I had no clue that there was an urban legend related to The Monkees and Charles Manson until today. Had I know, I would’ve called it a fake because I don’t like The Monkees and I think Charles Manson doesn’t vibe with their type of music. It sounds like the sort of thing that lives forever, like Rod Stewart having his stomach pumped after blowing a bunch of roadies.
Turns out I would’ve been right. It’s just another one of those fun rumors that persisted to the point that Mickey Dolenz cleared it up on a recent episode of Gilbert Gottfried’s podcast:
“I just made a joke: ‘Everybody auditioned for the Monkees, Stephen Stills, Paul Williams and Charlie Manson!’” he said. “And everybody took it as gospel, and now it’s an urban myth!”
He did confirm that Peter Tork got his gig in the Monkees at Stephen Stills’ recommendation. Stills apparently tried to sell some of his songs to the Monkees’ management, but never seriously tried out for the group (urban legend has it that he didn’t look right for the role). (via)
Would I have listened to The Monkees jam with Charles Manson and his family fun band? Probably. It’s my kinda thing, sadly. But the reality of a partnership with Charles Manson is a much more sour experience.
I’m sure you all know the story behind Dennis Wilson and his relationship with Charles Manson. The Beach Boys drummer struck up quite a friendship with Manson and the family, going so far as to record one of their songs, “Cease To Exist,” under the name “Never Learn Not To Love.” From National Post:
Yes, The Beach Boys put Manson, albeit uncredited, on the charts. But Dennis had done something that, to Manson, was unforgivable. He changed his words. To Manson, you were what you spoke.
For a while, Dennis admired Manson as a kind of guru. In an interview with the U.K.’s Rave magazine at the time, he referred to Manson as the “Wizard.” But he would soon sour on Manson, who had crazy predictions of an upcoming race war and was prone to fits of temper. Dennis began to see the Family as a bunch of leeches who had taken him for $100,000 in car repair payments, wardrobe, food and gonorrhea treatments.
It wasn’t long after this that Wilson moved away, leaving the Manson family to inhabit his home while facing eviction and committing murder. That’s all well known and put to bed. The lasting effect was there to stay, though, and it provides a look at why The Monkees should be glad they never really had any interaction with Charles Manson:
Dennis would not talk publicly about Manson right up until his drowning death in 1983. Some close to him insist that episode changed him. He was worried about Manson ever getting out of jail or putting a hit on him from behind bars. It made Dennis paranoid and even more agitated than usual. Some attribute his subsequent spiral of self-destructive behavior ― particularly his drug intake ― to these fears and feelings of guilt for ever having introduced this evil Wizard into the Hollywood scene. (via)
This entire piece is a nice read if you’re interested in the relationship. It’s shorter than picking up an actual book on the subject, not that Helter Skelter isn’t worth your time.
I didn’t mean for this to sound like some sort of cautionary tale, but hopefully it shows that there can always be two sides to those off hand comments we make about our own experiences. People have actually lived those things and they might be able to provide a glimpse at one might’ve been.
Then again, if Charles Manson had joined The Monkees all those years ago, he might not be in prison. He might be a smiling, old drunk living off royalty checks in Malibu.