California Dreaming: Never Learn Not To Love

(Content note — murder)

Fear is nothing but awareness. I was only frightened as a child because I did not understand fear – the dark, being lost, what was under the bed! It came from within. Sometimes the Wizard frightens me. The Wizard is Charlie Manson, who is another friend of mine who says he is God and the Devil! He sings, plays and writes poetry, and may be another artist for Brother Records.

Dennis Wilson and hitchhiking were a bad combination.

Ella Jo Bailey and Patricia Krenwinkel were hitching a lift, and Dennis saw the possibility of a threesome, so instead of taking them back to their communal home, he offered to take them to his own place. They agreed, and afterwards he left them there while he went off to record.

When he got back that night, his two new acquaintances had brought a lot more women round, and with them one man, Charles Manson.

Manson was an aspiring songwriter, who had been in and out of prison most of his life, and who had come up with his own mystical system, based around the idea that there was a coming race war. His mystical teachings, and access to a large amount of drugs, managed to get him a lot of willing female followers. And Dennis Wilson, who had been spiritually seeking for a while (he had recently been the first of the Beach Boys to meet the Maharishi, although the other members were more impressed with the guru in the long run), almost immediately became a follower — the combination of spiritual enlightenment, willing women, and drugs, was a potent one for him.

And while Manson could offer Wilson a lot, there was also a lot in it for Manson. Manson and his family got to move in, rent-free, to Wilson’s mansion, and got introduced to Wilson’s friends. And most importantly for Manson, his music career looked like it was going to take off.

Manson’s songs were strange, freeform things, with lyrics like “if you see the children with ‘x’s on their head/If you dare to look at them you will soon be dead”, but he had an unformed musical talent. Dennis Wilson tried to get him signed to the Beach Boys’ new record label, Brother Records, but a session recorded by the band’s regular engineer Steve Desper proved unusable. And both Dennis Wilson and his friend Neil Young (who met Manson and was impressed by his songwriting, saying Manson was “kind of like Dylan, but different because it was hard to glimpse a true message in them, but the songs were fascinating”) tried separately to persuade Terry Melcher, who was at the time working for Reprise records, to sign Manson.

In the end, the only musical fruit of the Dennis Wilson/Charles Manson partnership [FOOTNOTE That we know of — there are persistent rumours that some of Wilson’s other songs around this time had Manson contributions] was a song originally titled Cease to Exist. Wilson took Manson’s song, changed the title line to “cease to resist” (which if anything made the song far creepier), and renamed it Never Learn Not To Love. Manson didn’t want credit for the song, insisting on Wilson buying it off him outright, but later became outraged at Wilson’s lyrical changes. The track, with lyrics like “submission is a gift, give it to your lover”, “I’m your kind, I’m your kind, and I see”, and “give up your world, come on and be with me” is creepy enough even without the knowledge of who wrote it.

Wilson and Manson soon fell out — according to Van Dyke Parks, Manson once showed up with a bullet and told Wilson “Every time you look at it, I want you to think how nice it is your kids are still safe”, at which Wilson beat him up — but before that happened, Wilson had introduced Manson to someone else. Wilson had been hitchhiking himself, as the Manson “family” had destroyed his car, and had been picked up by someone called “Tex” Watson, who he thought would get on well with Manson.

Manson and Wilson had more or less parted ways by the end of summer 1968, but Never Learn Not To Love was still considered worth releasing, and it was put out on the B-side of the band’s latest single, a cover of the old Ersel Hickey song Bluebirds Over The Mountain (which only reached number 61 in the US, the band’s career having gone downhill that quickly there, but which made the top forty in the UK and the top ten in the Netherlands). They even performed the song on TV, on the Mike Douglas show, and it was included on their 1969 album 20/20, their last for Capitol records, a contractual-obligation mix of recent singles and unreleased tracks.

20/20 was released in February 1969. By March, Charles Manson had become obsessed with the house where Terry Melcher had lived when he turned Manson down (now occupied by the actor Sharon Tate and her husband Roman Polanski), entering it uninvited repeatedly, and claiming when challenged to be looking for Melcher. Even though as late as May 1969 Melcher was showing a small amount of interest in recording Manson, Manson saw Melcher’s old house as a reminder of his lack of success in the music industry.

At the end of July, Manson instructed Bobby Beausoleil, a “family” member, to kill Gary Hinman, an acquaintance. Beausoleil was arrested in the first week of August, and a few days later, Manson instructed Tex Watson to “go to that house where Melcher used to live…take a couple of the girls I’ll send with you and go down there . . . and totally destroy everyone in that house, as gruesome as you can. Make it a real nice murder, just as bad as you’ve ever seen.”

Watson, accompanied by Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian and Patricia Krenwinkel, did just that.

Never Learn Not To Love

Composer: Dennis Wilson (Charles Manson uncredited)

Line-up: Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Al Jardine, Mike Love, Bruce Johnston (no session data is available yet about this track other than band membership)

Original release: Bluebirds Over The Mountain/Never Learn Not To Love The Beach Boys, Capitol 2360

Currently available on: Friends/2020 Capitol CD

(Podcast version will be up tomorrow — this took a lot longer than usual to write as my RSI is killing me).

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One Response to California Dreaming: Never Learn Not To Love

  1. Larry S. says:

    I love your opening line to this post. And I love the “20/20” album as well!

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