Will Charles Manson Wind Up Songwriter of the Year?
Another record company with a Charles Manson song on its hands?
Yes, and unlike Geffen Records--which has been doing its best to distance itself from the Manson composition on the latest Guns N’ Roses album--this company isn’t at all defensive about its track, by another hit rock band.
Three years before its version of “Mrs. Robinson” brought them mainstream attention, the Lemonheads recorded Manson’s “Your Home Is Where You’re Happy” for an album released by the tiny, Boston-based Taang! label.
Label owner Curtis (who only uses the one name) says he has never had qualms about the inclusion of the song on the band’s “Creator” album, which remains part of the company’s active catalogue.
“Manson was a legendary figure in the ‘60s and his story is unbelievable,” Curtis says. “And this was a great song, a funny little song. That was it. Understand that in the indie-rock world, doing something like that is considered cool. But in the mainstream world it’s shocking. How many records have songs or artwork that’s Manson-related? Maybe 200. It’s punk-rock.”
Lemonheads leader Evan Dando, who says that the Manson murders were among his first cultural memories, wasn’t available for comment, but he spoke freely about it during a recent interview with Request magazine.
“Charlie (Manson) was just a good symbol of the beginning of my life in America,” he said before the GNR controversy broke. "(He was) a good symbol of how messed up things were getting.”
Curtis came across the song after a lawyer representing Manson as a songwriter in the mid-'80s contacted him about releasing some recordings by the convicted mass murderer. The lawyer sent him hours of tapes, and though Curtis declined to release the material, Dando particularly liked the one track and decided to record it.
Curtis is amused by the furor over Guns N’ Roses’ recording of Manson’s “Look at Your Game, Girl,” an uncredited “bonus” track on the new “The Spaghetti Incident?” album.
“I can’t see getting up in arms about it,” he says. “And anyway, that’s exactly what Guns N’ Roses wanted to happen: controversy. Anything that shocks parents will sell records, and they did it.”
Jan Miller, chair of the Doris Tate Crime Victims Bureau--a group named for the mother of Manson Family victim Sharon Tate that has led calls for a boycott of Geffen Records--is not at all amused that there is another widely available version of a Manson song. She says that she will need to research the Lemonheads matter more before the organization can take a stand.
“I don’t think there’s any way to take anything in that situation as just historical,” she says. “It should just be regarded for what it was, a demented mind doing something horrible and mostly unprintable.”