16:00 min • Parasitic Records/The Zou • November 11, 2011
America’s most famous maniac, Charles Manson, continues to fascinate the public, and his bloody scenario of Helter Skelter still lives on in popular culture over forty years on. But away from the spotlight, Charlie is an active musician, having recorded consistently since 1967. This limited edition 7” vinyl single is one of his newest releases, recorded in secret in his prison cell.
The first thing you’ll notice is the packaging. This isn’t a slap together, basement job, this is a beautiful gatefold thick cardboard sleeve, featuring an inside collage of photos of Manson, both new and old, a color insert with the lyrics for ‘Horsefly’, an essay by Nikolas Schreck and two stickers with A.T.W.A.R. in gothic font (A.T.W.A.R. standing for “Air, Trees, Water, Animals, Revolution”). Parasitic Records did an excellent job with the cover art and packaging for this single.
But what about the music itself? This is one song ‘Horsefly’, split into two parts, a sixteen minute jaunt into the mind of America’s most infamous musician. The recording quality is lo-fit and scratchy; this was recorded in a prison cell after all. But honestly, it’s not terrible, it sounds like a demo tape in terms of quality. When it comes to the actual sound, this is just Charlie and his acoustic guitar; this is a rambling folk blues number, with Charlie switching from gentle strumming to hard pounding chords, switching the tone with his lyrics and feelings.
Lyrically, the best way to describe it is avant-garde poetry, with Charlie taking the role of a wondering, rambling man, riding the world, looking for peace, an end to suffering and above all else, freedom. Away from the spotlight, Charlie is a poet. His words aren’t pretty or polished, but they are honest. He identifies with society’s outcasts – the bums, the misfits, the artists – they are his brothers and sisters, not society.
Personally, I really enjoyed this record; it’s brutally honest bluesy folk. The hardest part for anyone listening to it is to separate Manson the Musician from Manson the Monster. He has been America’s boogeyman for the last forty years, but underneath the headlines and photos is a good musician, content with singing his songs for anyone with a willing ear.
If you’re new to the music of Charles Manson, don’t start with this record, start with some of his earlier records, such as LIE: The Love & Terror Cult, All the Way Alive or even Live at San Quentin. But if you’ve already given Charlie’s records a spin, this is a good addition to your collection.