Back before you were born, one of the ways to let people know you were edgy, dangerous, and not playing by The Man’s rules was to embrace some sort of connection to Charles Manson.
- You could cover one of his songs.
(Not content to just cover one of Manson’s songs, Axl Rose also wore his image on a t-shirt.)
- Failing that, you could reference him/his crimes in one of your songs. (Warning: Sonic Youth video is graphic, but please remember it’s pretend blood.)
- You could produce an all-acoustic album by Manson himself, like Henry Rollins.
- Or, you could be like Trent Reznor and build a studio and film a music video in the house on 10050 Cielo Drive.
I challenge you to listen to this episode of You Must Remember This, detailing the events of August 8-10, 1969, and not think, “Hey, guys, maybe a different cultural touchstone that’ll get squares upset? Did Eugene V. Debs write any songs?”
To be fair, some of the artists have had recriminations. Redd Kross seem to regret covering “Cease to Exist.” They were teenagers at the time, and covering Charles Manson songs probably seems a helluva lot smarter when you’re a teenager. Rollins produced the acoustic Manson album in the mid-’80s, and it will likely never see the light of day. Trent Reznor’s encounter with Sharon Tate’s sister, Patti, sold him on abandoning the house where Sharon was murdered.
Exceptions? Dando basically shrugs it off (at the 10:00 mark of this clip).
And Axl’s public statement on the cover and the shirt, from 1994, is very Axl Rose-in-1994-y, in that he wonders why people focus on the cult leader on his chest and not the charity work he does. He did tell Rolling Stone in 2000 that future pressings of the album wouldn’t contain the cover. At the risk of trusting Wikipedia, this has not happened yet. You can definitely go to Spotify and listen to it.