Whenever I make a tape (or Spotify playlist in 2020, I guess) for someone, amongst the Americana, classic pop and Beach Boys galore, there is normally at least one song by Charles Manson. Some people get uptight about this “How can you listen to that?”, but Lie, especially, is just a great record and you wonder if the music world and Manson had turned in the same way at the same time, whether he would be a staple of Best Of lists rather than Most Evil lists.
I’ve pretty much seen every Manson documentary out there from the brilliant to the banal but Manson : Music From An Unsound Mind looks at the story from a different angle than most of the giallo ‘SENSATIONAL! MURDER!’ Squad. The film is not about the Tate/ La Bianca killings, of course they figure and they are there in the background throughout. But this documentary film is about Manson’s attempts to get into music, his trips (literal and drug) around the counterculture and his brushes with some of the biggest stars in the world.
Now, the problem that most Manson documentaries have is that the owners of the music being discussed often have no desire for their tunes to be used in a film about Charlie. This means they are normally full of trashy hippy dippy music whilst the story should actually cover some of the best of all time. Music From An Unsound Mind has all the rights, it is very rare you hear The Beatles in something like this, but there they are. The Beach Boys are obviously a massive part of the story (for those who don’t know, Dennis Wilson picked up two of the girls and invited them back for ‘milk and cookies’. When they arrived at his palatial abode, they were surprised to actually be given milk and cookies! They reported back to Charlie and the next time Dennis came home, The Family was living in his house) and it’s great to hear their original music here too, especially Charlie’s Cease To Exist, which was on the 20/20 album renamed Never Learn Not To Love and sung by Dennis.
The interesting cast includes biographers, friends, acquaintances, Family member Dianne Lake and even Brian Wilson’s producer, who tells very interesting tales of recording Charlie in Brian’s home studio. For someone as Beach Boys obsessed as me, this is worth the price of admission alone. We also encounter The Byrds, Lynette Fromme, Susan Atkins, Sharon Tate, Roman Polanski and Terry Melcher. The highs and lows of sixties counterculture are front and centre and sometimes you forget how the story inevitably ends as you follow the party to The Whiskey A Go Go and the peace of the Spahn Ranch.
Manson : Music From An Unsound Mind is a great look at a much told story, which puts the spotlight on vinyl rather than violence. I’m guessing you already own Look At Your Game, Girl (covered on The Spaghetti Incident by Guns N Roses) and Never Learn Not To Love, but I cannot recommend the Lie album enough. It’s right there on Spotify if you…”Hey, how can you listen to…” CUT
Available to stream via Sky Arts or to buy via Prime Video