Don’t Blame The Beatles: Famous musicians in the mix with Manson: #2 – The Mamas and the Papas

beatles

Back in 1968, a man named Charles Manson, like a great deal of the youth at the time, felt an affinity with the music of popular Liverpool beat group The Beatles. Whereas a lot of people related to the messages of peace; the winking drug references; the constant, quick paced innovation; and the musical palette–the jaw-dropping depth and variety of which remained unchallenged–Manson simply heard coded messages, warning him specifically of an impending apocalyptic race war. Art is subjective, after all. And while The Beatles White Album has long been cited as the record that triggered the Manson Family killings (he even referred to the forthcoming war as ‘Helter Skelter’ – no doubt causing the shredding of thousands of similarly branded Beatles tees) there were numerous other popular ‘60s musicians who were way more involved in Manson’s life in the period leading up to the killings.

THIS IS PART TWO OF A SERIES  |  CLICK FOR PARTS 1 | 3 |
by Nathan Jolly


The Mamas and the Papas

Mama Cass Elliot was a genial host, opening her house to numerous musician and artist friends. If you’ve ever seen the opening number from Austin Powers  you’ll be aware that the ‘60s were a time of revolution: the recent advent of the pill, the rise of women’s liberation and AIDS-not-being-a-thing-yet all made the latter half of the ’60s a swinging sexually-free time: this optimism, fluid sense of ownership and overall feeling of community naturally spread to every aspect of life. Being suspicious of people’s motives was square. Making a deal of the fact your best friend just boned your best girl was square. Personal space: square. Look at the cover of the Mamas and Papas’ debut record; they are crammed happily in a bathtub together. Free love.

mamasandthepapas
Toilet covered with a sticker for your protection.
Click through to see the uncensored version.
(Correct punctuation in your own name: square)

Unfortunately an open-door/legs policy can lead to your living space and salsa dip being intoxicated by undesirables – say, for instance, one long-haired named Charles Manson, who had attended gatherings at Casa Cass because dropping in and dropping out was another thing that was a thing in the ‘60s. Free love, remember? But it wasn’t just Mama Cass plumping cushions around Manson and interpreting talk of an uprising as nothing more than a stoned come-on. The Manson family bus, which we can only assume was carpeted, was often seen parked outside (Mamas and Papas members) John and Michelle Phillips’ house; Manson even attended a party there on New Year’s Eve, 1968 – a lazy eight months before the killings. To his credit, John Phillips (who was actually a worse human than Manson) did rebuff several suggestions from Charlie that they record together; the fact Manson brought the subject up a few times suggests the disregard of social cues that one might expect from a man with a swastika inked on his face.

After Helter Skelter in August 1969, and Manson’s subsequent arrest, John Phillips and Cass Elliot were slated to appear in court during the Manson Family’s trial…as witnesses for the defense!

It seems Manson believed that himself and the Mamas/Papas were sufficiently tight that they would totally have The Family’s back regarding these pesky murders. By this point, however, Phillips and Elliot were kinda distancing themselves from the whole scrawling-on-the-wall-in-victim-blood scene, and never showed in court.

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