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Introduction - if you want to know why

One night, in August 2001, I turned on the TV and there, already started, was a documentary1 featuring Marilyn Manson. His rock band of the same name were touring at the time.
Marilyn Manson band

Marilyn Manson, Holy Wood era, 2000-01. Photo by P. R. Brown

A large part of the programme was about the way he as a performer is perceived by some to be 'encouraging' the violent acts of others. It examined his persona, his music's style and content and how people interpret and react to him. And at various times throughout, he responded to his critics.

Say the words 'Marilyn Manson' to me up until then and I'd think, more guessing than anything:

  • Alice Cooper style rock (it isn't)
  • men in make-up (they are)

and be a little lost beyond there. But now? Well I was smitten by what I'd seen and heard. On the one hand were the atmospheric theatrics, sheer loudness and brash onstage posturing by Manson - shown in brief concert clips - and on the other, his quietly thoughtful, articulate interview manner.

Intrigued by this, I turned to the internet for more.

In a week, I ploughed through a digital truckload of information: interviews, articles, album reviews, music clips, fansites, official sites and photos. Even when the written content was a little unnerving or had that 'yuck' factor, it was still fun to do. And I realized he was not such an unknown to me when certain images began to tug at my memory.

But then I found these people

Not everyone likes him, you understand. Or his band. Being 'controversial by design' precludes any universal acclaim.

And so, dotted around sunny cyberspace, I found the 'hate-sites', proclaiming that Marilyn Manson 'sucks' (USA slang term describing something as especially bad). One site was funny but most confirmed that jumping on the 'bash manson' band wagon was never an inspired art form. I mean, I enjoy a well-crafted jibe as much as anyone, but most hate-sites just left me cold. Time to warm up again!

Note: since the days of hysteria against Manson have mostly abated, the hate-sites now help to promote him - just like the fansites do. Oh sweet irony.

Marilyn Manson band
Holy Wood era Marilyn Manson. Photo by Perou.

Boys on film

But from discounting the naysayers and relying on elsewhere for accurate information, I still got the picture. Literally.

I found so many good, even striking, images of Manson and his group that I began collecting them in - for my own amusement at first but then thought, shouldn't I do more?

And that's how I arrived here. I wanted to show some of the photos I'd gathered in and provide links to some of the places I'd visited, especially to the fansites I liked best.

I love the images I found online and - even better - what I read about Marilyn Manson touched on a lot of issues and often made me laugh, call me bad. And he likes Radiohead and the Teletubbies. And he's a Bowie fan. Hmm, he hardly seems strange at all now - at least compared to some people I know. And his tongue is in his cheek oftener than he's given credit for.

He plays a mean Devil's Advocate and it's fun to ponder the reasons why. His modus operandi seems largely to be: Do your own thing and provoke, educate, entertain others at the same time. Stir the hypocrisy pot. Look in ever darker corners and drag out what's lurking there. Hold it up to the world to see who it scares and why.

Still, you could safely have him round for a cup of tea and a cream bun. There's more altruism in what he does than he would ever admit. You'd find it hard to imagine him as the same person who'd once put a shit on a plate (!) and left it at a neighbour's door one drink'n'drug-fueled night in New Orleans. Or did he make that story up? Or were you that neighbour? Well at least he never said it was his finest hour...

He's come a long way since then. Being off the cocaine helps (umm... ), David Bowie could've told him about that. But settling down is not yet on the Manson agenda. So what's cookin' now, particularly offstage?

Certain interests of his loom ominously: like the one he has in (the writings of?) the Marquis de Sade - who I would've had hung, drawn and quartered after spanking him with a spiked tennis racket. Or his liking for films that others consider outrageous, weird, or gratuitously brutal. I'd file them under 'Exploring the boundaries of art' but I have various thoughts about them - sometimes conflicting.

In a journal post, of June 2002, he had this to say:

"When I talk about the Marquis DeSade or recapturing the spirit of Weimar Berlin at its decadent, creative peak, I am not looking to go back in time or glorify anything BUT expression. It also reminds me of the Limelight scene in NYC from '89-'92. My interest in these pages of history is a pile of scattered ransom-note-cut-ups meant to create an invitation to chaos and a demand for style.

(Whatever YOU choose)

Why attend an event when you can be one?"

So you see, he knows we wonder sometimes.

Some people, even fans, are troubled when he invokes nazi style imagery or by the sexual allusions in his onstage displays. But he doesn't promote totalitarianism or anarchy or revolution, rather, he uses it to entertain and to promote thought. And the sex themes? Well he's not ordering you into any free-for-alls.

In September 2002, Manson's creative focus was on his debut watercolour paintings exhibition at an L.A. gallery. And in spring 2003, a flurry of promotional activities led to the May release of the album, The Golden Age Of Grotesque.

Amongst his foremost influences for the Golden Age record, he alludes to the decadence, hedonism, overt sexuality, and increasing oppression and fear that swirled around 1930s pre-war Berlin. So is it all about courting controversy, personal interests, or those things and much much more besides? S'plain yourself Marilyn.

But whilst we ponder, let's go and see a few photographs.

strip of Marilyn Manson photos

MM
Footnote:
Since writing the above page, I discovered an old advertising blurb for the TV documentary:
Marilyn Manson will be heavily featured in a 1hr long programme "The Devil Made Me Do It" broadcast on Channel 4, 21 Aug (2001) at 10pm. The programme is part of the "Public NME No 1" Channel 4 documentary series.
Channel 4 and the NME (New Musical Express) are UK based. The programme was repeated at least twice since August 2001 (Dec. 2001, April 2002).