52 years ago, on the night of August 8, Charles Manson ordered a number of his subordinates to go to 10050 Cielo Drive in the Hollywood Hills and kill anybody who was there.
He was likely looking for Terry Melcher, the producer recommended to Manson through Dennis Wilson, drummer for The Beach Boys. Melcher had previously rented the house but had recently moved out, leaving space for director Roman Polanski and his wife Sharon Tate to occupy the residency. Melcher had reneged on a number of promised recording sessions with Manson.
Although he never personally carried out any of the killings, Manson was the patriarch of the Manson Family cult and gave instructions to individuals like Tex Watson and Susan Atkins on where to go and what to do. As the members were arrested and Manson’s philosophy began to come to light, the ultimate scenario that he allegedly laid out was revealed: an imminent race war in America. Manson even had a name for the scenario, “Helter Skelter”.
So too was Manson’s connection to The Beatles revealed. Manson never met any of The Beatles, nor was there any point of contact to relate them. Manson was a fan, just like how everyone in the world was a Beatles fan. But Manson, in his psychotic mental state, began hearing messages and making connections within the band’s music and believed that the band were sending him coded messages directly.
The connections that Manson allegedly made were minor at best, but similar deep dives created less serious public furores like the “Paul is Dead” conspiracy, so Manson wasn’t alone in trying to overindulge his personal interpretations of the band’s music. ‘Sexy Sadie’ had to refer to Atkins because Manson had nicknamed her ‘Sadie’. ‘Rocky Racoon’ must be referencing the race war because of the slur that can be extrapolated from the second word. ‘Honey Pie’ appealed for the Hollywood Jesus Christ, Manson himself, to come to England. ‘Revolution 9’ has the sound of the upcoming war.
These interpretations, to any sane person, would be ludicrous, but Manson was not a sane individual, and the vehement certainty of his connection to The Beatles meant that, for the entirety of their lives, there would be a disturbing and macabre connection to Manson and the Beatles. Manson would dismiss most of the “Helter Skelter” scenario as a plot against him, but he never denied the ethos behind the connections. Instead, he blamed The Beatles for putting those messages out there, and the public for putting the onus on him. Manson thought it was a case of shooting the messenger, illustrating how deeply his fractured mind had cracked.
The Beatles rarely acknowledged Manson, likely not to indulge him further or to bring any more significant association to the connection, or lack thereof, between them. John Lennon once described how the Beatles laughed at wild interpretations of their lyrics, but Manson’s sickly twist made them reconsider the scope of their influence. Ringo Starr had met both Polanski and Tate, and expressed relief upon Manson’s arrest. George Harrison was angry at Manson’s association with the group, while McCartney refused to play ‘Helter Skelter’ for a number of years due to the connection.
In the end, Manson was simply a fanatical human being who also happened to be a fanatical Beatle fan. His connection to the group was always in his own head, and the public relationship between the two has always been a sore subject for The Beatles to comment on or come to terms with. The reality is that there was no connection between Charles Manson and The Beatles, at least until Manson forced the world to see his maniacal vision.