Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Songs #455 and 456 - It's TWOsday!

Song #455 of 9999                                    Song #456 of 9999

Title: Never Learn Not to Love                Title: Cease to Exist
Artist: The Beach Boys                            Artist: Charles Manson
Year: 1969                                                Year: 1970
Album: 20/20                                           Album: Lie: The Love and Terror Cult


In 1968, Dennis Wilson developed an unlikely friendship with a fellow musician named Charles Manson. Impressed by his music and fascinated by his "family," he did his best to get Manson a record deal but it never materialized. One of the people he introduced to Manson was producer Terry Melcher, whose home would later serve as the scene of the grisly murders of Sharon Tate and three others. One can only speculate whether Manson would have taken a different path had the music industry embraced his songs.

At any rate, Wilson liked Manson and his music enough to agree to record his song "Cease to Exist" for an upcoming Beach Boys album. Wilson made several changes to the lyrics and music, including writing a new bridge (at 1:15) that features a perpetually rising vocal line. He also reset the lyric at 0:40 to a 3/8 meter which is quite effective in this psychedelic arrangement.

Word is that Manson was furious upon learning about the lyric changes. It certainly is interesting to observe how changing even one word (cease to exist became cease to resist) can alter the entire meaning of the song. Van Dyke Parks tells the story of Manson showing up at Wilson's house threatening to kill him over the changes, a move which resulted in a beating from the Beach Boy.

I personally don't think either song is all that good. But at least a few modern artists (Rob Zombie, Guns 'n' Roses, The Lemonheads) have covered "Cease to Exist" or other songs appearing on Manson's 1970 album, which has been re-released at least a half-dozen times since its original pressing. (All proceeds go to funds for the victims of violent crime—Manson has never received any royalties for his music.) Today, Manson remains our most notorious criminal, serving a life sentence for his part in the Tate and LaBianca murders. Dennis Wilson struggled with alcohol abuse for much of his life and, in 1983, he drowned in the Marina Del Ray at the age of 39.

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