The Dark Stuff

“The Dark Stuff” by Nick Kent (1994) – 343 pages

“I read this nasty book with an unusual degree of interest.”
Iggy Pop, foreword to “The Dark Stuff”

Published 17 years ago, “The Dark Stuff” contains exactly what the title indicates, the dark stuff about famous rock and roll stars and groups. Sections are devoted to the Rolling Stones, Guns’N’Roses, Roy Orbison, and Neil Young as well as several others, but it is that sunniest of United States groups, the Beach Boys, to which the most pages are devoted.

I imagine even today people still drive around in their cars during summer listening to ‘I Get Around’, “Help Me, Rhonda”, “Don’t Worry, Baby”, and “Good Vibrations” as well as many other Beach Boys songs. When the Beatles toured the United States to win over its teens, the Beach Boys went over to England and won over their teens. This set up a competition between the Beatles and the Beach Boys at least in Brian Wilson’s mind and spurred Wilson on to producing the most acclaimed of the Beach Boys’ albums, “Pet Sounds”. By this time Brian Wilson was no longer touring with the Beach Boys so he could spend full time in the studio. After “Pet Sounds”, Wilson decided to put together a full concept album called “Smile” to compete against the Beatles’ “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts’ Club Band”. He spent more and more time isolated in his studio getting strung out and paranoid on LSD, hashish, and cocaine. The music he was writing now was not at all like the simple harmonies which he wrote that made the Beach Boys famous. Meanwhile Beach Boy Mike Love hated the new music because he couldn’t sing it, and the members of the group got into arguments and fights about the music.

Meanwhile Brian’s brother Dennis, the Beach Boys’ drummer, was also getting heavy into drugs. He divorced his wife and started hanging out with this little ex-convict guy, Charlie Manson, who had a crowd of hippie girls hanging with him and doing his bidding. Soon the Manson family was living in Dennis Wilson’s house. Finally Dennis Wilson’s managers kicked the Manson family out of the house, and they went out to the Spahn ranch. Manson was also obsessed with the Beatles and had his own eerie interpretations of their lyrics. Manson had some musical talent, and Dennis Wilson arranged an audition for him with record producer Terry Melcher who happened to be Doris Day’s son. Melcher refused to sign him.

Then Dennis arranged an audition for Manson with Neil Young who was forming his own group then. Charlie Manson came over to Young’s place for the audition. Young said, “The girls were around, too, Linda (Kasabian) and the other one (Patricia Krenwinkel) – they were always there.  They’d be right there on the couch with me.”

What did Neil Young think of Charlie Manson’s music?

    “Listen, he was great. He was unreal. He was really, really good. Scary; Put him in a band that was as free as he was… see, that was the problem right there… But he was never gonna get that band, because there was something about him that stopped anybody from being around him too long…I was always thinking, ‘What’s he gonna do next? I’d better get out this guy’s way before he explodes’.  So I did.”

Young actually went to the head of Warner Brothers and suggested they sign him.

In August, 1969, Charlie Manson went back to what he thought was Terry Melcher’s house. Melcher wasn’t living there, but the pregnant actress Sharon Tate who had become famous in the movie “The Valley of the Dolls” was living there with her entourage. Manson sent three members of his family – Tex Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Susan Atkins into the house, while Manson waited in the car and Linda Kasabian guarded the entrance. The ritualistic knife and gun murders were part of Manson’s plan for Helter Skelter which was related only in Manson’s mind to the Beatles song. Two nights later the Manson family murdered the LaBianca couple.

If this kind of nasty dark stuff interests you, you should read this book.

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