The Beach Boys were easily the best ‘60s band out of California to feature people mostly related to each other. In the grand pantheon of surf rock bands, they’re the only one whose name I can remember. Which is why it’s such a shame that they never reached their full potential. That is because my favorite Beach Boy is Charles Manson. And yes, it’s for THAT reason.
For those of you who, like me, haven’t seen “Once Upon a Time In Hollywood,” Charles Manson was a popular Hollywood influencer in the late 1960s. He famously collaborated with Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys before embarking on an incredibly influential, if not brief, solo career.
Manson was a visionary songwriter. His single “Cease To Exist” was famously retooled as the Beach Boys’ “Never Learn Not To Love.” Later on, his catalog would be covered by everyone from Guns N’ Roses, daughter Marilyn Manson, & GG Allin. Add to that Sonic Boom and Crispin Glover and that’s the entire list.
If Brian had rejoined the group during his tenure, a Wilson/Manson songwriting duo could have rivaled the legendary partnerships of Rogers/Hammerstein, Lennon/McCartney, or Hall/Oates.
In 1969, Manson’s career was tragically cut short by murder, specifically, the string of murders he had orchestrated in order to bring about what he saw as an inevitable race war. Most scholars of pop music agree that if Charles Manson hadn’t tragically believed that God showed him how to reach the center of the earth and wanted him and his followers to hide there until black people won the race war and needed help forming a new world government, he would have written some pretty groovy tunes.
It’s such a shame because the Beach Boys, at this time, were going through a period of internal conflict due to Brian Wilson withdrawing from the band. They were in desperate need of a creative leader, and if there was one thing that Charley had, it was a vision. Instead, we had years of plodding leadership from Mike Love, who reduced the band from counter cultural trail blazers to state fair novelty clowns.
In the end, we’ll never truly know how this possible configuration of talent would have actualized. For now, we are simply left with contemplations of a world where Manson/Wilson topped the charts, and Mike Love was murdered.