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From Johnny Cash to The Doors: The 9 songs that made Marilyn Manson


Marilyn Manson is an undoubted musical powerhouse. The ‘Antichrist Superstar’ has become an all-encompassing bastion of the subversive. During the nineties and early noughties, he was a deliberate attempt to confront the mainstream with something displeasing to their sugar-coated tastes.

In musical terms, he stood in front of them with a big sign that said: “Fuck off, I’m Marilyn Manson”. Today, it feels ubiquitous with the rock and roll scene that Manson is doing something to annoy those certain evangelical groups.

Like many of those groups, Manson has grown a little weary of a shock for shock’s sake and instead started to cultivate not only his musical output, but his image and his standing within the community. It has seen the singer take on new forms and strange new guises.

Manson is no longer the mouthpiece of a disenfranchised generation, he is the cultured elder statesman of the heavy metal scene preaching the qualities of the artistic process as integral to the genre’s survival. Manson has elevated himself and the whole scene went with him.

In his 2015 feature for Rolling Stone, Manson stands proudly next to that achievement and dishes out a little insight for those looking for his advice on what music will help them to become successful. Manson chose the below nine tracks as marks of either personal growth, astounding artistry or intense musical bravery. There’s one which you will not see coming.

Speaking of the track ‘We Are The Dead’ from David Bowie in 1974, Manson said: “I remember hearing this song in the Nineties when I first moved to L.A. It wouldn’t have had the same impact on me if I’d heard it when I was a kid in Ohio — it felt like it was about the culture of Hollywood, the disgusting cannibalism. It was a great inspiration to me on Antichrist Superstar.”

Another song which stood out for Manson from Bowie’s long and illustrious collection, is surprise, suprise, another rarity. Manson selected ‘Cat People (Putting Out Fire)’ from 1982, saying: “A great song lyrically — very biting, very strong, very powerful. I never really liked this song on Let’s Dance, but I love the version on the soundtrack to the film Cat People.”

Perhaps many people will be surprised by the singer’s next pick, though and any avid fans will know the place in Manson’s heart especially reserved for N.W.A. Manson selects the band’s track ‘Straight Outta Compton’. “I was in a completely different phase of music when I first heard this,” he commented. “I was living in Florida at the time, and I was trying to go against my environment, which was lots of 2 Live Crew and N.W.A — so I was probably listening to Jane’s Addiction, the Cure and Joy Division.”

Adding: “But eventually I listened and I thought, ‘You know what? N.W.A is as punk-rock as anyone’.” It’s hard to argue with that fact.

Now, here’s a song you definitely didn’t expect. However, after listening to Manson’s reasoning for choosing the song, it’s again an astute pick. Manson, the dark prince himself opts for Justin Timberlake’s ‘Cry Me A River’. “People underestimate how badass Justin Timberlake can be,” says the goth hero.

“Coming from a boy band, he probably wanted to break that mould and show people his darker side, and that’s ‘Cry Me a River.’ In addition, I was told by my great friend Johnny Depp that he’d ‘buy me a liver’ if I ever needed him to, so there’s that.”

Johnny Depp might need to if Manson was to follow the path of his next selection, the grand man of country, Johnny Cash and his song ‘Cocaine Blues’. “It’s hard to pick just one favourite Johnny Cash song, but this is the one I listen to before I go onstage. I listen to the version that he played at Folsom Prison — the one where you can actually hear his voice crack. You can hear that grit in his throat. It makes it real.”

Another legendary member of their field which made the selection was Jimi Hendrix. Manson picked the mercurial guitar player’s classic track ‘Hey Joe’, about which he said: “This song is similar to ‘Cocaine Blues’ in that they’re both about killing a woman. It’s sort of like how we call tank-top shirts wife-beaters. It’s strange that that’s part of American culture.”

Hendrix represents creative freedom which spoke to the counter-culture movement and we’d imagine Manson. Another artist who did both was Jim Morrison and his band The Doors. “I played some shows with the surviving members of the Doors a couple of years ago. I did ‘Five to One,’ I did ‘People Are Strange’ — but I would never do ‘The End’,” revealed Manson.

That song was too precious to attempt, “No one touches that song. That’s sacred. Even though it came out earlier, ‘The End’ really feels like it defines 1969, the year I was born: Altamont, Woodstock, the end of the Summer of Love and all that shit.” Manson did eventually cover the track in 2019 and did a fine job of it too.

Of course, no Marilyn Manson list would be complete without our next selection, Alice Cooper.

Manson picked the track ‘I’m Eighteen’, saying of the song: “One of the first songs that I heard by Alice Cooper when I was growing up. I listened to it because my mother, who loved Neil Diamond and the Bee Gees, also loved Alice Cooper. At the time, it didn’t make me think, ‘I’m going to be a singer’. But I could identify with it. It felt true, and it will always be true. Much later, I toured with Alice and I got to sing it with him, which was a childhood dream come true.”

Manson also paid tribute to a contemporary and a friend, Billy Corgan and his band Smashing Pumpkins, picking their iconic song ‘Today’. “Billy Corgan and I became friends about 15 years ago, when I was working on Mechanical Animals and he was working on what would become Adore. Even before that, I always loved this song. People might think of it as a happy pop song, but it’s actually very dark. When he says, ‘Today is the greatest day’, it’s an ironic statement, and people don’t catch that.”

Marilyn Manson 9 favourite songs:

  • ‘We Are the Dead’ – David Bowie
  • ‘Cat People (Putting Out Fire)’ – David Bowie
  • ‘Straight Outta Compton’ – N.W.A.
  • ‘Cry Me A River’ – Justin Timberlake
  • ‘Cocaine Blues’ – Johnny Cash
  • ‘Hey Joe’ – Jimi Hendrix
  • ‘The End’ – The Doors
  • ‘I’m Eighteen’ – Alice Cooper
  • ‘Today’ – Smashing Pumpkins