By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
This litany of Manson's accomplishments, bludgeoning though it may be, is necessary to put him in historical perspective. And a look through the rock pantheon quickly narrows the field of comparable artists. In terms of their music and their godly stature, Elvis, Lennon, Hendrix and Morrison are in their own categories, largely because they're dead. James Brown is James Brown. Dylan is Dylan. But in terms of scope (the images, the books, the talk, etc.), only two pop stars compare to Manson: Bowie and Madonna; excluding the inconclusive evidence as to whether any of them can act (Manson's working on his own screen career), Manson at least matches up to both, art for art, and often excels. In terms of impact, Bowie's and Madonna's longer runs have established them as can't-fuck-with-'em entertainers. Manson is already that and more.
THE CANTON, OHIO, YOUTH OF MARILYN MANSON -- Brian Warner to his parents -- is often described as normal. It wasn't, unless it's normal to be exposed to your grandfather's bestial pornography, molested by a neighbor kid, smothered by a burglar, devastated by the poisoning of your pet dog and tormented by the potential genetic consequences of your father's Agent Orange contamination. Young Brian's mother doted on the sickly child; his salesman father was chronically absent.
A breeding ground of pop misfits, Ohio is the home of Devo, the Dead Boys, Pere Ubu, Chrissie Hynde, payola DJ Alan Freed and, more recently, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Brian was a misfit, too, especially at Heritage Christian School, an institution he attended through 10th grade, where he swallowed frequent doses of hell and the Antichrist. He began having nightmares at an early age, and continues to have them today.
Brian made an early exit from Heritage -- where, his autobiography says, he sold albums by forbidden artists such as Judas Priest at inflated prices; according to a Manson interview in Q magazine, he also stole money from girls' purses during prayer sessions. Finishing his formal education at the public GlenOaks High School, he wasn't popular. ä
When his father moved the family in 1988 after finding new work in southern Florida, Brian's social situation didn't improve much. He wrote reviews and conducted interviews, including one with Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor, for a couple of local arts papers. He managed a record store, from which he stole. He hung out in the region's extreme-music scene, wrote poems and turned them into songs. He formed bands, developed his ideas, and started performing as Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids, whose shows featured chicken entrails thrown into the audience and women crucified onstage. In 1990, the group opened for Nine Inch Nails -- an association that would become crucial later, after numerous changes of M.M. personnel, when Reznor signed Manson to his Nothing Records, a subsidiary of Interscope. But long before they were signed, they were magnetic, twice winning awards at south Florida's musical Slammies, for which Manson was also tapped as a presenter. Video footage from the 1993 ceremony shows him casual and polite. When an honoree fails to show up, Manson simply chucks the heavy trophy off the stage. "Excuse me," he inquires of an audience member, "did I hit you?"
Manson's career has always been successful, i.e., turbulent. Retail chains have refused to carry his recordings. Riots have attended tour dates. Church and parent groups have lobbied to prevent his band's concerts in their cities, spreading vast numbers of imaginative lies about child abuse, drug distribution and such in his shows.
As the '90s closed, the heat reached a high boil. A 1999 tour co-billing the Jesus and Mary of rock depravity -- Marilyn Manson and Courtney Love -- was spiced by sniping between the two deities, and ended with Love's band, Hole, huffing off before its slated dates had been completed.
"I knew it was doomed. That's why I scheduled it to begin with, because I just wanted to see her fall apart," Manson chortles evilly. "It was part of my amusement." Manson says Hole wasn't holding up its end in terms of audience response and T-shirt and poster sales. Love claimed Manson's massive staging was sucking up the overhead; according to a Manson press release, she even sued her management for the mental stress she suffered because of the pairing.
In scenes reminiscent of the Stations of the Cross, the tour staggered to hiatus thanks to events near the Ides of March in Southern California. Manson twisted his ankle in Anaheim and was advised by doctors not to perform the next date, at L.A.'s Forum. He went ahead anyway, and it turned out to be Hole's last show, with Love improvising a cover of the Beatles' "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away" by way of farewell. With the curse of Courtney still hanging over the stage, Manson came on strong, but fell on his own Golgotha, the ankle forcing him to stop the show after only a few songs.
"I've played with a broken nose before, with broken bones, bleeding out of all sorts of places on my body," says Manson, explaining that he just can't perform if he can't walk.