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Marilyn Manson

Advocating hostility, horror and hedonism as his musical manifesto, with a fair whack of sex, shock and Satanism to boot, the malevolent MARILYN MANSON pushed the right buttons for the disaffected youth of the 90s industrial metal generation. With piercing contact lenses and striking onstage regalia (which usually consisted of surgical corset and stockings), his ghoulish, “Edward Scissorhands” persona was magnified somewhat by mutilating himself with knives, light-bulbs and indeed anything that came to hand. An ordained minister in the Church of Satan (run by Anton LeVey), he almost immediately provoked the wrath of conservative America.
The fact that he and/or his music was somehow to blame for a couple of crazed fans launched a killing spree at Columbine High School in April 1999, stretched the strength and magnitude of metal music a little beyond the pale. But such was the hatred towards the man from the press, politicians and preachers, that it even evoked a Michael Moore documentary, Bowling For Columbine, a few years later. Yes, the self-professed “Antichrist Superstar” was paying deeply for his “sins”, a scapegoat for the hypocritical gun laws of America. Surely listening to `The Beautiful People’, `Tourniquet’ and `The Dope Show’ was no more shocking than the likes of inspirators ALICE COOPER or OZZY OSBOURNE in their heyday.
The band of Marilyn Manson & The Spooky Kids was formed 1989 in Fort Lauderdale, south Florida; the once pneumonia-crippled journalist MANSON (born Brian Hugh Warner, January 5, 1969, in Canton, Ohio) getting together with another pseudonymous character in guitarist Daisy Berkowitz (aka Scott Mitchell). Typically subtle as the proverbial sledgehammer, the other band members’ names were stitched together from glamorous icons and serial killers; keyboard player Madonna Wayne Gacy (aka Stephen Bier) and smack-head bassist Gidget Gein (aka Brad Stewart), the original early examples. When their drum machine was surplus to requirements, Sara Lee Lucas (aka Fred Streithorse) was called in and, after interviewing NINE INCH NAILS head-honcho Trent Reznor, Marilyn the music journalist secured a support slot and a record deal with the latter’s Nothing Records.
Like ALICE COOPER before him, Marilyn overshadowed the rest of his band, and as for the music, the singer’s freak-show began with 1994’s sub-goth posturing of PORTRAIT OF AN AMERICAN FAMILY {*6}. Featuring NIN alumni (Reznor, Chris Vrenna, Robin Finck and Charlie Clouser), the record didn’t exactly alight the critics with forthcoming praise, while its commercial appeal waned in a field of apathy. When a certain Vincent Furnier (Mr. COOPER to you) scribed `Clones (We’re All)’, little did he know of his prophetic words; `Lunchbox’, `Cake And Sodomy’, `Snake Eyes And Sissies’ and others basically ripping off the iconic legend. One can almost taste the evil on grinding grunge-goth head-bangers like `Get Your Gunn’, `Dope Hat’ and `Cyclops’. Gidget had already been deposed by Twiggy Ramirez (aka Jeordie White) when the album arrived in the shops.
Ginger Fish took over drum duties for their second set, a collection of remixes entitled SMELLS LIKE CHILDREN (1995) {*6}, which included gruesome versions of EURYTHMICS’ `Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)’, SCREAMIN’ JAY HAWKINS’ `I Put A Spell On You’ and PATTI SMITH’s `Rock’n’Roll Nigger’ – he’d previously covered GARY NUMAN’s `Down In The Park’ for a B-side.
MANSON and Co finally launched a full-scale assault on the moral majority/minority (delete as appropriate) with the inflammatory ANTICHRIST SUPERSTAR (1996) {*8}, an album which crucified the Billboard chart at No.3; Daisy departed halfway through it citing musical differences. Focusing on a fuller and more nihilistic sound, producers Reznor and Dave Ogilvie stirred up a cauldron of cohesive chords on the likes of aforementioned future UK hits, `The Beautiful People’ and `Tourniquet’. Croaking “Exorcist”-type schlock soaked in industrial soundscapes, the angst-ridden and paranoid Marilyn gets in deep on `Dried Up, Tied And Dead To The World’, `Little Horn’ and the anthemic title track. The group finally drove a stake through England’s conservative heart in 1997, when MANSON (at that time the beau of MTV babe Julia Valet) wowed audiences at secret gigs around the country. By this point, they had also introduced new guitarist Zim Zum (aka Tim Linton), who replaced Daisy for `The Beautiful People’, the unholy climax of MANSON’s bizarre career to date. Whatever else he was, MANSON was a consummate showman, enticing ghoulish audiences with threats of onstage suicide, the ultimate in 90s entertainment, presumably? (that’s if the Christian extremists don’t get ‘im first). John 5 (aka John Lowery) was brought in to replace Zim Zum.
Marilyn (or Brian) re-invented himself and became a BOWIE-clone/freak “undressed” eunuch-oid-fashion on the cover of the band’s 1998 US chart-topping set, MECHANICAL ANIMALS {*7} – “Aladdin Insane” one could say! The Manson who fell to Earth, it looked like one’d have to wait even longer before his “Rock’n’roll Suicide”. But songs such as British hits `The Dope Show’ and `Rock Is Dead’ (his “Jean Genie”) proved that MM was here for the haul. Earlier in the year, his first book, the autobiographical The Long Hard Road Out Of Hell, was published and contained insights into how the man’s deranged brain evolved.
With controversy never a light year away, the man’s “evil-metal” music was even brought into question when two MANSON-obsessed kamikaze teenagers gunned down thirteen people (12 students and a teacher – another 28 were injured) inside Columbine High School, near Denver. The dark day of April 20, 1999, would leave another black mark in America’s history. MANSON, meanwhile, immediately cancelled the rest of the band’s tour and sent his sympathies to the bereaved while answering Right-wing politicians who were intent on blaming him and the world of heavy metal – but just how easy was it for “easily-led” youngsters (and anyone with that constitution) to obtain the many firearms involved, and did any other music genre such as country or even rap get the same media furore when one of its musical brethren went haywire.
The ill-advised timing of a live set, THE LAST TOUR ON EARTH (1999) {*5} – complete with several rants about “drugs are good” – was hardly going to rectify any misnomers of his past shenanigans. The question was whether MANSON’s carefully manicured goth-horror schtick actually has the power to shock anymore. With a career so reliant on image, can the music exist independently once that image has become a cliche? Answers on the back of an inverted cross to the usual address.
Down but not out, the beleaguered scapegoat attempted a resurrection of sorts with HOLY WOOD (2000) {*7}, summoning up the darker forces which informed “Antichrist…”, while retaining the more accessible textures of “Mechanical…”. Maintaining his writing partnership with Twiggy (and a few others) was essential to the band’s demographic; `Disposable Teens’ (very “Beautiful People”), `The Fight Song’ and `The Nobodies’ giving them further chart status in Britain. Spring 2002 saw Marilyn re-tread old waters via a Top 10 rendition of Gloria Jones’ `Tainted Love’ (from the Resident Evil flick), a hit for SOFT CELL some two decades back.
Judging by the lofty ambitions and even loftier concept of THE GOLDEN AGE OF GROTESQUE (2003) {*7}, MANSON was not content to become a caricature just yet; Twiggy made way for Swedish-born multi-instrumentalist/songwriting foil, Tim Skold. A barbed, twisted synthesis of pre-war European theatrics and his continuing obsession with the darker side of Hollywood, the record mightn’t have restored him to his public enemy number one status but it at least demonstrated his willingness to at least try for some originality. Topping the American charts and hitting best-placed Top 5 in Britain (aided by `mObscene’ and `This Is The New Shit’), the set was developed from a modern-day parallel to the German art houses and decadent Hollywood glam of the 30s decade.
With MANSON’s music career on hold, his bosses at Interscope Records marked time with a LEST WE FORGET: THE BEST OF (2004) {*8} anthology – and how could we? The record was trailed by a cover of DEPECHE MODE’s messianic classic `Personal Jesus’, which again took him into the UK Top 20. Over the years, MM have covered several songs, including BOWIE’s `Golden Years’, AC/DC’s `Highway To Hell’, DR. HOOK’s `Get My Rocks Off’, and others `A Rose And A Baby Ruth’ (George Hamilton IV), `Five To One’ (The DOORS), `Working Class Hero’ (JOHN LENNON), `Suicide Is Painless’ (from M*A*S*H), `The KKK Took My Baby Away’ (RAMONES) and `Mind Of A Lunatic’ (The GETO BOYS).
The dark one was busier with his personal life, having already bedded a bevvy of adult-industry babes, Marilyn finally tied the knot with burlesque-type dancer/model, Dita Von Teese, in late 2005; fast-forward a year and they were divorced. The world of motion pictures was proving increasingly attractive to the man in lieu of rock, and with a roll call of cameos and soundtrack credits behind him, he expressed his intentions to move into celluloid full-time having acted in Party Monster (2003) and The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things (2005). Whatever became of that idea, no one knows, but he did have a bit-part as a bartender in the Lucy Liu horror flick, Rise: Blood Hunter (2007).
Finally released after a lengthy time in the studio (Chris Vrenna had filled for Gacy), sixth album proper, EAT ME, DRINK ME (2007) {*5} disappointed many of his followers. Often melancholy and brooding, the set was peppered with heavy tracks – if not exactly metal! – in `Just A Car Crash Away’ and `If I Was Your Vampire’, while grandiose goth and grinding grunge were still in place via `Heart-Shaped Glasses (When The Heart Guides The Hand)’ and `Are You The Rabbit?’.
Time then for a complete overhaul with the re-appearance of one Twiggy Ramirez (for Skold) on album number seven, THE HIGH END OF LOW (2009) {*5}, while co-producer/co-writer Vrenna made his mark once again. Turning forty was probably at the centre of his miserabilism this time around, but there were plenty of IGGY-type metal to sink one’s gothic white teeth into; `Pretty As A ($)’, `We’re From America’ and `Arma Goddamn Motherfuckin Geddon’ in complete contrast to sloth-like `Running To The Edge Of The World’ and `I Want To Kill You Like They Do In The Movies’.
BORN VILLAIN (2012) {*6} restored some faith in the glimmer man, a sonic outing that reflected his passion for the quirky and sinister. Without long-standing Ginger Fish, and with two newcomers on board in Fred Sablan (bass and guitars) and Jason Sutter (drums), the record touched on sadomasochism, murder and depravation – no change there then! – but it was the chunky riffs of `Lay Down Your Goddamn Arms’, the single `No Reflection’ and the BOWIE-ish `Children Of Cain’, that set aside this piece. What of the finale cover of CARLY SIMON’s `You’re So Vain’… well, one’ll leave that for others to judge.
Blood-letting go co-producer Chris Vrenna for the cinematic co-composer Tyler Bates, MARILYN MANSON returned to stake his claim as purveyor of the paranoid. His metal-pop kingdom in the throes of being overturned, sales registered a similar pattern – US Top 10/UK Top 20 – for the vehemently vain THE PALE EMPEROR (2015) {*7}. At times painfully drudge-ful and like IGGY POP played at 16rpm (very slow for you FOB fans), the unholy one found the blues in his old age – or something as close to its bone or as near to its knuckle. Acerbic funk drew a line through opener `Killing Strangers’, but it was in the ominous, choppy Mark E. Smith-like preacher sound of `Slave Only Dreams To Be King’ that bellowed highest from the pulpit. Best left to simmer then ferment (like all good whines), highlights seem to spurt and splutter from out of MANSON’s cold dead heart; `Deep Six’, `Third Day Of A Seven Day Binge’, `Cupid Carries A Gun’ and the prog-industrial `Warship My Wreck’ served up a cynical swagger one had come to expect.
Thankfully abandoning the idea of calling his next set, “Say10”, the same line-up of Manson, Bates and drummer Gil Sharone dropped HEAVEN UPSIDE DOWN (2017) {*7}; reinstated bassist Twiggy Ramirez was not on board (despite some reviews to the contrary); he’d been dismissed due to sexual allegations – allegations he’s denied – of rape made against him by ex-girlfriend Jessicka Addams (formerly lead singer with JACK OFF JILL). Reaching the Top 10 on both side of the Atlantic, the album itself was cut from the same bloodied cloth as vampyre MARILYN MANSON’s usual fare; there were no restrictions in the boundaries of taste for `Je$u$ Cri$iS’ (the Pres gets a mention here), the single `We Know Where You Fucking Live’, `Threats Of Romance’ and the star piece, `Saturnalia’.
© MC Strong 1998-2006/GRD // rev-up MCS Aug2012-Oct2017

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