In every religion, symbolism carries sacred powers. Rock and Roll is no exception to this rule. Human nature is an exercise in duality and it don’t matter if it’s Jesus vs Satan or the Beatles vs the Stones. More often than not these labels are just human constructs, recreating biblical drama. I mean come on, John Lennon could be a real asshole, right? So you got the summer of love burning hot and then Charles Manson steps on the stage. He’s basically a hypnotic hack, who is crazy enough that he’s kept as a public pet for the amusement of more successful people… Dennis Wilson, I’m looking at your tombstone…
So this bigoted dude shows up straight outta prison promising a race war and recruits a bunch of suburban kitties to join his death valley survival squad based on a copy of the White Album. He orders a couple executions, gets apprehended and spends his life back in the only place he felt at home… jail. The 1970’s counterculture, punk, early industrial, etc picked up on him as a symbol for the end of the Age of Aquarius. Now the problem begins here. These individuals were not stupid. They understood irony and satire and the use of violent imagery as a means to provoke. If it weren’t for the white supremacist right wingers it’s not hard to imagine the swastika lasting as a symbol of punk’s bad taste for a few more years.
At this point on our journey, we enter the 1980’s and the dropping IQ of hardcore punk fans. Though there were plenty of terrific bands during this era, irony and satire were lost on many of the fans and these symbols were taken as virtues. Enter Charles Manson the persecuted folk hero who espouses environmentalism, living behind bars even though he committed no crime.
So why did anyone continue to give a shit about this guy? Personally, I was always attracted to his charisma as an aesthetic quality. It was more something to be studied than to look up to. It’s genuinely interesting but more than 10 minutes of research and you will realize he was an evil piece of shit. So why do people still look up this guy? He was an older white dude with no redeeming qualities that created a harem of young attractive women. That’s the fantasy most of his devotees wish they could live out. But it doesn’t really matter, in the end, the legend will live on. As part of the duality of the human soul, Charles Manson’s memory will continue as a tainted sacrament for the rock and rollers that never could grow up.