An Unofficial Chronology and History of Marilyn Manson
(c) 1999 by Paula O'Keefe / email@example.com
Our subject is a five-piece band from the Fort Lauderdale area of southern Florida, previously best known for its metal scene. By all reports, it was founded sometime in 1989, when a restless journalism major with a dark exacting take on American culture and a notebook full of poem/commentaries met an equally restless guitarist-composer with five bands behind him and an itch to do something really different. The writer had done some music coverage for local publications; the musician had last been involved in a Cocteau Twins/Sonic Youth blend of ethereal noise called India Loves You; neither was content. Lyrics and music clicked, and the pair joined forces.
The writer's first move was to change his name. Immersed for months in tabloid TV shows, he had decided on one that he felt displayed the entire spectrum he wanted to project, borrowed from two classic icons of the 1960s: Marilyn Manson. The guitarist agreeably followed suit and became Daisy Berkowitz, setting the pattern for all members of the band until 1996.
By 1990 they were Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids: Manson singing and Berkowitz as lead guitarist, drum machine programmer and general tech whiz kid. Their earliest known lineup included Olivia Newton-Bundy on bass (Brian Tutunick, later to join Florida metallers Collapsing Lungs before moving on to Nation of Fear), Zsa Zsa Speck on keyboards (one Perry Pandrea, who didn't stay long) and a nameless drum machine. Newton-Bundy and Speck were soon replaced by bassist Gidget Gein and keyboardist Madonna Wayne Gacy.
Their first cassette releases, Meat Beat Cleaver Beat (or Beaver Meat Cleaver Beat, by some accounts), Snuffy's VCR, and big black bus, were created during this membership shakeup. More on the cassette releases a little later on.
Among their gigs at this point was one which which would have far-reaching consequences: they opened a show on Nine Inch Nails' summer tour. NiN was still embroiled in the TVT battle, and Trent's ownership of his own label was a long way off, but he liked the young band ("It must have something to do with both of us coming from the Midwest," says the Ohio-born Manson, though probably only a relocated Floridian would think of Mercer, PA, as Midwestern) and became a friend and informal mentor. Manson and Reznor would stay in touch and trade tapes over the following few years.
The Spooky Kids were set apart from the start by Manson's ambitious and imaginative promotional campaign. The memorable logo he designed - the now-well-known black and white "Eyes" design - displayed "MARILYN MANSON" in a dripping monster-movie font with narrow images of Marilyn Manson's seductive gaze above and Charlie Manson's wild-eyed stare below. The band wasted no time in getting this striking visual onto a line of T-shirts and stickers, a move credited with grabbing them a good deal of local attention. Meanwhile, connections Manson had made while wearing his journalist hat helped to spread the band's name and get tracks from big black bus onto local radio.
At the same time, the Spooks were tossing a wide range of theatrical, visual, and shock devices into their rapidly evolving stage presentation. Anything might turn up, from a Lite-Brite [TM] toy arranged to read "Kill God" or "Anal Fun" and peanut-butter-&-jelly sandwiches tossed from the stage, to caged or crucified girls, skinned goats' heads, nudity and arson. Manson might wear an entire outfit of stripes or a woman's bathing suit while playing Charles Manson soundbites or reading from "The Cat in the Hat". Gacy had a little booth marked "Pogo's Playhouse" standing over his keyboard (he had already adopted child-killer Gacy's clown pseudonym as his own nickname). Berkowitz might play in skirt, halter and long blonde wig, guitar worn low and cigarette hanging off his lip, born to the role of cute debutante gone bad. Anything was fair game for maximum effect.
It's hard to be this flexible while tied to a programmed rhythm track, so in 1991, the Spooks retired their drum machine, an event celebrated by a jubilant little newsletter. Illustrated with a mixture that would become a band trademark - Manson's morbid cartoons and band caricatures, altered Dr. Seuss figures, guns, needles, and characters from "Scooby-Doo" - it welcomes Sara Lee Lucas, who is credited with "baked goods and percussion". (Though the first cassette release to actually credit Lucas is 1992's The Family Jams, he had probably played on at least the previous tape, mid-'91's Lunchbox as well.) The addition was a good one, and the band began to draw notice. By now they were writing and performing songs that are still staples of their repertoire, including "Cake and Sodomy" and "My Monkey". (They carried lunchboxes, too.) By the time South Florida's Slammies, designed to offer recognition to the overlooked thrash, hardcore and "hard alternative" scene, held nominations for its first award show in 1992, the Spooks' fan following was large and vocal enough to get them nominated for both Best Hard Alternative Band and Band of the Year.
Another 1992 event of note was the "Miami Rocks" East Coast Music Forum, held Jan. 30 - Feb. 2 1992 at the Button South. A promotional event designed by local music business folk to draw national attention to the Florida scene, it featured bands submitted for consideration by area managers and chosen by a panel that included radio and recording studio reps. Marilyn Manson made the cut (beating out their then-manager John Tovar's other submission, the redoubtable Amboog-A-Lard) and played on February 1st. A cassette tape was issued to promote this event.
Some of the aforementioned fan loyalty is almost certainly due to the band's direct efforts to connect with its listeners. They issued a newsletter, designed and distributed elaborately illustrated concept flyers for shows, and operated an answering machine "hot line", evidently taking the role of mentor quite seriously. In a 1991 Florida newspaper article on the band, Manson explains that he wrote the lyrics of "Learning To Swim" in response to a request for advice, and says, "...in this position I've put myself in, I have the responsibility of influencing the minds of teenagers. So I do choose my words...because I care. I care about what I say." [Such earnest gravity, from someone all of 22 years old at the time. Though the nickname was frequently used with perverse overtones, it's still no wonder that fans began calling him Daddy.]
Another means of staying in touch, and one that's perhaps more interesting to current fans, was the band's series of self-produced and self-marketed demo cassettes. Very little information on the previously mentioned first two demos - Meat Beat Cleaver Beat and Snuffy's VCR - has turned up, save to say that in all likelihood only Manson and Berkowitz played on them, and that they were composed of (to quote a fan interview with Daisy) "weird instrumental stuff that we never sold." According to studio engineer "Graveyard Ralph" Cavallaro, the lineup on big black bus, too, was solely Manson and Berkowitz - Gein and Gacy, though in the band at the time, did not play on these sessions. Keyboard effects were created on a Yamaha RX8 synthesizer by the versatile Berkowitz (who also played both lead and bass guitars and programmed the drum machine). An entire side of this was reportedly taken up by answering machine messages, a practice the band has never abandoned. The late 1990 demo Grist-O-Line was the first one to feature the band's full lineup of Manson, Berkowitz, the drum machine, Gein and Gacy. It would be followed by After School Special in January 1991, Lunchbox sometime in mid-1991, The Family Jams in mid-1992 and the band's final cassette release, Refrigerator, in early 1993.Produced and mixed by the multi-capable Berkowitz and decorated with more of the above-mentioned idiosyncratic artwork, these little gems feature the first recorded versions and variations of "Cake and Sodomy", "Dope Hat", "Lunchbox", "My Monkey", "Dogma" (as "Strange Same Dogma"), and "Cyclops", along with a wealth of otherwise unavailable originals. Though produced in tiny batches -Refrigerator was an edition of only 100 copies - and sold only at the band's shows and in local record stores, the cassettes still prove the Spooks' determination not only to be heard but to be presented on their own terms and maintain complete creative control.
By the end of 1992 the name "Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids" had apparently become too awkward, and was trimmed to just Marilyn Manson. This caused some temporary confusion with the lead singer's chosen name, but after tossing it around a little (he's credited as simply "M. Manson" on the Refrigerator cassette and as "Mr. No Name Manson" on The Family Jams) he settled on the semiformal "Mr. Manson" for general purposes
None of the changes troubled the fans one bit. They turned out loyally in the voting for the 1993 Slammies, piling up a stack of nominations for MM: Band of the Year, Best Hard Alternative Band, Best Local Release (the Family Jams cassette), Song of the Year ("Dope Hat") , and even a Best Vocalist nomination for Mr. Manson. "Dope Hat" won in its category, and the Mansons collected their first Band of the Year award. --Mr. Manson also added a memorable touch to the ceremony as presenter of the Best National Release award, which went to Saigon Kick for "The Lizard". To a chorus of boos from the crowd (home-state fans considered SK to have abandoned them at their first touch of national fame), Manson ascertained that there was no band representative present to collect their engraved ceramic skull, and simply tossed it into the moshpit, where it was stamped to bits. (Amusing side note. Manson had a cohort in this small crime: the Slammie-winning rhythm guitarist for local metal band Amboog-A-Lard, a close friend of Manson's. Within the year he would undergo a magical transformation...)
The summer of 1993 was a busy stretch for the Mansons, who picked up not only their first Slammies but a genuine recording contract. Having finally won a measure of independence from TVT, and launched his own label, nothing, Trent Reznor had offered the band nothing's first contract plus a support position on his upcoming "Self-Destruct '94" spring tour. Both were accepted, and they headed into Criteria Studios to begin recording their first LP, Portrait of an American Family.
The sessions, however, didn't go well. Reznor, then busy with The Downward Spiral, assigned producer Roli Mossiman to the band. Mossiman, who had worked with Young Gods, Machines of Loving Grace, and Jim Thirwell's multi-named Foetus project, was expected to bring a raw sound to the mix. By all reports, however, he did just the opposite. The band was unhappy with the results they were getting, feeling that the sound was being smoothed and polished out of all recognition. Manson: "I thought, 'This really sucks.' So I played it for Trent, and he thought it sucked." Reznor, supporting the band's decision, took over the production reins, and they spent seven grueling weeks of fifteen-hour days in L.A.'s Record Plant, tearing down, repairing, even recreating parts of Portrait from scratch. (Reznor is credited as Executive Producer on the LP.) In January 1994, the project was finally finished and presented - doubtless with a collective sigh of relief - to Interscope, distributor for nothing.
By Christmas 1993, however, bassist Gein was no longer a member of Marilyn Manson. In Mr. Manson's words, "he felt that his drug addiction was more important than playing bass for us." (One might speculate that it was the stress of the studio marathon that forced the issue.) His replacement was - you guessed it - that aforementioned member of Amboog-A-Lard, who was apparently more than willing to mutate from jeans-wearing rhythm guitarist to transvestite bass player. In a move that caused harsh words and a reportedly permanent chill between the Amboogies and the Mansons, Twiggy Ramirez became the newest member of Marilyn Manson.
While Twig went into training for the NiN tour, Interscope's qualms about Portrait were settled (two photos were removed from the design for the sleeve, including a childhood shot of Mr. Manson, discreetly nude), and things seemed to be on a relatively smooth upward course for the band. Their first single was "Get Your Gunn", released with accompanying - and widely unplayed - video on June 9, 1994, followed by the LP on July 12. The album's release was celebrated by the band and 1200 or so close friends on July 3rd at the 1994 Slammie Awards, where the Mansons headlined the show and won their second "Grand Slammie" for Band of the Year. Mr. Manson also collected that year's skull (plus a free tattoo) for Best Vocalist, his only receipt of that honor.
[Side note: Fans will have noticed that in the sleeve and promotional photos for POAAF and its singles, Mr. Manson is still wearing blue contact lenses in both eyes. It's not certain when he decided to wear only one lens, creating the bicolored blue/brown stare that has become his trademark. Quite possibly one blue lens was simply lost or damaged. It is however definite that the blue eye is a contact lens and not a glass or artificial eye; in early Spooky Kids video footage his natural jasper-green (tends to photograph as an amber/golden brown, but it's green) eye color is clearly visible in both eyes.]
After some scattered May and July 1994 dates with NiN, the band officially hit the road with them for fourteen weeks, from August 29th to December 11th. This was, without a doubt, the major breakthrough of Marilyn Manson's career, establishing in one swoop virtually their entire non-Florida fan base. Their powerful material, combined with an intense and highly visual stage show which had developed and tightened steadily since the early days of animal entrails and women in cages, made instant converts. (Footnote: It also caused enough invasion of new MM fans into the Usenet newsgroup alt.music.nin that the eventual proposal to establish alt.music.marilyn-manson passed virtually unchallenged. Today the band is represented on the Internet not only by that newsgroup, but also by at least two mailing lists and a constantly-growing host of Web pages. In fact, if you look up the name "Manson" in AltaVista, you'll find more citations for Marilyn than for Charlie.)
The tour produced several incidents which have made their way into MM history, notably the Salt Lake City, Utah, show on October 18th. Though this episode is commonly blamed on the city's notoriously conservative Mormon patriarchy, it was actually an independent decision by the equally tense management of the evening's venue, the Delta Center. Center staff had gotten advance warning about the Mansons and sent a delegation to view their October 16th show in Las Vegas, which they found objectionable on several points. As a result, the Center first made some stipulations about the presentation (which were accepted by NiN and MM); then, when the tour reached town, decreed that Nine Inch Nails would be allowed to play, but MM - though they would be paid - were forbidden to play unless they met an additional and more stringent list of conditions. According to a SLCity radio interview with Manson at the time, these conditions included demands that Manson not say anything between songs, that he alter the lyrics of certain songs, and that MM not sell any of its t-shirts or other merchandise at the venue.
The bands allegedly agreed to these terms, but during NiN's set the newly-ordained Reverend Manson was invited to join Trent onstage. He brought along a copy of the Book of Mormon. Reznor read a letter explaining why MM was forbidden to play, then offered his candid opinion of the letter and the situation in general. The Reverend made a few pointed comments about sin and the crowd's general beliefs, shredded the book (intoning the old daisy-petal chant "He loves me, He loves me not..." topped off with a bitter "--fuck Him!"), tossed it to the crowd and went off to help trash the dressing room. --When a Salt Lake City date was announced for the 1996-97 tour, no one was surprised to see that it was not at the Delta Center. (Or that it, too, was eventually postponed and relocated out of town.)
October, it should be noted here, had already included an event of personal importance, namely Mr. Manson's meeting with Dr. Anton Szandor LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan. Long influenced by LaVey's writings and philosophy, Manson arranged the meeting while the band was in California, and the two had an apparently cordial conversation. "He shared with me a lot of very important things that I've taken into effect in my life," said Manson to Seconds magazine, "and he also expressed that he felt Marilyn Manson was one of the more Satanic bands to come around in our time.... I was very happy that he noticed me for what I was doing." As a "reward for my good work", Dr. LaVey named Manson a priest of the CoS, and he has accordingly taken to using the title "Reverend", particularly when signing his writings. (It also for some time was his favorite form of direct address.) --The California date nearest to LaVey's San Francisco residence was in Oakland on Oct. 14th, so Mr. Manson quite probably received his new title a mere few days before the Salt Lake City show.
The other incident which has become well-known is the elaborate hazing which NiN engineered and excuted on the hapless Mansons on the last night of the tour, December 11th. Something was expected, Manson explains, since it's commonplace for the headliners to prank the opening act at tour's end. This one, however, began before MM's set with a fistfucking dare (Manson duly performed the deed - as fistfucker, it should be noted; not fistfuckee; the recipient has never been identified), followed by a dousing in salsa and baby powder; male strippers sent onstage during the set; a further dousing after the show (whipped cream this time), and the topper: handcuffing the Mansons, hauling them away in a pickup truck, and stranding them, soaking wet in 25-degree weather and with exactly $1.00 between them, in the very nasty downtown area of Philadelphia with a parting "Find your way home." By a nearly miraculous turn of luck, they were able to persuade some college students to drive them back to the venue. (Manson has commented that he was able to respect this, as it represented considerably more cruelty to a friend than he thought himself capable of, but what he thought at the time can only be imagined.)
After this, the Mansons may have counted themselves lucky to be back in Florida's relatively friendly surroundings, but by now they had seemingly become a trouble magnet. Hardly more than two weeks later, kicking off a set of four in-state dates at Jacksonville's Club 5, they discovered that their audience included a clutch of vice cops. Mr. Manson was arrested after the set, harrassed, and spent sixteen hours in jail on a charge of "violation of the Adult Entertainment Code" - i.e., public nudity. Club management had been under pressure from the Christian Coalition to cancel the band's performance, and Manson has said he feels the club basically handed them over to the law.(--When MM played the same club about six months later on the Danzig tour, their set was cut short by a sudden loss of electricity. Curious...)
With the second single from POAAF, "Lunchbox", now in release - accompanied by a video shot in 48 hours snatched from the NiN tour back in September, under the direction of notorous underground filmmaker Richard Kern - the Mansons hit the road once again for two months in early 1995, this time headlining, with Monster Voodoo Machine as support. MVM, an energetic hard rock-metal outfit, proved a fairly comfortable fit, and the shows were impressive. However, the next key element in the MM pocket mythology - the chicken - was about to assume prominence, and MVM must be held somewhat responsible.
Once again, it was the last night, this time March 11th, at Alcatrazz in Columbia SC. Acting on the January 13th incident at Trees in Dallas TX -- in which MM knocked a caged chicken around the stage, then tossed it into the mosh pit, and were later widely reported to have killed/sacrificed the bird (though it in fact escaped without losing more than a few feathers) -- MVM blanketed the stage with chicken parts, forcing the Mansons to perform in a slippery minefield of raw meat. [To be fair, the Mansons, having apparently learned bad habits from NiN, had sent their road crew to assault MVM during their set and plaster them with eggs, tomatoes, flour and vinegar; "got the makings of a complete Greek salad up here," cracked MVM singer Adam at one point. However, the voodoo monsters' retaliation was particularly inspired.] The set was disastrous, exacerbated by an indifferent-to-hostile audience, but some of MM's improvisations - notably MWG's "kill the chicken!" and of course "Next motherfucker's gonna get my chicken" - became staples of the following tour, along with a flock of similar references. (We can testify that during at least one 1995 Ohio soundcheck the band was heard to play a thunderous new song with a chorus that unmistakably howled "Kill the chicken, break its wings!" Pity it wasn't committed to tape.)
It should also be mentioned here that the previous night's show had featured another milestone, namely the last straw for drummer Sara Lee Lucas. Relations between Manson and Lucas had reportedly been tense for much of the tour (the Limelight show had featured a running barrage of water bottles and drumsticks between the two), and Manson had been repeatedly frustrated during the North and South Carolina gigs by local ordinances barring elements of their performance. Bad combination. Mistakenly believing this was the last night of the tour (he overlooked the Alcatrazz gig, which had been scheduled to make up for an earlier cancellation), he decided to go all-out with his beloved butane, torching not only his usual lunchbox but Sara's drum kit for a grand finale. Problem is, Sara was still behind it at the time, and found his exit route suddenly blocked by a bank of flame. The unnerved drummer lost some hair in his hasty escape, and by several reports, quit as soon as the tour was over. (Later remarks from Manson that Sara couldn't keep time may or may not be so, but almost certainly isn't the only reason for his departure.)
The hardworking Mansons, who had now been on the road virtually nonstop for seven months, took a bare two weeks off to catch their breath and run drum auditions. New drummer Ginger Fish, a likeable and accomplished studio tech, rose commendably to the considerable dual challenge of mastering their set in next to no time and making peace with the good-looking Lucas' disappointed fans.
Then they were off again. This time they centered the bill between KORN and black-metallers Danzig, from March 24th to May 19th, 1995. Anyone who speculated that there might be some interesting common ground between Glenn Danzig's oft-mentioned interest in diabolical lore and Mr. Manson's connections with the Church of Satan - misinformedly, of course, as the CoS doesn't believe in an actual Devil - was disappointed, as no such camaraderie materialized. Mr. Manson told a startled interviewer from South American MTV's Headbangers' Ball that "we've been naked with his (Danzig's) bus driver [the now-infamous Tony Wiggins], but that's as close as we came to sharing." (And said it with a straight face, too.) --Indeed, interband relationships reportedly grew a bit edgy as the tour progressed and the Mansons, tight, ferocious and honed to a killing edge, consistently blew the headliners' performance off the stage. If anyone thought being stripped of their usual props, limited to an abbreviated set, and (incidentally) plagued by equipment problems would show them up as a gimmicky concept band, s/he soon ate those words raw; Marilyn Manson won more fans every night with a series of blazing gigs that proved their stage sets and toys mere buttercream frosting.
--Not to suggest there was serious hostility between the bands, however. Mr. Manson soberly credits Glenn with saving his life at an East Coast venue, where "security" thugs took offense to being spat upon, and attacked Manson, Pogo, and road manager Frankie after the set. The assailants meant business, and this might be a shorter and sadder article had not the muscular and martial-arts-trained Danzig waded into the fight swinging a set of nunchuks.
With all this going on, it's understandable that the Mansons didn't go home for the 1995 Slammies. Nominated for Band of the Year, Best Vocalist, Best National Release (for Portrait of an American Family) and Best Single (for "Lunchbox"), they won the latter two. "The only band not on hand to accept their skulls was Marilyn Manson," noted the ceremony's press release in disappointment. "The band is filming a new video in New Orleans, where they plan to relocate." You can just hear the Floridian fans thinking: Saigon Kick all over again. --However, the band's New Orleans move was only temporary.
By now online fandom was buzzing about the next single, "Dope Hat", originally rumored to come out in late June/early July with another headining tour in support. But twas not to be. The Mansons wrapped up the Danzig tour and took a much-deserved but semi-working summer vacation, which included not only the shooting for the "Dope Hat" video but the studio sessions for what was rapidly spreading and crawling out of all semblance of a mere single. As summer became fall the "Dope Hat" single morphed into the EP Smells Like Children (the title's a quote from beloved Chitty Chitty Bang Bang villain The Child-Catcher), a 15-track mini-album including some of the band's most loved cover versions and illustrated with an inspired photo-portrait of Manson as a nightmarishly charming synthesis of Willy Wonka, the Child-Catcher, and the Cat in the Hat. It debuted on the Billboard charts at #53, while Portrait of an American Family finally achieved gold status in the fall of 1995. And speaking of Willy Wonka, the mind-boggling "Dope Hat" video, a hallucinatory, brightly colored and deeply disturbed riff on the boat ride sequence from "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," was approved and rejected by MTV enough times to give it a complex (they did actually play it a handful of times, albeit nervously, in an edited version, and in the freak-basement hours of 2-5 AM).
By October 24th, when SLC was released, Marilyn Manson had become cool news. Mainstream rock magazines began elbowing the newspapers and local zines aside in their haste to describe, review and interview this latest voice of the extreme edge. RIP's cover story led the way for features in Live Wire, Metal Edge, and a big push from that voice of grassroots American fandom, Circus. Guitarist Daisy even got a solo interview in Guitar World. Formula/nothing's clever press release for SLC sounds downright prescient in retrospect: "See them now before they are in jail, dead, or the hottest rock band in America!" "Hottest in America" is stretching it a long way (remember, POAAF had only just gone gold) but they were definitely growing out of cult status.
And see them you could, because they were back on the road as headliners, with thud/thrashers Clutch and a scattering of others opening. (Dull as wet cement and Christian to boot, Clutch failed to endear themselves to Manson fans, and will not be mentioned again.) The "Smells Like Children" tour opened on Sept. 12, 1995, at Cain's Ballroom in Tulsa OK, and ran almost nonstop until the first week of February 1996, when it wrapped up on the Mansons' Florida home turf. Those five months took the band and their fans through some of the most extreme and bone-chilling winter weather in U.S. history; when in January a tired-out and flu-suffering Daisy dubbed it the Snow Tour, no one disagreed. (Alternate sources for this term have since been suggested.) Manson, prone to respiratory ailments, was reportedly ill with varying degrees of colds, flu and bronchial pneumonia for much of this stretch. This played havoc with his throat and vocal capacity, and at several venues he resorted to hits from an oxygen tank to carry on. As the tour wore on, such measures were no longer enough, other vagaries arose, and a string of January shows was cancelled altogether.
The most famous incident of the Snow Tour, and one of the few MM stories that's purely comical, is the stranding of the band in Allentown, PA, after their Jan. 6th show at Starz. The culprit was the titanic Northeast blizzard of that weekend, which dumped 2-3 feet of snow on the seaboard, completely closed the city of Philadelphia, and generally forced anyone anywhere in Pennsylvania to stay put for at least the following few days. (Except, of course, us. We had no idea what we were heading into, and headed home from Allentown the morning after the gig; the usually-casual 3-hour Philly-to-Washington-DC drive took us eight scary and grueling hours. --But I digress.) The Mansons' Allentown hotel was also temporary home to, as only a fate on drugs would have it, the touring company of "Sesame Street Live" and the Orlando Magic basketball team, home of seven-foot superstar Shaquille O'Neal. A memorable quote to the New York Times from Orlando backup center Jon Concak sums it up: "Remember the bar scene from Star Wars with all the animals [aliens]? That's what it looked like last night. It was the Twilight Zone, man. A bunch of basketball players, Sesame Street, and some guy with green hair dressed like the Grim Reaper, chain-smoking." --At last report, all parted on friendly terms, though there may not have been the 3 AM "C Is For Cookie" singalong we can all picture.)
As the New Year 1996 got underway, news and rumors were already beginning to circulate about the band's forthcoming second LP, Antichrist Superstar. The interviews which describe the history and creation of this "soundtrack for the Apocalypse" are without a doubt the strangest given by Manson and Twiggy to date, and boosted the fear among online fans to a level of sustained dread which took months to subside. The album was already recorded, because it came from the future, they said; it meant the end of Marilyn Manson, the end of the world, the end of everything; it was being created in Trent's New Orleans studio, in an organized torture chamber of sleep deprivation, pain, Kabbalistic magick and heavy drugs that made it possible for them to exactly capture Manson's vivid dreams; and it would be their last recording. No one knew what to make of this, and literal-minded speculations of band separation and even mass suicide were pandemic.
Out of this period also came another wave of rumors, and these regrettably proved true: lead guitarist and MM co-founder Daisy Berkowitz was unhappy with the new music, on the outs with Manson, and planning to leave the band. After a flurry of announcements and denials, during which it was unclear if he was even present in the ACS recording sessions, his departure was made official in early April. Fan sorrow was keen, as the good-natured guitarist with the vivid blue-green hair and unique sonic style was a great favorite. Tension had obviously been developing throughout the Clutch tour --most blatantly displayed in the NYC New Year's Eve show, when Manson actually shoved Daisy off the edge of the stage at the end of the set-- but outsiders couldn't be aware things were this bad, and the shock expressed online was genuine.
Both Manson and Daisy have commented at length regarding Berkowitz' departure. It is beyond the scope or intent of this article to cover their arguments in any detail. Manson's general line is that Daisy was unwilling to completely commit to the band and its ideas, and considered Marilyn Manson basically a lucrative day job; Berkowitz, for his part, is considerably more acrimonious, and has filed a lawsuit against Manson for financial damages and breach of contract. See Kurt Reighley's 1998 biography of the band, titled simply Marilyn Manson, for details. The lawsuit is still pending as of mid-1998.-- Under the name Three Ton Gate, the Artist Formerly Known As Daisy (plus vocal support) issued a 1997 LP, "Vanishing Century", before joining perennial Florida shockdolls Jack Off Jill.
Back to 1996: Spring and plans therefore progressed, and the second single and video from Smells Like Children were released. This was the much-contested "Sweet Dreams," a darkened cover of the 1984 Eurythmics hit. Easily the most accessible and radio-friendly of the SLC tracks, it was the natural choice for a single - a deceptive bait for SLC's trap. With the help of a cryptic and visually striking but carefully inoffensive video, which (to some fans' horror) attained Buzz Clip status on MTV, SD looked likely to be Marilyn Manson's next breakthrough. But its very openness attracted a wide range of new listeners, from the newly devoted to the merely curious and the thoughtlessly trendy, and this influx of strangers into our little world polarized MM fandom like nothing before. The debate raged among online "Spooks" (the "Spooky Kids" moniker dropped by the band has been adopted by its followers) for months - some tearful and bewildered, some reasonable, many defensive and furious. Who were these know-nothing Manson newbies, the much-reviled "SweetDreamers"? Mindless consumers, sucklers at the MTV nipple; flighty fun-seekers who'd be gone tomorrow; cynical sensation junkies here to vampirize the energy; violent mosh addicts out for blood; or genuine could-be Family members who'd just arrived a little late?
--All of the above, of course, but that didn't keep many online fans from pulling up the drawbridge and taking to the barricades in a determined attempt to keep the newcomers out. To a degree this is understandable. The core of Marilyn Manson fandom is hurt and troubled kids to whom MM's music and ideas are intensely personal. Like NiN fandom when "Closer" became an unexpected hit and swamped them with hordes who only knew "that fuck-you-like-an-animal song," many Spooks thought of the SD'ers as outsiders who didn't and couldn't truly understand. Eventually it should dawn on everyone that we were all new here once, but SD long remained a bone of great contention, and for quite awhile any new arrival who wanted to be taken seriously took pains to state that s/he was not a SweetDreamer.
As the summer passed, rumored release dates for Antichrist Superstar came and went. June 6th (6/6/6 - cute) was popularly batted about for awhile, but October eventually delivered both the true release date, 10/8/96, and the schedule for the band's next headlining outing. In America, some record stores opened at midnight to sell copies of ACS as soon as October 7th became October 8th -- an unusual tribute for a band of MM's stature, as special openings are usually reserved for hot commercial acts like Hootie or long-standing stars such as U2. Keen speculation and a few clandestinely-leaked advance tapes had helped push fan anticipation to a fever that undoubtedly boosted ACS to its surprising debut in Bilboard's #3 slot. Reviews were overall positive, generally agreeing that ACS was a serious, dark and intense work showing considerably more maturity and depth than POAAF. Fan feeling ranged from mesmerized awe to a rather poignant regret, as some mourned the stark darkness of tone and the loss of the old songs' creepy carnival humor. Others dove into analysis of the new work, recalling Manson's statements about the use of Kabbalah, numerology and other occult systems in its creation. The cryptic and complex packaging was scrutinized almost as closely as the songs, much time being devoted to figuring out the numerical codes and sigils tracing through it. Deserving of equal study is Dean Karr's evocative photography, including an amazing sequence which shows Manson's actual metamorphosis from a half-larval "wormboy" to a triumphal insect-winged angel-form.
The Kabbalah, an ancient system of Jewish mysticism, also served to provide the name for the newest Manson member, Zim Zum. After screening a reported 150 respondents to their Village Voice ad, Marilyn and Twiggy chose as their new guitarist this Gothic-looking Chicagoan, formerly (briefly) with Life Sex and Death. (He does not play on LSD's one CD, which had already been released when he did his two-week stint with them.) While the name Zim Zum has been defined to some of the press as the name of "an angel who did God's dirty work," it seems as likely to derive from the Kabbalistic term tzimtzum or tsimtsum, which refers to the empty space God made (i.e., withdrew his presence from) in the Universe, to make room for the Creation. Magickally-inclined fans can perhaps see the parallel here, in which band co-creator Daisy is withdrawn, leaving an empty space that must be filled with a new creation. (It should be noted that diligent Spooks did manage to turn up a serial killer and a fashion model who could fit the name "Zim Zum" into the pre-existing nomenclature mold. Zim himself admitted he was impressed by their ingenuity, but the name isn't intended to match that pattern.) --Zim was introduced to fans in the video for ACS' first single, "The Beautiful People" - where some baffled fans mistook him for Trent Reznor - and was featured in the flood of publicity that accompanied ACS' release.
This barrage of coverage was the most impressive - and somewhat unsettling- that Marilyn Manson ha received. At one point in late 1996 it was possible to walk into your local magazine dealership and see the band's name or Mr. Manson's face on the covers of no fewer than ten periodicals at once, from the cheesy pulps - Hit Parader, Metal Edge and Metal Maniacs - to high-end glossies like Details and Rolling Stone. HuH Magazine did an insightful feature with moody sepiatone portraits of Rev. Manson by James&Matthew;
Zim Zum's first live show with MM was at this year's "Nothing Night" showcase on September 5th in New York City. According to all reports, it was a rocky debut, ending in havoc, thrown guitars and overnight hospitalization for drummer Ginger. Trent Reznor, thanking the attending bands at the close of the show, pointedly did not mention Marilyn Manson.
This can't have reassured the new kid, who, like Ginger before him, now faced the prospect of setting out on tour within a mere few weeks of accepting his Manson role. The stats in themselves were daunting. The "Dead To The World" Tour was to be the band's most extensive yet: 18 months, including MM's first ever shows in South America, Europe and the UK, plus showcasing an elaborate stage design unlike anything MM have used before. About the only mercy the fledgling guitarist could count on was that he didn't have to learn much of the band's older repertoire along with the new material, as the set for this tour was predominantly songs from ACS.
The stage production was truly impressive, including a full backdrop suggesting a ruined church complete with stained-glass window (depicting a female angel in combat with Satan), framed by impaled angels; a pipe organ for Gacy; a towering podium for Manson; costume changes and even snow machines.)
Tied tightly to a precisely-timed succession of pre-recorded material and audiovisual/lighting cues, the tour's stage presentation was early on plagued by technical glitches and the resultant frayed nerves, causing a string of Eastern shows to conclude unfinished. These were (thankfully) ironed out in the second half of the tour, of which only a few gigs failed. The nervous tension was doubtless worsened by a series of macabre rumors that raced with viral speed through the Internet during September and October 1996, predicting Manson's onstage suicide at the band's Hallowe'en concert. It was shocking to see how many audience members (we will not call them "fans") at the Oct. 30th and 31st shows clearly believed their ticket price included a good look at the public death of at least Mr. Manson and possibly the whole band. The Reverend is reported to have stated decisively that he wouldn't be that easy to get rid of.)
In December, while Manson was dealing with media hysteria and shows in Great Britain hastily relocated under pressure of moral outrage, an old enemy resurfaced at home. In mid-December, former "drug czar" turned self-styled "culture warrior" William Bennett held a press conference to chide MCA Music for releasing several objectionable CD's - one of which was Antichrist Superstar. (We and our "NiNnie" cousins well remember Bennett as then-Senator Dole's ally in the 1995 attack on Time-Warner, which prominently targeted Nine Inch Nails.) Bennett alleged that MCA head Edgar Bronfman, who as CEO of Seagrams (the well-known whiskey distillery) purchased the 50% of Interscope which Time-Warner was harried into selling, had promised Bennett he would not profit from the sale of any "violent or profane" material. --Alas for Bill, with sales of 600K units ACS may well be considered profitable. Bennett, flanked by Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn) and long-time pro-censor/anti-rock & rap crusader C. DeLores Tucker, made a memorable presentation backed by an enlargement of the ACS back cover art. Indicating the image, which shows Madonna and Twiggy inhaling from face-mask hoses attached to Manson's prosthetic dildo, Bennett charged that if Bronfman "can't tell this is filth and crap" he shouldn't even be in the business. Bronfman's response is not recorded. --The news conference was actually reported on CNN, probably the widest single exposure of Marilyn Manson's name and image up to that point.
Reported in the band's future at the end of 1997 were: the tour's return to America; cover features in Rolling Stone and Spin magazines (yes, like his beloved Dr. Hook, Manson finally makes the "cover of the Rolling Stone" --and within days of his birthday too); the already-legendary February 14th 1997 show; the "Tourniquet" single and video; and breast implants for Marilyn and Twiggy. (Or so they say. =)...go back to Coyote's Spookhouse.