Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Marilyn Manson

Sound Familiar?
“The Beautiful People,” “The Dope Show,” “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”

Who Are They?
Controversial anti-Christ superstars who shocked suburban families everywhere.

Mild-mannered Brian Warner was born in Canton, Ohio to semi-religious parents. But once Brian discovered his grandfather’s bizarre sexual fetishes (bestiality and sadomasochism), he was scarred for life. Scarred enough to start a rock band called Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids in 1989.

Brian came up with the stage name Marilyn Manson by combining the first name of universal sex symbol Marilyn Monroe with the last name of infamous serial killer Charles Manson. The name (along with the similar stage names of other band members) was representative of a central concept: the dichotomy of good and evil, and the existence of both, together, in every whole.  

But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Before Brian became Marilyn Manson, he wrote music articles for South Florida lifestyle magazine 25th Parallel. (Fun fact: Brian actually went to college for journalism.) After meeting guitarist Scott Putesky (stage name: Daisy Berkowitz) and bassist Brian Tutunick (stage name: Olivia Newton Bundy), the three decided to start a band.

Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids released a demo tape and started touring. The band’s highly visual live shows generated significant buzz and sparked the attention of this guy named Trent Reznor. Trent (mastermind behind Nine Inch Nails and all-around rad dude) had just founded his own record label, Nothing Records, in 1992. Once he saw Marilyn Manson and friends, he immediately offered the band a contract with his label and a supporting slot on NIN’s headlining tour.

Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids was shortened to Marilyn Manson by the time the group released its debut, 1993’s Portrait of an American Family. The recording process was disastrous, resulting in drummer Gidget Gein being kicked out of the band for a pretty severe heroin problem.

Once the tour started, so did the controversy. During a show in Jacksonville, Florida in 1993, Marilyn was accused by the town’s Christian Coalition of violating adult entertainment codes. During the same tour, Marilyn met with Church of Satan founder Dr. Anton LaVey, who honored the singer with the title of “Reverend” (this refers to a person who is revered by the church, not one who dedicates his life to preaching the gospel of Satan).

After losing yet another drummer (Marilyn actually torched the guy’s drum set onstage as a farewell gesture), the band released an hour-long EP of covers, remixes and overall weird stuff called Smells Like Children in 1995. Marilyn Manson’s first real hit was a cover of the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” (which is a great cover, by the way).

But the real success came with 1996’s Antichrist Superstar. The album was considered a rock opera/concept album and spawned the highly lucrative single/disturbing video “The Beautiful People.”

Though Marilyn Manson was receiving plenty of attention in 1996, not all of it was positive. The band was a target of congressional hearings in the US to determine the effects of violent lyrics on young listeners. Additionally, religious organizations protested nearly every performance on the Dead to the World Tour.

After the Dead to the World Tour, the band turned to David Bowie and glam rock for inspiration. The result was 1998’s Mechanical Animals.

The tour, however, was cut short after the Columbine High School shootings in 1999. During a media frenzy shortly after the massacre, the band’s music was targeted as the shooters’ motivation. In a Rolling Stone article, Marilyn chastised America’s habit of putting the blame on scapegoats to escape responsibility. (In the 2002 documentary Bowling for Columbine, director Michael Moore asked Marilyn what he would have said to the shooters, to which he replied, “I wouldn’t say a single word to them. I would listen to what they had to say and that’s what no one did.”)

Much of Marilyn Manson’s third studio album, Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death), was written in response to the Columbine shootings and marked a return to the abrasive sound on Antichrist Superstar. (Fun fact: Antichrist Superstar, Mechanical Animals and Holy Wood are a trilogy of albums connected by the overarching theme of the relationship between death and fame in American culture.)

Where Are They Now?
Still churning out albums, though not nearly as shocking.

After completing the Antichrist/Mechanical/Holy Wood trilogy, Marilyn Manson was free to try out a brand new sound. The Golden Age of Grotesque was released in 2003 and sounded a little different (it was influenced both by swing music of the 1920s and the heavy industrial beats of KMFDM).

After Trent Reznor’s Nothing Studios closed in 2004, Marilyn Manson signed to Interscope Records and released Eat Me, Drink Me in 2007. By this time, Marilyn was the only original member.

(Fun fact: Marilyn supposedly wrote the song “Mutilation is the Most Sincere Form of Flattery” as an attack on My Chemical Romance. He later denied it, but stated that “I’m embarrassed to be me because these people are doing a really sad, pitiful, shallow version of what I’ve done.” So basically, it was about MCR.)

The High End of Low followed Eat Me, Drink Me and ended up selling less than all the previous Marilyn Manson albums (apparently no one was shocked anymore).

But Why Marilyn Manson?
What better way to celebrate Halloween than with Marilyn Manson? Also, Born Villain was released earlier this year, in case you weren’t aware.

What Does Sam Think?
Marilyn Manson is closely related to the industrial metal scene, and if you know anything about me, you know that I love industrial metal.

Now, this band is no Nine Inch Nails or Ministry, but that doesn’t mean it should be overlooked. Musically, Marilyn Manson hasn’t really done anything groundbreaking; the real appeal lies in the aesthetics.

If you’ve never seen this band live, you need to reevaluate your life. Okay, not really. But this live show is seriously a spectacle. This band (and the man himself) is all about the gorgeously grotesque and the importance of having an image. If you have a spectacular live show, your music doesn’t necessarily have to be the best (but it helps).

I’m not saying that Marilyn Manson doesn’t have any talent. Antichrist Superstar is a fantastic album. I’d probably even name it one of the best of the ‘90s. It’s aggressive and dark and a little insane (perfect Halloween music).

But what Marilyn Manson really does best is music videos. Because this band is all about the image, the videos have to reflect that mindset. And boy, do they ever. You can watch the video for “The Beautiful People” below, but also check out “The Dope Show,” “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” and the drastically obscene “Born Villain.” There’s plenty of sacrilegious Christ imagery, nudity and gore to go around!

As far as controversy goes, Marilyn the man and his music have mellowed out quite a bit. After basically getting blamed for the Columbine massacre, I think Marilyn made an unconscious decision to tone things down a bit. If you listen to the albums following Holy Wood, they don’t seem as frightening. Born Villain is decent, but it’s definitely nowhere near mid-‘90s Manson.

So if you’re in the Halloween spirit tonight (or anytime, for that matter), crank up some Marilyn Manson and scare your neighbors. (“Rebel, rebel, party, party / sex, sex, sex, and don’t forget the violence!”)

-- Sam Boyer, reporting from the ‘90s.

No comments:

Post a Comment