Henry Rollins remembers being pen pals with the psychotic Charles Manson
We’re dipping into the Far Out vault to bring you some of the most curious pen pal moments as Charles Manson and Henry Rollins share their thoughts.
Henry Rollins is a pretty intense guy — that’s something we can all agree on. However, nobody is as heavy and intense as the psychotic Charles Manson. It turns out, during the eighties the pair were one-time pen pals. and we’ve got some of their communications below.
The singer of Black Flag was first connected with Charles Manson, the man who died in prison while serving life for his involvement and orchestration of the Sharon Tate murders, after Manson had written and recorded an album of music to release. But, surely, nobody would pick this up?
Rollins picks up the story, “His attorney sent SST Records – I’m not an owner, I just work there, SST and Touch & Go and every other indie label — a copy of a C90 and a C60 of Manson playing at Vacaville [Prison].”
“All the labels passed. SST didn’t. Greg Ginn and Chuck Dukowski said yes to the project. There was no one there to edit it, everyone’s busy. And I said “I’ll do it.” I put on the tapes and listened. It’s good!” It’s a sentiment that many have shared over the years.
Here’s where the story differs depending on your source, while Rollins suggests in The Guardian, “He wrote me a letter out of the blue once and he said, ‘I saw you on MTV and I thought you were pretty cool'”.
“At the time I was very young and having him write me letters made me feel intense and heavy,” he said. “I’d always know I’d have a letter in my PO Box from him because the woman behind the counter at the post office would give you this awful look. His letters would always have swastikas on them so they were easy to spot.” In other quotes from Rollins, the singer suggests a slightly different turn of events occurred.
The Manson Blog, who may have some invested interest, quote Rollins as saying, “I write Charles Manson a very Boy Scoutish letter, ‘I read Helter Skelter in ninth grade so I’m aware of your career,’ I said “I’m your editor and I’ve been working on edits. I’m going to fade in and fade out. I have a 35 minute record. I think it’s good.”
Rollins continues to shed light on the weird companionship, “I had this correspondence with him that lasted from ‘84 to 1987. And like I have letters, photographs, maps, drawings, things he’d make me out of yarn. Crazy stuff. But the record got as far as the six test pressings.”
The Black Flag singer suggested that working on the album saw the threat of violence was increasing with every day, “Word of the record came out, the L.A. Times got a hold of it. We started getting the most incredible death threats. Like, “Here’s your address and I will cut your head off if you put this record out.” And “I know you practice here. You live here and you walk this way to practice.” I’m like wow, this is real.”
“I wanted to put the record out. I said screw these guys — let’s do it. Greg and Chuck cancelled it.” The Black Flag singer would divulge that the notoriously unhinged Manson would, naturally, not take the dropping of his record very well. Not something we would like to tell him either.
Rollins says, “Manson took it all out on me, like ‘I knew you’d rip me off!’ He called me a bunch of names. I tried to explain the cult politicism of SST Records and our stated station in L.A. I tried and he’s like ‘No, you ripped me off. The Beach Boys ripped me off. All you guys…’ – All kinds of language.”
The singer revealed that while Manson didn’t understand intially he eventually took on Rollins’ position, “I’m like, “Charlie, it’s not me. I’m on the label but I’m not the label.” You can’t explain something like that to a guy like that,” Rollins continues, “The last letter I ever got from him he said okay, we’re cool. And then I never heard from him again.”
While the record is floating around in the ether of the internet, Rollins admits that while he thinks it’s a good record, clearly the sounds have a certain intensity and power, he says it is not his decision to put it our or not. “Of the six test presses, I have two. So that’s probably the rarest thing from it. But it’ll never be released by SST, I doubt it. But it’s out there, it’s around.”
We won’t be the publication to bring it to you now, so instead, we will give you Henry Rollins performing Ramones classic. Enjoy.