It was forty-two years ago on this day that Charles Manson and three of his female accomplices were finally convicted of those horrendously violent murders which have come to many to represent the symbolic termination of the Swinging Sixties. Undoubtedly, the grotesque and ritualistic manner in which the victims met their deaths captured the morbid imaginations of Straight America – nay, the Straight World – like none since the Jack the Ripper murders of a half-a-century before. Cryptic messages scrawled in the victims’ own blood. A Hollywood starlet eight-and-a-half months pregnant; a none-more-groovy LA hair stylist; an heiress to a fabulous fortune: each super-rich victim representing to Capitalist America their deepest secret fears as money and walled communities could no longer guarantee their safety. Who was this Charles Manson? This Janitor of Lunacy seemingly with a skeleton key that offered access to every millionaire? Hell, this longhaired joker hadn’t even had to commit the murders himself, just deployed thought control on those mindless hippie drones who did his bidding. If the Beats, the Beatles, the Stones and the Flower Children had not freaked out the war generations quite enough, thank you very much, then certainly this 5’2’’ imp of the perverse was the straw that broke the camel’s back. As if policing Altamont with murderous Hell’s Angels had not – to Straight America – been evidence enough of a Hippie Community out of control, then the bizarre occultist behaviour of the Manson Family during their leader’s trial sealed the fate of the counter-culture. Thereafter, the staring longhair – Frank Zappa’s archetypal hungry freak – could be justifiably consigned to any state funny farm. Odd behaviour, send them away. In Texas, singer Roky Erickson endured years of shock therapy. After the Manson murders, the portcullis came down, and the Them and Us social boundaries were redrawn to accommodate this new bizarre truth. By blaming Charles Manson so comprehensively, those paranoid Laurel Canyon cissies – Crosby Tween Nash & Young included – used this gory episode as an opportunity to jump ship, leave the stinking tatters of the revolution and jump wholeheartedly into the ‘70s Me Generation. Walled communities!
Charles Manson is a media hype. It’s not even that good a hype. And when we look back in a hundred years’ time, the manner in which we Westerners were all led by the media to micro-focus on Charlie Boy at the expense of all the other motherfucking outrages perpetuated by the CIA, the USAF and world politicians, I’ll be surprised if Futurekind don’t write off his murders as some kind of absurd elvish riposte to all the ‘mere statistic’ murders – millions at a time – by genocidal monsters such as Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon and Chairman Mao.
[Written by Julian Cope]