Inside Charles Manson's Strange Relationship With The Beach Boys

When it comes to pop culture, it seems almost unfair that serial killer Charles Manson has become so inextricably and irrevocably entwined with the ways in which we view everything from Hollywood to rock music to the spirit of the sexual revolution. Look no further than Quentin Tarantino's "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," countless true crime specials and podcasts, and a slew of other fictionalized depictions of Manson and his followers to make the case that Manson, for better or worse, has had a ripple effect on the American consciousness. 

While a lot of this can be chalked up to the heinous nature of the Tate-La Bianca murders themselves, a considerable faction is due, in part, to the strange, complicated, and almost baffling ways in which Manson enmeshed himself with the movers and shakers of the day, ranging from music producer Terry Melcher (who was also the son of icon Doris Day) to transgressive director Kenneth Anger to, albeit a few degrees removed from, the Beatles. 

As journalist Karina Longworth expounded upon during a season of her widely acclaimed podcast "You Must Remember This," which focuses on the forgotten histories of Hollywood's golden years, Manson had a hand in many pots in both Los Angeles and San Francisco in the time leading up to the crimes which scorched his name in the firmament of history. But out of all of them, it seems that one group's ties to Manson might have been the most fateful: the Beach Boys.

Charles Manson met the Beach Boys' drummer Dennis Wilson by chance

As Insider wrote in 2017, Charles Manson — who died the same year at the age of 83 — initially became acquainted with the Beach Boys (particularly one member, drummer Dennis Wilson) by sheer happenstance. As the media outlet summarized, Wilson was driving back to his large home located along the infamous Sunset Boulevard outside of Los Angeles when he came upon two hitchhikers, both of whom were members of Manson's cultish "family." Wilson picked up the two women and brought them back to his home — which, ultimately, sealed the destinies of so many, for better or worse. 

Citing a book by one of Manson's former followers, Dianne Lake, the former acolyte recalled (via Insider) that Manson, who was shortly introduced to Wilson after the hitchhiking incident, completely enthralled the famous musician. "Dennis and Charlie hit it off right away," wrote Lake, "which is not surprising, given Charlie's skills at ingratiating himself with strangers." 

The meeting, per Biography, sealed what by all appearances seemed to be an instant bond over music. "Dennis ... hung out for a while, smoked some pot with Charlie, and listened a bit to Charlie's songs," Lake recounted. Manson, who aspired to become a famous musician, quickly used this connection to his advantage by moving in with Wilson, along with his followers.

Charles Manson quickly outstayed his welcome with Dennis Wilson — to a disturbing degree

Though the strange relationship between Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson and Charles Manson was swift in the making, Manson and his followers quickly wore out their welcome with the musician — especially considering they had moved into his home. According to Insider, the first days were of a halcyonic, 1960s variety, with Wilson, along with the Family, partaking in LSD and "group sex" (the latter of which was quickly ended after participating members dealt an outbreak of the STI gonorrhea). 

Per Biography, it was at this time that another member of the Beach Boys, Mike Love, encountered Manson at his bandmate's home, which he recalled in his memoir years later he stumbled upon after stopping by for a dinner party. According to Love, he found everyone there was naked, and he declined to do drugs or join in for sexual activities with Manson's crew.

But things soon took a drastic turn after Manson attempted to utilize his connections with Wilson for his real endgame: launching a career in music. Manson, who wrote songs and played the guitar, was able to record the song "Never Learn Not to Love" under the Beach Boys' label. During a recording session, according to Biography, Manson pulled a knife out. Later, afraid for his life, Wilson left his own home and set up residence in a rental, wanting to avoid an encounter with Manson or his acolytes.

Dennis Wilson vowed to "never talk" about Charles Manson

Despite Dennis Wilson fleeing his home towards the end of the summer of 1968, his connection to Charles Manson had already set the gears of fate in motion. 

As Insider noted, Wilson had previously introduced Manson to music producer Terry Melcher — the same person who at the time lived at the Los Angeles home on Cielo Drive which would later be the site of the murder of movie star Sharon Tate and her friends only months later. (As Karina Longworth noted in her podcast "You Must Remember This," a possible motive for the murders is that Manson might have initially meant to target Melcher in an act of revenge for not signing him as an artist.) 

And while Wilson's 1983 death was ruled an accident, the years leading up to that fateful day were markedly defined by a slow deterioration for the musician. Wilson, who struggled with severe alcoholism, refused to ever speak of his time with Manson, according to Insider and Rolling Stone. When asked point-blank about it during a 1976 interview, Wilson simply replied, "As long as I live, I'll never talk about that."