Arthur Brown’s Charles Manson death threat on night of Tate murders
Arthur Brown has recalled the moment he was delivered a death threat from Charles Manson – on the night of the Sharon Tate murders.
Cult leader Manson sent a member of his notorious ‘Family’ to order Brown to denounce his “God of Hellfire” title, or face a “curse of doom.”
The drama took place backstage in the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on August 8, 1969. Later that night the Manson Family murdered heavily-pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four others. The following morning, Tate and her friend Jay Sebring were found stabbed to death and tied together by a rope in the actress’ house. Wojciech Frykowski and Abigail Folger were discovered stabbed on the front lawn, and Steven Parent was found shot dead in his car.
Words: Max Bell
It was August 8th, 1969, The Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, and Arthur Brown’s uncanny habit of attracting weirdoes had stepped up a gear. Jeff Cutler (who was both manager and drummer on Brown’s first US tour), remembered: “It was the night we played the Shrine in Los Angeles, the same night Sharon Tate was murdered… I went into his dressing room and one of the girls from the Manson Family – I think it was Squeaky [Lynette Fromme] – was sitting cross-legged on the floor talking to Arthur. He turned to me and said: ‘This is one of Charlie’s girls and Charlie says that if I don’t step down and denounce myself, I’ll get the curse of doom.’ Or something like that. We just thought ‘Get the fuck out of here’, did the gig and left. Then when we got off the plane in New York the next day, we heard the news. It was all over the place. Arthur was a flashpoint; he would attract people like that because he was claiming to be this heavy entity. I mean you can’t get much heavier than the God of Hellfire.”
Arthur recalls the whole peculiar episode. “I remember earlier in the day the band getting off the plane in LA and me telling Chris Stamp, our co-manager ‘Oh fuck Chris. I’m not sure about this concert. We’ve been traveling all night and I’m pretty knackered.’ Stamp said,‘Yeah, right. Well, when Keith Moon feels like that he takes one of these: ‘here you go, take this. You’ll be alright.’ Stamp was there in a dual capacity because we were on the bill with The Who. Being in the mood I took the pill and sure enough before too long everything was going round and round. It was some sort of super speed. I remember I fell off the stage during Nightmare. Because of the theatricality the lighting was very dark and I was moving around when suddenly everything went blank. I could hear sounds above my head so I look up and see the lights and realise ‘Oh fuck, I’m in the pit.’ I had to clamber my way back up again but the audience thought it was a part of the act.
“The girl in question came into my dressing room before the show and suggested we might make some connection with Manson which I really didn’t want to follow up. The woman seemed very personable when she walked in and started to chat me up – hence the sitting on the knee. It was then she told me she was an emissary from the Manson people and gave me the message of doom from Charles. I told her ‘look, I’m not really interested in all that stuff so thank you very much but I’m just not interested in that scene.’
“[But] she did sit on my knee and gave me this bloody message; I was quite astonished that he would bother to say that. It was indicative of the state of mind of Manson’s people at that time that they felt me being the God of Hellfire with that image was something real that was going to shift the shit. That was the last night of the ‘69 tour.
“The girl was someone who would probably have made a good publicist, I thought. She was a persuasive talker. I can’t quite get her physical appearance up yet. She made everything she said seem very important but she had a homely quality, which established the meeting as if we’d known each other for a long time, which we hadn’t. Did she freak me out? Not her but the vibe around the night was pretty strange when she told me what it was all about. When she came into the room there was nothing peculiar and then she started talking and the vibe came out. Manson hadn’t achieved total notoriety but people in the music business knew he was allied to dark forces.
“It was reasonably well known anyway. There was that sort of alliance through the drug culture where all the esoteric, spiritual, dark/light/Masonic ideas were current knowledge amongst some musicians. When the story came out in the next few days it made it seem quite shocking that they’d come over although she seemed to know some people in our team. I wasn’t aware that any of the other Manson people were at the gig but it was a time when all the black magic people and the film stars used to come to gigs. Jack Nicholson came to see us when we were on Sunset Strip unveiling one of the first video screen announcement boards. Michael Douglas was there too. On that tour The Crazy World also played at some Teddy Kennedy parties. We rubbed shoulders with the absolute establishment and I had one very nice evening with a green-eyed Countess, possibly she was Russian. Absolutely stunning she was.
Arthur also wishes to clarify/correct a point in the Classic Rock article regarding Pete Townshend possibly borrowing Arthur’s operatic concept. “Pete didn’t borrow from me. What Kit Lambert actually said was “I’m going to call this album an opera, which it isn’t and you just see, I’ll appeal to their snobbery and it will be a massive hit.” Apologies for misconstruing the details
Arthur Brown is featured in Classic Rock No177, available from all good newsagents or direct from here: http://www.myfavouritemagazines.co.uk/music/classic-rock-magazine-back-issues/classic-rock-nov-12/ Get the new interactive Classic Rock on your iPad and iPhone here: http://goo.gl/z4Yhu (in the UK) or here http://goo.gl/YUnR9 (for the US).
With thanks to Rob Hughes
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