The Time Neil Young Met Charles Manson, Liked His Music, and Tried to Score Him a Record Deal

Wag­ing Heavy Peace — it’s not your aver­age rock star biog­ra­phy. There’s not much sex and drugs. There’s some rock ’n’ roll. But most­ly, there’s a lot of Neil Young being an ordi­nary guy, hang­ing out with fam­i­ly and friends, tin­ker­ing with toy trains, and refur­bish­ing old cars. It’s a decid­ed­ly down-to-earth auto­bi­og­ra­phy, so far as auto­bi­ogra­phies go. But it’s not entire­ly devoid of fan­tas­ti­cal sto­ries. Like the time when, dur­ing the late 1960s, Young stopped by the Los Ange­les home of Den­nis Wil­son, the drum­mer of The Beach Boys. There, Wil­son was liv­ing with three or four girls who had an “intense vibe” and a “detached qual­i­ty about them.” Young con­tin­ues:

After a while, a guy showed up, picked up my gui­tar, and start­ed play­ing a lot of songs on it. His name was Char­lie. He was a friend of the girls and now of Den­nis. His songs were off-the-cuff things he made up as he went along, and they were nev­er the same twice in a row. Kind of like Dylan, but dif­fer­ent because it was hard to glimpse a true mes­sage in them, but the songs were fas­ci­nat­ing. He was quite good.

Young then adds:

I asked him if he had a record­ing con­tract. He told me he did­n’t yet, but he want­ed to make records. I told Mo Ostin at Reprise about him, and rec­om­mend­ed that Reprise check him out.… Short­ly after­ward, the Sharon Tate-La Bian­ca mur­ders hap­pened, and Char­lie Man­son’s name was known around the world.

After the mur­ders, Man­son kind of got a record deal. His record­ings were com­mer­cial­ly released on the album Lie: The Love and Ter­ror CultAbove, we have one bizarrely upbeat song from the col­lec­tion, “Home Is Where You’re Hap­py.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Neil Young Reveals the New Killer Gad­get That Will Save Music

Neil Young Busk­ing in Glas­gow, 1976: The Sto­ry Behind the Footage

‘The Nee­dle and the Dam­age Done’: Neil Young Plays Two Songs on The John­ny Cash Show, 1971

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