‘It was a set up’: Exploring the Beach Boys connection to Charles Manson’s grisly crime

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Was the legendary Sharon Tate murder, though typically chalked up to random violence, more closely related to the Beach Boys than anybody guessed? Al Jardine discusses the connections, and how Charles Manson’s failed music career may have lead to this viscous 1969 crime.

Manson had met with Beach Boys associate Terry Melcher the year before, trying to get some of his music published, Jardine says. Melcher, however, turned Manson down — but not before inviting Manson over to his home at 10050 Cielo Drive in Los Angles. That house was subsequently leased to Roman Polanski and Tate, only to become a grisly murder scene at the hands of the Manson Family on August 9, 1969.

“I never talked to Terry about that,” Jardine tells Artie Lange. “I imagine he must have just been stigmatized. Can you imagine?”

Manson Family member Susan Atkins later claimed that the crime was meant to send a message to Melcher, though others have disputed that narrative. Manson and Melcher were introduced by Jardine’s late bandmate Dennis Wilson, who had become fascinated with Manson after what Wilson thought was a chance meeting with Manson Family members Patricia Krenwinkel and Ella Jo Bailey.

“He moved in on Dennis; it was a set up,” Jardine says. “Manson would always have the girls out on the highway, hitch hiking — and Dennis always liked a pretty girl. He picks up the girls, takes them home … and Charlie comes back with a bus, and moves in.”

Wilson eventually reworked a Manson-written song, originally called “Cease to Exist,” into the track “Never Learn Not to Love” for the Beach Boys’ 20/20 album in 1969, recording with Carl Wilson at their brother Brian Wilson’s home studio.

The relationship was ultimately torn, Jardine says, over a threat Manson made to Dennis’ son. Wilson and Manson also reportedly came to blows over the changes to “Cease to Exist,” which Dennis performed along with the rest of the Beach Boys on a April 1969 episode of the Mike Douglas show.

“Charlie was looking for a leg up,” Jardine says. “He wanted to [get into the music business] in the worst way.”

Melcher, who was in a pre-fame group with Bruce Johnston, continued to work with the Beach Boys — later co-writing their 1988 charttopper “Kokomo.” He served as a background vocalist on 1966’s Pet Sounds, and introduced lyricist Van Dyke Parks to Brian Wilson in advance of their work on the SMiLE project.

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  • All The Way Alive

    Susan Atkins never admitted it was a set up. Where did you pull that from? Susan, from day one until the day she died, said the killings were to free Bobby (e.g. the copycat motive). She never deviated from that story.

    Also, here’s a bit of juice that makes no sense: In a December 1969 article, the sisters of the Fountain of the World cult (where Manson spent a lot of time) told the investigators that Terry Melcher met with Manson there in September of 1969, so Melcher still was in touch with Manson after the murders.

    Bryan Lukashevski is the reason Melcher severed ties with Manson and it was over the Bernard Crowe shooting.

    If you read Tex’s book he admits he was the key link to the Sharon Tate house. Tex says that he chose the victims because he knew that home front to back. He also says he was shocked to hear that Manson may have been there too, because he never knew him to be. It’s all in his book.

    Melcher testified that Tex was indeed at the house many times, may have spent the night, etc. Tex wasn’t a Spahn Ranch until 6 weeks before the murders… before then he was living the Hollywood life.

    Tex also tells a story how he snuck up the driveway of 10050 Cielo Drive (long before he was at Spahn Ranch) and snuck into the home; he needed money to bail Gregg. He reminisced that it was the same way he’d do it when he’d go here and kill the occupants.

    • Nick DeRiso

      The London Telegraph’s Melcher obit differs: “One of the murderers, Susan Atkins, later claimed that ‘Charlie picked that house to instill fear into Terry Melcher, because Terry had given us his word on a few things and never came through with them.’” Nobody here, of course, claims to be an expert on the case, but that was the source for the relevant line in this piece: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/1477227/Terry-Melcher.html

      • All The Way Alive

        She states different in her two books; Tex Watson said he was the one who chose it and not the Melcher connection.

        According to the nuns at the Fountain, Melcher was still meeting with Charlie over music in Sept. 1969. And Melcher was only scared away because of the Bernard Crowe incident. Lukashevski was at that shooting and he was a colleague of Melcher.

        Melcher’s associate Gregg Jakobson stepped in to take over the project, according to Jakobson himself. So, it wasn’t even a Melcher issue, really. Jakobson was on the project and Melcher passed it off to him because Melcher was producing rock and roll/beach style music and Jakobson was interested in folky stuff. According to Jakobson, Melcher likes Manson’s music but said “Indian music is unmarketable.”

        Like Manson’s largest foe Paul Watkins said, “We recorded for some producers most musicians would give their left arm for and they saw Manson as being quite talented, whether or not they would cop to that now…”

        Melcher obviously tells his story of thinking Manson was not talented to justify himself and to distance himself from Manson. And I understand that, but he was so full of crap.

        Again, according to Paul Watkins, Melcher met with Manson SO many times and he was into Manson. Watkins even said at one time Manson ran Melcher off the ranch with a knife because Melcher was being a drama queen and told Manson to kill him.

        So, Melcher was never 100% honest when it came to his relationship with Manson, OR Tex. Tex was with Melcher a lot pre-Manson… And that gives you something to think about motive-wise.