Strong statements, I know. Lemme ‘splain.
Dennis Wilson, in my eyes, created the monster that is Charlie Manson. You may or may not know that Charlie’s goal in life wasn’t to be the greatest psycho of all time. Charlie was a musician, and took that very very very seriously. Charlie wanted to be a folk rock star. Charlie was hanging around SoCal trying to get his songs heard, published… etc. This is all harmless so far. Charlie meets Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys. This wasn’t a ‘nice to meet you’ at a cocktail party. Charlie and his girls moved in with Dennis. They partied and recorded together. Dennis thinks Charlie is a genius, and true musical talent. Problem was… Dennis was the only one who saw that. Dennis brought a Charlie song to the Beach Boys and it was released and very successful. Fun thing was, Dennis changed the lyrics and took all the credit for the tune. Charlie no likey that.
The song theft enraged Manson, who threatened Wilson and at one point left a bullet on the drummer’s bed. “I gave Dennis Wilson a bullet, didn’t I? I gave him a bullet because he changed the words to my song,” Manson told Diane Sawyer in an infamous interview.
It’s important to note, Dennis Wilson was mostly a drunken asshole who was lucky enough to be born adjacent to Brian Wilson. Also, a stunningly handsome dude. I am not sure why I felt compelled to add that… but just look at the guy.
So.. Charlie finds Dennis… a couple of narcissistic aholes. Dennis thinks Charlie is a really good musician and his songs are worthy. Fact is, that is likely true… we’ll never know. Remember, before Hitler tried to take over the world… he was just an artist who wanted to go to art school. He was a pretty good artist, too. Dennis thinks Charlie is so great, he introduces him to Terry Melcher. Terry Melcher was THE hit maker of the era. You have heard of Phil Spector? Terry was that level.
THIS IS WHERE EVERYTHING GOES TO SHIT
Charlie, meet Terry. Terry, meet Charlie. Charlie is the next big star. Charlie? Dennis is going to make you the star I think you are. Charlie, Terry Melcher here is going to give you a recording contract. Charlie, soon… everyone will know your name.
This is all Dennis Wilson’s fault. Not maliciously, mind you. Really, most of these folks are just victims of circumstance. This is why Charlie didn’t try and murder Dennis. Charlie went to murder Terry Melcher.
Keep in mind, Dennis let Charlie (and his hot and pliable harem) live with him. For some reason, though, Terry Melcher isn’t bullish on Charlie. It could be the music wasn’t that great… it could be because Charlie was already batshit crazy. Terry walks away from promises (says Charlie… anyway) for a recording deal. Charlie FLIPS. Charlie sends 4 folks to Melcher’s house to ‘kill everyone in site’… and they do. Thing is, Terry Melcher didn’t live there anymore. Susan Tate and Roman Polanski did.
Next night, Charlie sends another four to murder everyone in a different mansion. Why? My theory is to cover up the first murder, so it looked random (and then wouldn’t be possibly tied to Terry Melcher/Charlie Manson connection). This may sound extreme… but there is precedent. Remember the Tylenol poisonings? That all came from a guy who poisoned his wife… and then poisoned a bunch of other people to make it look random.
The ‘race war of Helter Skelter’ Charlie sold everyone on? Don’t think he believed it, himself, for a second.
I truly think the entire Manson murder spree was simply Charlie trying to get revenge on Terry Melcher for reneging on his recording contract promise. You can, and should, blame all of this on the late Dennis Wilson. Oh, and Charlie.
*** why am I talking about this now? Well, there are 2 Charlie Manson movies on the horizon as I write this in Aug 2017. Tarantino is doing one, about Charlie. And there is one starting filming this summer about Dennis Wilson during this era.