Charles Manson’s “Lie”: When a terror cult meets pop culture and music

The controversial cult leader album was released in 1970 and retains a following among those interested in the Manson case, and some famous musicians

Charles Manson’s “Lie”: When a terror cult meets pop culture and music

An odd moment in Pop music history, the very limited release of cult leader Charles Manson’s album “Lie: The Love and Terror Cult” sparkled controversy that remains to this day.

Released on March 6, 1970, shortly after the infamous Hollywood murders practiced by Manson’s cult The Family, this album is worth for the cultural significance of it, or, the controversial cultural significance as for the first time in history, a terror cult leader gets his songs out in an album. Manson reportedly didn’t arrived to California to kill people, he had high hopes and dreams of becoming a Rock star. With his odd charisma, during the late 1960’s, at the peak of the Hippie movement, he got inside the exclusive circle of famous Rock and Pop artists in California, including the Beach Boys, with whom he became friends. In 1968, Phil Kaufman, who had met Manson in prison, moved in briefly with Manson and his “Family”. Kaufman continually urged Manson to record some of his songs. Manson attempted to construct an album with members of the Beach Boys, and Carl and Brian Wilson co-produced about ten songs by Manson that he recorded at the Beach Boys’ personal studio. But things got bad quickly as in December 1968 the Beach Boys released their version of Manson’s “Cease to Exist” as a single B-side, except the lyrics were changed and the title was altered to “Never Learn Not to Love” and not credited to dear old Charlie. That did upset him to say the least, as the song  was credited solely to Dennis Wilson. When asked why he did not credit Manson, Dennis answered: “He didn’t want that. He wanted money instead. I gave him about a hundred thousand dollars’ worth of stuff.” Reportedly, that episode was what sparkled Manson into planning the infamous murders, originally, he wanted Wilson dead. In 1969 the murders took place and Manson and the Family were put soon behind bars.

That’s when Phil Kaufman decided to produce a Charles Manson album, seeing potential in his songs. Two tracks from the album, “Look at Your Game, Girl” and “Eyes of a Dreamer”, were recorded in June 1967 at a demo session for Uni Records, a subsidiary of MCA, which shows Manson was indeed on his way to become a sort of Pop star in some strange way. He did got his achievement when “Lie: The Love and Terror Cult” was released through a record label called Awareness Records and distributed on the West Coast, by Trademark of Quality, the bootlegging group who released the first notable bootleg album, Great White Wonder, a collection of pirated Bob Dylan tapes. Initially Kaufman had approached established record companies that declined to become involved, Kaufman then raised $3,000 and pressed 2,000 copies of the now much sought after record collectors item. Surprisingly over the years, although not a commercial success, “Lie” retains a following among those interested in the Manson case, and some famous musicians, that covered Manson songs. “Look at Your Game, Girl” appears as a hidden track on the Guns N’ Roses cover album “The Spaghetti Incident?”, GG Allin covered “Garbage Dump” for his 1987 album “You Give Love a Bad Name” and Rob Zombie, Redd Kross and The Lemonheads have all covered “Cease to Exist”. The Lemonheads recorded two other songs from the album, a version of “Home Is Where You’re Happy”, and Evan Dando appropriated some of the lyrics and melody of “Big Iron Door” into his song “Left for Dead”. The Marilyn Manson song “My Monkey”, from the album “Portrait of an American Family”, contains samples of Charles Manson speaking, as well as lyrics from the track “Mechanical Man”. The album has been reissued and bootlegged several times, all proceeds from one reissue of the album, released by Awareness Records, were donated to a California fund for victims of violent crime, as California law prohibited Manson himself from collecting any money or royalties for his work. The iconic album cover was made to look like a cover of Life magazine with the letter f removed from the word Life.

Listen to “Look at Your Game, Girl” by Charles Manson, one of the album’s most famous tracks

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David Warren

David Warren an editor and author for Pop Expresso and in the free time enjoys making instrumental music - -  and to learn about history and cultures. Reach out at

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