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Death on the Fault Line

Torture, blood sacrifice and sinister messages extracted from Beatles lyrics. The final surges of the California Death Ray.

[dropcap style=”font-size:100px; color:#992211;”]E[/dropcap]veryone involved has a different take on the first Manson Family atrocity: the torture and murder of drug dealer Gary Hinman.

Maybe he screwed the Family on a drug deal, maybe not. Bobby Beausoleil did the actual deed and took the rap but Family members Susan Atkins and Tex Watson (who later participated in the killings at the Tate and La Bianca households) were certainly present. Maybe Charlie was there that night, maybe not.A picture of Charles Manson

The LA cops were aware that Bobby had been tight with the Manson cult, who had a recorded history of casual felony, and they should have made the connection to the subsequent Tate crime. Amongst other similarities the word ‘pigs’ was inscribed in blood at both of the crime scenes.

They didn’t, and their incompetence resulted in the deaths of the hapless La Biancas who were stabbed to death shortly after the Tate massacre with knives and forks from their own kitchen drawer. Hinman was the tremor, Cielo Drive the quake and the La Bianca’s were a grizzly aftershock.

Charles Manson, who killed none of the above, joined Bobby on death row in 1969. The State’s Prosecuting Attorney, Vincent Bugliosi, took the hard road in Court. His audacious strategy was to convince the jury that Manson’s hypnotic power over his followers deserved the death sentence. There was no precedent for this type of verdict.

Aided by Charlie’s deranged courtroom antics such as carving the mark of the Beast on his forehead and making a physical attack on the judge, Bugliosi got the verdict he and the State wanted. His book Helter Skelter, based on his trial notes, was a bestseller and became the basis of a surprisingly good seventies tv drama.

Charlie and Bobby managed to sustain their appeals until California finally abolished the death penalty in 1972. Their sentences were commuted to life.

This legislation would eventually turn out to be a lucky break for Kenneth Anger. By the mid-seventies he had finally finished shooting his silent masterpiece Lucifer Rising and was looking for a powerful music score to match his exotic visuals. The British taxpayer had part-funded his devilish work by contributing fifteen thousand pounds to the production.

Aleister Crowley

The Film Council’s generosity allowed Anger to take Marianne Faithful (Lilith) and Donald Camell (Osiris) to Egypt for shots involving the Sphinx and the Great Pyramid at Giza. Mick Jagger’s brother Chris was to have played the title role, completing the Rolling Stones connection. In the end he was replaced by a Sheffield steelworker named Lesley Huggins.

When the film was in good shape (an Anger picture is never actually finished as he continues to re-appraise and re-work them constantly, creating multiple versions of the shorts that comprise his Magic Lantern Cycle) Anger ‘bumped into’ Jimmy Page in London (at an auction of Crowley memorabilia).  Followers of Led Zeppelin will be aware that JP is an admirer of Aleister Crowley and his works.

This ‘chance’ meeting of two like-minded artists could have produced something explosively attractive.  There was an explosion, but it was one that blew the collaboration apart.

Jimmy had just completed his contribution to the Zeppelin concert film The Song Remains The Same. It had been a thankless task. In the nineteen eighties I worked with the late Joe Massot, who directed the, mostly unusable, concert footage. He blamed the debacle on Zeppelin’s manager Peter Grant.

[quote]torture, blood sacrifice

and sinister messages extracted

from Beatles lyrics[/quote]

After Joe was fired from the project Australian director Peter Clifton attempted to save it by convincing the band to ‘re-create’ (mime) their performances on a UK soundstage in order to fill out the missing footage. Some members had to wear wigs as their hairstyles had changed. The film version of TSRTS is the one flawed jewel in an otherwise sparkling Led Zeppelin canon.

The album cover makes a sly allusion to failure by featuring a graphic artwork of an abandoned movie theatre. It is partially overlaid onto another, mostly obscured, artwork of the same theatre hosting a dazzling Hollywood premiere.

Lucifer Rising

To aid his work on the film Page had installed an edit suite in his basement and it was there that Anger set to work on Lucifer Rising. He even managed to talk his composer into making an extremely brief cameo appearance. If you are precise with the stop button you can catch a glimpse of the great Zoso staring at an abstruction of the Stele of Revealing.

Crowley first saw the original of this artefact at the Cairo Museum in 1904. Its catalogue number was 666 and it precipitated a visitation from a preternatural intelligence known as Aiwass. This being dictated to Crowley the Book Of the Law, which, along with the Stele, is a foundation stone of the mysterious cult of Thelema.A picture of a led zeppelin album cover

At first these two agents of Horus went at their task with a unified will. Jimmy Page slaved long and hard to produce 20 minutes of seamless music for the score while Anger refined his edit. This radical and disturbing soundscape was made available on vinyl in 2012. Unfortunately it was never married to film.

Anger claims that he turned up for work one morning and Page’s wife, Charlotte, refused to let him in the house.  Never one to go quietly he stormed off and immediately concocted a toxic press release, which threw venom and curses in Page’s direction. The notoriously press-shy Page was stung into conducting an interview with writer Chris Salewicz in order to refute Anger’s version of events.

In the occult world magicians often ‘fall out’ with each other. They conduct magical duels and occasionally recruit others to their cause, escalating minor skirmishes into astral wars. It is as though the process of harnessing two or more sorcerers to the same task is so delicate and volatile that the smallest misstep results in blasting rods at dawn and a radioactive fallout with incalculable consequences.

The Beatles and the Beach Boys

In part one I detailed the tangential involvement of two bands from the light-side who fell into the shade of the Manson Family killings: The Beatles and the Beach Boys. The fault lines deep inside the Beatles are obvious in retrospect and not just a simple matter of Lennon Vs McCartney with Yoko in the middle.

There was a third brilliant songwriter in the mix whose passive/aggressive attitude towards the band casts a surly pall over their later works. It was the Krishna lover George Harrison who wrote ‘Piggies’ for the White Album – a very nasty song indeed.

On the other side of the pond the Beach Boys were sharply divided over Bryan Wilson’s attempts to create a new kind of symphonic pop music. Singer Mike Love – a poster boy for transcendental meditation, fought the brilliant songwriter producer every step of the way and eventually steered the band in a more conventional direction when its prime composer suffered a mental breakdown.Cover art from the Beach Boys' Surf's Up

In part two I alluded to the way Brian Jones was hounded out of the beat group he had carefully nurtured by an unholy alliance of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and the band’s manager Andrew Loog Oldham. It was a cruel and ugly power struggle that eventually decimated the artistic output of the Rolling Stones.

And here in part three are the scant details concerning the premature death of a moonchild (a magical artistic creation) that could have resulted from the collaboration of Kenneth Anger and Jimmy Page. ‘As brothers ye fight’.

Magicians and musicians with mighty egos give shape to invisible forces, forces that, in this particular case, were magnetised and focused by the unstable force of the California Death Ray. Werner Herzog, a recent convert to the California lifestyle, has stated that everything new in popular culture originates there.

What the Family did may not have been pretty, but it was certainly new to the annals of true crime: three remote control killings with no rational motive.

When the stars brought them together Bobby Beausoleil was a handsome bisexual dude under the hoodoo curse of a celluloid sorcerer. Charlie with the laser beam eyes had failure churning through his guts.  Manson’s attempt to inject his curious philosophy into mainstream pop culture had missed the vein.

It was one thing manipulating a bunch of sad losers and a drug-addled train wreck like Dennis Wilson. Convincing a hard-nosed record industry figure like Terry Melcher was quite another. Charlie blew it when he lost his temper in front of the producer and revealed the true nature of his beast, but by that time he had constructed a mesmeric death machine.

Bobby saw that all of that pent up energy had to go somewhere. His dark energy kicked the whole thing onto a new plane where it could only be satisfied by torture, blood sacrifice and sinister messages extracted from Beatles lyrics.


There is a happy ending and reconciliation – of sorts – involved in this dark tale. Anger retraced his steps back down his personal fault line to the original star of Lucifer Rising. In 1979 he asked Bobby to compose a new score and assemble a ‘jailhouse orchestra’ to perform and record the piece.  Surprisingly the Prison authorities agreed to this unusual request and Beausoleil produced a fine piece of music for the film.

Today he runs a profitable web site from his jail cell offering Lucifer Rising T Shirts and other related merchandise.

Concerning the others who rode the quake….

Only two of the Beatles are still alive and one of them wrote Helter Skelter.
Over the years Brian Wilson has made a variety of comebacks assisted by various gurus, quack doctors and prescription drugs.
The Rolling Stones continued to make decent music for a couple of years after Brian Jones’s death.
Jimmy Page has steered the Led Zeppelin legacy with a firm hand on the tiller and they are now appreciated as the greatest rock band of all time.
Kenneth Anger is somewhere in California, approaching with vigour the death he has always longed for.

Charles Manson image: San Quentin Correctional Center
Sidebar Image: Ryan McGuire

Read on: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3


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