How Charles Manson’s Music Finally Saw the Light of Day
As Charles Manson awaited trial for the 1969 murders of seven people, the music he recorded in 1967 and 1968 was finally released. Lie: The Love and Terror Cult arrived on March 6, 1970, coincidentally the same day the court revoked its original decision to allow Manson to represent himself.
Before he became a national figure for leading a group of people on a killing spree, Manson had been trying to break into the Los Angeles music scene. In the spring of 1968, he had befriended Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys, who paid for studio time, introduced him to some industry pals like Byrds producer Terry Melcher (actress Doris Day's son) and allowed Manson to live in his house. That relationship soured after a few months as Manson's "family" grew and the atmosphere surrounding him became even more dangerous.
Still, Wilson thought enough of Manson's songwriting to rewrite his "Cease to Exist" and bring it to the Beach Boys as his own composition, "Never Learn Not to Love." It was released as the B-side to "Bluebirds Over the Mountain" in December 1968 and on the group's 20/20 album a few months later. The changes infuriated Manson, who went to Wilson's house with a loaded gun, only to discover that Wilson wasn't there. Instead, he gave the housekeeper a bullet and a message.
Four months after the August 1969 murders, Manson and several family members were arrested. While in custody, he asked Phil Kaufman, a hanger-on in the Los Angeles scene whom he met during a previous incarceration, to see that his music was released.
Listen to Charles Manson Perform 'Don't Do Anything Illegal'
Perhaps not surprisingly, Kaufman was unable to find a major label willing to be associated with Manson. After raising $3,000, he pressed 2,000 copies and distributed it through Awareness Records, the same label that had put out Bob Dylan's The Great White Wonder – widely considered to be rock's first bootleg.
The album was titled Lie: The Love and Terror Cult, with a cover image mirroring the Dec. 19, 1969, Life magazine that featured Manson, using the same photo and typeface. The only differences were the altering of Life to Lie and the removal of a subtitle. The LP's 13 songs include "Cease to Exist" and other somewhat prescient titles like "Ego," "People Say I'm No Good," "Don't Do Anything Illegal" and "Sick City."
Lie: The Love and Terror Cult sold only 300 copies on Awareness, but ESP-Disk picked it up for distribution later that year. Eventually, the record, and subsequent albums of unreleased Manson recordings, became collector's items in the punk and metal scenes during the late '80s.
Guns N' Roses released "Look at Your Game, Girl" as a bonus track on their 1993 album "The Spaghetti Incident?" (with Axl Rose saying "Thanks, Chas" at the end). Hardcore shock punk GG Allin covered "Garbage Dump" in 1987. And the Lemonheads released several Manson songs before becoming one of the most successful alternative bands of the early '90s.