Sunday Old School: Marilyn Manson
Band Photo: Marilyn Manson (?)
After a whole month covering black metal bands such as Behemoth and Gorgoroth, you’d have thought that we’d be sick of writing about men in makeup causing outrage. However, this week’s article looks at one of the biggest rock acts of the nineties, fronted by the most controversial name in rock since Ozzy Osbourne, Marilyn Manson. Manson himself began life as Brian Warner, who was working as a music journalist when he met guitarist, Scott Putesky, with whom he soon formed a band, which they named Marilyn Manson & the Spooky Kids. It was decided that the members would adopt stage names which married the names of female icons with serial killers. Warner became Marilyn Manson while Putesky rechristened himself, Daisy Berkowitz. They were joined by bass player, Brian Tutunick (Olivia Newton Bundy) and recorded their first, self-titled demo. After bringing in keyboard player Stephen Bier (Madonna Wayne Gacy) and drummer Fred Streithorst (Sara Lee Lucas,) as well as replacing Bundy with Brad Stewart (Gidget Gein,) the band increased their local profile and gained substantial airplay on WYNX-FM, thanks largely to DJ and fan, Scott David. The early shows were just as theatrical as the ones the band would become known for, featuring such provocative images as women on crosses, children in cages and, due to the lack of a professional pyrotechnician, setting their own props on fire. The group soon caught the attention of Nine Inch Nails frontman, Trent Reznor, who signed the band to his newly formed label, Nothing Records and brought the group on the road as a support act.
Marilyn Manson (as the band had by now shortened their name to) recorded their first album, "The Manson Family Album" in the summer of 1993 but was very unhappy with the result. After playing the record to Reznor, who agreed that the album didn’t sound very good and helped the band re-record and remix the album, which was released the next summer under the new name, "Portrait of an American Family." As soon as work on the record was complete, the band decided to let Gein go after he overdosed on heroin for the fourth time. He was replaced by Twiggy Ramirez who made his live debut with the band on a short headlining tour, during which Manson was arrested in Jacksonville, Florida after the local Christian Coalition accused him of indecency. On the same tour, Manson met Anton LaVey of the Church of Satan, who gave him the title, Reverend. The controversy stirred by Manson’s new title arguably helped earn the band its first headlining tour of North America, during which drummer Sara Lee Lucas would quit after Manson set his drum kit on fire while Lucas was still performing. He was replaced by Ginger Fish and the group hit the road again, this time partnering with Danzig and Korn.
The band then shot a new music video for their third single, "Dope Hat," which featured Manson dressed as Charlie & the Chocolate Factory’s eccentric centrepiece character, Willy Wonka. It was ambitious not only as a music video, but as a release, seeing as the proposed single soon turned into an hour long EP entitled, "Smells Like Children." Though "Dope Hat" was the EP’s lead song, it was another track which gave the group their first hit single, in the form of the creepy cover of the Eurhythmics' classic, "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This.)" A video was made and released for this track and proved to be a success on MTV, while "Dope Hat" received only limited airplay, mostly late at night.
Following this run of releases, successes and controversy, the band were finally ready to begin working on a sophomore full length, which came in October 1996 in the guise of "Antichrist Superstar." It was billed as a concept record and took inspiration from the Kabbalah. The album was a commercial success, debuting at number three on the Billboard album charts and spawning their first original hit single, "The Beautiful People," which would later be adopted as the theme for the WWF/E programme, Smackdown! In addition to the album’s success, touring for the record was massive, allowing the band to perform for the first time in Alaska, Hawaii, Europe, South America and Asia. In their native country however, Marilyn Manson was the target of a number of groups, particularly religious, who constantly picketed shows. They were also the subject of congressional hearings, with politicians wondering if their music was severely damaging the American youth. Nevertheless, the band’s profile only continued to increase with the release of another EP, "Remix and Repent" and the appearance of Twiggy Ramirez and Manson himself as porn stars in the David Lynch film, "Lost Highway."
Manson succeeded the album with an autobiography, "The Long Hard Road out of Hell," before the band recorded and released their third effort, "Mechanical Animals" in 1998. Like its predecessor, it was a concept album, the second of three and focused on an alien who had fallen to Earth, been captured and forced to perform in a band (the titular, Mechanical Animals.) It produced another hit single, "The Dope Show," which illustrated the soulless life which fame can bring and invoked a number of references to the Mexican-American movie, The Holy Mountain. It was no surprise the album was a success, given that Interscope had gone all out to promote the album, even erecting a huge billboard of Manson in Times Square. Touring for the album proved to be a challenge as within two weeks, Manson had broken his ankle and Hole, who were supporting along with Monster Magnet, left the trek, issues which led to the cancellation of many shows. After his ankle healed, Manson and company set out on the road again, this time with their old friends Jack Off Jill and Nashville Pussy. Sadly, after the Columbine massacre in 1999, media attention turned towards the band, with some accusing them of inciting the horrific scenes in Colorado and so the group cancelled all remaining tour dates out of respect to the victims.
While on a self-imposed exile from the stage, the band worked on a fourth album, the final in a triptych of concept albums, "Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death,") which was released in November of 2000. It featured some of the band’s most popular songs including "Disposable Teens," "The Nobodies" and the classic anthem, "The Fight Song." Concept wise, the record dealt with fame in American culture and the cultural icons which had been assassinated in the country, such as Presidents John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln, as well as Beatles star, John Lennon. As always, the group caused outrage on the touring cycle, this time with their use of religious iconography, such as making a cross out of firearms and quoting violent Bible passages.
With the trilogy now complete, Manson needed to find a new source of inspiration, which surfaced in the 1920’s Swing era, owing to the decadent nature of the musicians and the censorship it faced by the Nazi regime in Germany, a repression which Manson felt reflected his own battle with modern America. The album, "The Golden Age of Grotesque," received frequent comparisons to KMFDM, due mostly to KMFDM member Tim Skold replacing Twiggy Ramirez in the group and some critics felt it was somewhat lazy by Marilyn Manson’s standards. Despite this, it debuted at the top of the charts in the United States and produced some more hits, perhaps most notably, "mOBSCENE," which featured Manson’s then partner, Dita von Teese and the highly outrageous video for, "(s)Ain’t.," which Interscope refused to promote. A compilation album, "Lest We Forget…" followed in 2004 and spawned another successful cover, this time the Depeche Mode staple, "Personal Jesus." This would prove to the last Marilyn Manson release to feature guitarist John 5, who left shortly afterwards, eventually joining Rob Zombie. His place was taken by former Fight guitarist, Mark Chaussee.
Although the band continued to perform live and update their site frequently, it would be another four years before they released a new full length album, which finally came in 2007 with "Eat Me, Drink Me." The record was composed entirely by Skold and Manson himself in a rented home studio and thus Manson was the only original member of the band still involved. "Eat Me, Drink Me," premiered on the Billboard Album Charts at number eight and received mostly mixed reviews from critics, some of which felt it was something of a misfire. Although fortunes were not as reaped as before, the band still performed at a number of high profile events such as the Download Festival and co-headlined a tour with American thrash legends, Slayer.
After completing the "Rape the World" tour, Manson announced that Twiggy Ramirez had rejoined the band, though he did not rule out working with Skold again in the future. He also made waves by bringing in Limp Bizkit/Black Light Burns guitarist Wes Borland, though he would soon leave after finding that none of the songs he had written were to be included on the forthcoming album and to reunite with Limp Bizkit. After a lot of hype and speculation, a new album, "The High End of Low" finally hit the shelves in May 2009, which despite the promises of something special, received mixed reviews from critics, though it was generally regarded as better than, "Eat Me, Drink Me." Another co-headlining tour with Slayer followed, this time as part of the Mayhem Festival, as well as headlining appearances at such festivals as Graspop in Belgium.
The band then entered another chapter in their career by allowing the contract with Interscope to expire and signing with Cooking Vinyl Records, who would work with Manson’s own label, Hell etc. A sense of creativity was reignited within the group and they experimented for some time before the next album, "Born Villain" was released in 2012, though once again it failed to impress the critics and peaked at number ten on the Billboard Albums Chart. Marilyn Manson did keep their name alive by teaming up with other shock rockers such as Alice Cooper and a somewhat tense trek with Rob Zombie, who at one stage finished a set by shouting, "Fuck Marilyn Manson!" Marilyn Manson and his cohorts are currently working on material for a new full length album, a taste of which can be heard in a recently released song, "Cupid Carries a Gun," which serves as the theme for an episode of the WGN America show, Salem. It’s not yet been confirmed when this new album will be released, but it will surely be another statement of artistic expression, coupled with a live spectacle that only Manson can conjure up.
Marilyn Manson - "Dope Hat"
Marilyn Manson - "The Beautiful People"
Marilyn Manson - "Rock Is Dead"
Marilyn Manson - "The Fight Song"
Marilyn Manson - "(s)AINT"
Marilyn Manson - "Heart Shaped Glasses"
Marilyn Manson - "No Reflection"
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.
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