GIRL GROUPS AS THE SOUNDTRACK TO YOUR MOST HORRIFIC CRIMES, AMERICA
It seems like I lose three friends every time I tell someone about the “big Charles Manson phase” I went through in high school. I can understand this reaction. Like R Kelly and Pizza Hut, Charles Manson is variously heinous, indefensible, and plain-spoke confusing:
I’m not saying he’s cool–he’s not–I’m saying that (bear with my metaphor) like the hot-dog-stuffed-crust pizza, he is rated Solid Gold on the weird-shit-o-meter in the pantheon of Weird American Things. So, a quick summary, Wikipedia Brown style, of the life and times of Charles Manson, so I can tell you what I want to tell you about Girl Groups, and then you can jam-out without interruption:
In the days following his birth in 1934, Manson—born Maddox, to a 16 year-old runaway—was referred to as “No-Name Maddox” by the hospital staff, before he was given the name Charles, and the last name of the man his mother was seeing at the time. Charles Manson was once sold by his mother, to a waitress who had no children, in exchange for a pitcher of beer.
At 13, after stealing a bike, he was sent to the Indiana Boys School, and was repeatedly raped. He was illiterate. He escaped. He got married, had a kid, and got divorced. He was arrested for pimping, was arrested, and wound up in jail in California.
The rest, you probably know. He wound up getting a hippie bus, really digging on the Beatles, and hung around with Dennis Wilson, from a little band called the Beach Boys. Eventually, he got a bunch of idiot college kids and hangers-on to live with him on an abandoned movie lot in Topanga Canyon. Here, shit gets strange, as it will when a group of the emotionally immature becomes isolated.
I tend to not believe the formality of Vincent Bugliosi’s version of events—that Manson believed in and convinced everyone of the existence of some long-simmering race war that the Beatles predicted, and that he intended to start by committing murders and pinning it on the Black Panthers, and then moving into a big hole in the desert and waiting for the war to end. It smacks so much of square-talk, a white dude trying to explain what all the kids are doing with the rock and roll records and their doobie sticks. Suffice it to say, though, that a bunch of kids took a shitload of acid in the desert, hung around a super-creepy ex-con, and got cosmically strange, nasty gonorrhea, and developed a powerful kind of generalized hatred toward someone called Them. The Pigs.
This is what happened to the kids who grew up listening to this stuff:
Check out Condition Red, by the Goodees:
No matter how they down you boy
and say you’re not my kind,
I’m gonna love you honey
till the end of time.
If that doesn’t creep the hell out of you, I don’t know what would. The songs that girl groups from the 50’s and 60’s sang, as represented by the stuff on this mix, are like some corporate drone’s version of Greek tragedy. It’s the sickest stuff on the planet—drama as told by sexually repressed corporate class, and packaged to kids. The stuff is catchier than the clap and more morally gut-punching than church.
Have you ever talked to someone who read that Twilight book and liked it? You’ll recognize that same insidious moral component—abstinence porn, trust smut—in the narratives of most of these bands. Most of these groups—The Ronettes, The Ikettes, the Chiffons, were either A. Religious family bands turned secular by their record company, or B. Formed by their record company. There is the reek of the cultish about this music. Think about it—uniformed, synchronized, moral, collective. Kind of awesome, from the distance of years.
And listened to with this in mind, it’s the weirdest music on the planet. Check out “Nobody Knows What’s Goin’ On (In My Mind But Me)” by the Chiffons and imagine the weird white people in suits standing behind the controls in the recording studio, making decisions. I once read that Britney Spears once participated in a board room meeting in which an all-male panel of record executives passed around samples of panties, for the purpose of deciding which she should be wearing for a photoshoot.
So, is it any wonder that Charles Manson exists, is what I’m saying. The most appropriate responses to a world of absurdity is absurdity, America. There’s a reason that the bands that picked up on the girl group sound are a bunch of jack-off drug punks like the Jesus and Mary Chain. Listening to this stuff may turn you into an antisocial creep.
Jam with caution, dudes: