atkins’ December 1969 published confession she said, “The reason Charlie picked the house was to instill fear into Terry Melcher because Terry had given his word on a few things and never came through with them.”
After dinner on August 8, 1969, Charlie took Tex Watson aside. According to Watson, Manson told him, “What I want… I want you to go to that house where Melcher used to live. I want you to take a couple of the girls I’ll send with you and go down there and totally destroy everyone in that house, as gruesome as you can.” At this time, Altobelli was away in Italy on business, and had hired a caretaker for the summer named Bill Garretson. Roman Polanski was away directing a film, but Sharon Tate was home, preparing for the birth of their baby (she was eight months pregnant). Abigail Folger’s boyfriend Voytek Frykowski was also staying at the house, and a friend of Sharon’s named Jay Sebring, a celebrity hairdresser, was visiting.
Linda Kasabian, Susan atkins, Tex Watson, and Patricia Krenwinkle went on a drive to the house on Cielo Drive. Although it was said continually that neither Manson nor any members of the family had ever been to the house before that night, the phone lines were cut, and the unwired electric fence was scaled with caution. They obviously knew the layout, thanks to their previous visits with Wilson.
Tex approached the property first. A man named Steve Parent was leaving the premises; he was an eighteen-year-old star child, and had been visiting Garretson in the guesthouse. Tex shot Parent multiple times at point blank range in the head. The group crossed the property swiftly and quietly and entered the house, where they made their presence known. Everyone was gathered together and ordered to lie down on the floor. Jay attempted to wrestle the gun from Tex and was shot in the armpit; he was then stabbed and beaten to death. Frykowski, who had been tied up, was stabbed a few times by atkins, but managed to fight her off and run. Tex pursued him and finished the murder; his body was found with a total of 51 stab wounds to the spleen, abdomen, left lung, right back, heart, chest and hands. Abagail Folger also managed to get free and run. She had been stabbed a few times by Krenwinkle, and was bleeding profusely. As Krenwinkle gave chase she left a full handprint on the door of the house in blood; this would later confirm her death sentence. Outside the house, Folger was bludgeoned to death.
Sharon Tate, who was the last to die, was stabbed sixteen times with two knives. She begged for the life of her unborn baby, but the pleas fell on deaf ears. On the walls of the house, atkins wrote “Death to Pigs,” “Helter Skelter,” “Political Piggy,” and “Arise,” in Tate’s blood.
While the murder scene unfolded, Linda Kasabian hid in the bushes. She would testify later on in exchange for immunity as an accomplice.
During this time, Dennis Wilson tried to avoid the Family at all costs, but would still occasionally run into Manson. Soon after the Tate murders, Manson came to visit Wilson. He demanded $1,500 so that he could go and live in the desert; part of his plan for Helter Skelter. When Wilson refused, Manson replied, “Don’t be surprised if you never see your kid again.” Wilson had a seven-year-old son, and it was this threat that solidified his refusal to testify in court. Wilson’s life was also threatened, but he did not learn about it until after the fact. According to Gregg Jakobson, shortly after Wilson had turned him down, in late August or early September, Manson came to see Jakobson. He handed him a .44 caliber bullet and said, “Tell Dennis there are more where this came from.” Jakobson decided not to tell Wilson about the incident, since the other threat had upset him greatly. He had also noticed a change in Manson since the last time he had seen him: “The electricity was almost pouring out of him. His hair was on end. His eyes were wild. The only thing I can compare it to…is that he was just like an animal in a cage.” There is also the possibility that there was another threat, as someone had called the Wilson residence from the pay phone at Spahn Ranch on September 22, 1969. The following day, the Wilson’s private line was disconnected. There is no evidence that this was an actual threat, although it seems to be the case.
Several more murders followed those of Sharon Tate and her friends. Leno and Rosemary LaBianca were the next victims. Unlike the first killings, which involved the beautiful and the famous, Leno LaBianca owned a grocery chain in Los Angeles, and his wife had independently invested in the stock market, leaving her a very large portfolio. Like the first murders, they were butchered; their blood was also used to mark the walls in the Family’s slogans.
While it has been suggested that the LaBianca murders were to play a pivotal role in the racial apocalypse, as a catalyst of events to come, some have related that there was a more personal motive for murder. Rumor persists that the Manson family had been staying in the neighborhood weeks earlier when they received a noise complaint from a next-door neighbor. Months later, when the family returned to the neighborhood with murder on their minds, they purposefully sought to massacre the household who’d previously issued the complaint against them. When the family discovered that their intended victims were not home at the time, they decided to pay a visit to their neighbors, the LaBiancas, instead. Leno and Rosemary were the unfortunate victims of circumstance.
There were several other related murders around this time, including a friend of the Family’s named Zero. Zero was found dead after playing Russian roulette with a fully loaded gun, no fingerprints on the weapon. Although Manson and the Family could only be charged with nine murders, it is believed that the number that they were actually involved with is around thirty-five.
On December 4, 1969, three days after the LAPD announced that they had broken the case, Wilson received an anonymous death threat. He refused to testify in the case, and denied having any knowledge of the Family’s criminal activity.
In the end, Lynette Fromme, Clem, Ruth Ann Moorehouse and Dennis Rice of the Family would get ninety days on petty miscellaneous charges. Linda Kasabian, as stated earlier, would testify in exchange for immunity on the Tate-LaBianca killings; her testimony would lead to the sentencing of death for Charles Manson (believed to have brainwashed the actual killers), Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkle, Leslie Van Houten and Charles “Tex” Watson. Bobby Beausoleil was already in custody and undergoing trial for the murder of Gary Hinman when the others were brought in. (Gary Hinman, if you’ll remember, was the music teacher that the Family had stayed with very early on.) However, none of them actually received a death sentence, as California soon abolished the death penalty.
Manson has recorded two “official” acoustic albums, one of which, Commemoration, he secretly taped from prison. The other, LIE: The Love and Terror Cult, has gained, for lack of a better term, a cult following over the years. Wilson had Manson taped at one point, in a studio he rented in Santa Monica, with the hopes of getting Manson’s music out to other people. Wilson claims that he had the tapes destroyed, because “the vibrations connected with them don’t belong on this earth.” He had said that he liked the “spontaneity” of Charlie’s music, but added, “Charlie never had a musical bone in his body.” Recently, People’s Temple Records released a new record, entitled All the Way Alive. The CD contains songs that were the result of a demo recording session on September 11, 1967. Some of the songs were previously released on a CD called Charles Manson Unplugged; All The Way Alive is the remainder of this session. (Hardly coincidence, the letters ATWA were commonly used by Manson to refer to Air, Trees, Water and Animals.) There is also an album available called “The Manson Family Sings The Songs of Charles Manson” recorded in L.A., 1970, in addition to several bootlegs of Manson’s prison songs recorded during his time there.
For more information on the Manson family outtings, visit www.charliemanson.com.