Despite widespread criticism, Guns N' Roses has decided not to delete its version of a Charles Manson song on the rock band's new album after learning that the mass murder ringleader will not receive any royalties.
"When we heard Manson might get the money, we were ready to pull the song off the record," Slash, the band's lead guitarist, said Tuesday. "But then we found out that all the money would go to this guy in Poland who lost his dad (in the murders)."
Manson's share of royalties from the song "Look at Your Game, Girl" on Guns N' Roses' recently released "The Spaghetti Incident?" album will be paid to the son of Wojiciech (Voytek) Frykowski under a 1971 court order against Manson. The royalties will amount to $62,000 for every million copies of the album sold.
Frykowski was one of five victims found bound, stabbed and bludgeoned to death on Aug. 9, 1969, following a Benedict Canyon crime spree masterminded by the cult leader. Frykowski was a friend of film director Roman Polanski, whose wife, actress Sharon Tate, and her unborn baby were also slaughtered in the Manson Family bloodbath.
Geffen Records, the West Hollywood label that releases Guns N' Roses albums, was notified last week about the court order and is expected to be served with a writ of execution today by Los Angeles attorney Nathaniel Friedman, who won a $500,000 judgment in 1971 against Manson on behalf of Frykowski's 13-year-old son Bartek.
The inclusion of the Manson composition on the album has been heavily criticized by law enforcement and victim rights groups, as well as by the head of the band's own record company, entertainment mogul David Geffen.
Ed Rosenblatt, president of Geffen Records, said Tuesday the company "would have preferred that the song wasn't on the album, but given our belief in freedom of speech as well as the clear restraints of our legal agreements with the band, it is not our decision to make. That decision belongs solely to Guns N' Roses. We genuinely regret the distress the situation has caused."
About the decision to put the song on the album, Slash said it was "done with naive and innocent black humor on our part, but looking back on it I think it might have been a mistake. We never expected the flack that came up, but now we know it's a serious issue for the families."
Bartek Frykowski, who lives in Warsaw, could not be reached for comment, but Friedman said his client can legally garnish as much as $1.4 million in interest-adjusted earnings from Manson's past and future income.
"It's small compensation to this young man for the brutal loss of his father, even though that occurred a quarter of a century ago," Friedman said.
Guns N' Roses will not collect any of the song's proceeds from "The Spaghetti Incident?"--which has sold more than 300,000 copies in the United States since its release on Nov. 23.
Singer Axl Rose has pledged to donate all his performance royalties from the track to a nonprofit environmental organization. Geffen Records will pass on its proceeds from the song to the Doris Tate Crime Victims Bureau, named for the late mother of Sharon Tate.
"Look at Your Game, Girl" has been a source of friction in the Guns N' Roses camp since Rose, who recorded the track without the other members of the band, first proposed it as a selection for the new album, sources said. The rest of the group reluctantly agreed to include the track only if it remained unidentified in print or in interviews.
As a result, the Manson composition appears uncredited following the last track on the album after a 12-second silence. Manson is mentioned nowhere in the liner notes and acknowledged only at the end of the song when Rose coyly whispers, "Thanks, Chas."
The song appeared as a track on the 1970 album "Lie," a bootlegged Manson collection originally issued by Awareness Records.
That album, comprising 14 demos cut during the '60s by aspiring musician Manson, is still available on compact disc today. Indeed, Rose said he was inspired to record "Look at Your Game, Girl" after hearing a copy of the Manson album purchased by his brother.
"Lie" is owned and distributed by New Brunswick, N.J.-based Performance Records, which contributes Manson's royalty proceeds to the Victims of Violent Crime Fund, an arm of the California attorney general's office.
Vincent Bugliosi, the Manson case prosecutor who wrote the 1974 best-selling "Helter Skelter" book, said he found it "appalling" that Manson's music had penetrated the pop mainstream.
"It's a sad commentary on justice in America that a murderer who was supposed to receive the death penalty ends up having his song appear on a hit rock album," Bugliosi said. "From a moral standpoint, it's truly distasteful."
In his statement last week, Rose said he recorded the song primarily because it related to a "personal situation" he had been going through, not because he had any respect for Manson, whom he called "sick."
Free-lance writer Heidi Siegmund contributed to this article.