I Regret Wearing That Charles Manson T-Shirt

by Bill Brenner on February 26, 2012

In the early 1990s, Patti Tate, sister of Sharon Tate, was on a public tirade against Guns N Roses frontman Axl Rose for going onstage every night wearing a Charles Manson T-Shirt. Around the same time, I had my own Manson shirt, worn regularly to freak people out.

Mood music:

Here’s Axl in his shirt:


Here’s me in my shirt:


The picture was taken 20 years ago — 1992 — when I was in a band with the two guys to my right. At the time I was all about shocking people. Shocking people has always been a good way to change the subject — especially when the subject is why you’re suck a fuck up. Of course, wearing the shirt proved I was just that.

I’m not trying to beat myself over this. That’s who I was back then. Plain and simple. We’re all in constant evolution and we go through our good and bad phases.

But my stupidity of the time is hitting me clearer than ever because I just finished reading  “Restless Souls: The Sharon Tate Family’s Account of Stardom, the Manson Murders, and a Crusade for Justice,” written by Tate family friend Alisa Statman and Brie Tate, niece of Sharon Tate.

Patti Tate picked up the crusade against the Manson killers and work as a victim’s advocate when her mom, Doris, passed away in 1992. In the book, she recalls seeing Axl in a video on MTV, sporting the infamous T-shirt. Here was a guy reaching millions of kids every day, essentially telling them that Manson was cool, a guy to look up to. I don’t think Axl really believed that. I think he was just going for the shock like me. I also think he covered the Manson song “Look At Your Game” because he simply liked the song and separated it from Manson’s crimes.

But like me, he was barking up the wrong tree.

In the final analysis, I don’t think it’s really possible to separate Manson the murder mastermind from Manson the musician. The music and the murders were geared toward the same cause — starting Helter Skelter, a race war Manson believed was imminent. Manson believed the black man would win the war and be unable to hold the reigns of power afterwards. Then, he and his family would come out of hiding in the desert and take control.

A ridiculous notion to be sure. But that’s what he believed, and at least nine people were brutally murdered over it, including Patti’s sister.

I regret wearing that T-shirt. I’m glad I lost it along the way.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

snappy81 February 26, 2012 at 6:38 am

Thank you for this post. Manson is not a hero. I’m so glad you came to understand that. Good luck and best wishes to you.

Markus October 9, 2012 at 2:20 pm

Manson’s case and life is such a interesting and multi-leveled story. Wearing a T-shirt for the purpose of being provocative, rebellious or edgy is one thing. Wearing a Manson T-shirt because there is so much being pointed to in his “message” (I am referring to his words, and not the D.A.’s or other peoples representation of him) is another. I am thinking about making a Manson T-shirt for myself. It could lead to interesting conversations, hopefully. I can understand how one could be tempted to call him a hero, but I think misunderstood and misplaced should fit way before hero or such. I can also see why a lot of people call him a monster, but that is usually paired with not being interested in the other perspectives, and just wanting to justifiably hate someone. IMO he is a very strong character and he definitely intrigued me and I enjoy the challenge of trying to follow him in interviews. I should state that I have not read any books about him or the murders, just court transcripts and his own words, as well as all the interviews I could find. Anyhow, it is a controversial and wonder-inducing subject. Peace

François November 21, 2012 at 6:20 pm

It was a different world, back then, the early 90’s…
Most of the meatl bands and the early gangsta rappers were all into shock.

We were out of a long recession, and lots of people had lost faith in society…

It was idiotic, wanting to make Manson into some sort of working class hero or something, but it kinda fit with the mood of those days.

I was quite young, back then, and although I didn’t really think it was right, it didn’t have the effect on me that it would have had today, all those Charles Manson t-shirts, Manson song covers, etc.

Maybe we could remember it as pop culture gone bad.

Marko June 24, 2015 at 8:46 am

The author of this blog is a gullinle fool if he believes Vincent Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter. You shouldn’t blog about subjects you clearly have no clue about. I have the same Manson shirt by the way. It’s still in great shape. I wore it on Monday.

Franz January 7, 2016 at 11:02 am

What?! It’s a damn tshirt. Calm down.

Evil August 26, 2016 at 5:06 pm

Manson is a genius that the government turned into the boogey man. He never laid a hand on anyone. I have his albums and his face on my wall. Never taking it down.

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