Synder: “If you got outta here, there are a lot of people who think you’d start killing again.”
Manson: “Again? You guys are misinformed. I haven’t killed anyone.”
American TV news anchor Tom Synder’s lengthy interview with Charles Manson for his late-night NBC show in 1981 was a terrifying glimpse into the mind of one of the most notorious murderers of the 20th century.
Technically speaking, Manson was right in saying he hadn’t killed anyone. But his trial revealed that he’d directed the ragtag collection of dropouts that made up the so-called Manson Family to slaughter nine people in Los Angeles in 1969. The judge sentenced Manson to death, which was later commuted to life imprisonment.
A six-minute segment of Synder’s Manson interview is the principal element of 400 Blows’ ‘For Jackie M’. In fact, aside from an almost inaudible sub-bass and some random frenzied string picking, it’s the only element.
The result is super-sized freaky. It’s certainly the standout track of ‘…If I Kissed Her I’d Have To Kill Her First…’, the first 400 Blows album. The title is a quote from another scary Californian serial killer, Edmund Kemper, who was partial to women’s shoes and necrophilia.
Formed by Andrew Beer, Alexander Fraser and Robert Taylor in Croydon, 400 Blows had been joined by Tony Thorpe when they released ‘…If I Kissed Her’ in 1984. Like their contemporaries 23 Skidoo, they used battered instruments and battered machines to forge a sonic tangle that took in industrial, mutant funk and endless weirdness. ‘Groove Jumping’ has so much slap bass it’s positively bruising and ‘Conscience’ is a fine example of early UK electro. ‘Love’ bangs and clangs like a tornado in a dustbin and ‘Lapwing Chant’ is three minutes of looped birdsong. It’s incredibly hypnotic.
400 Blows recorded two more albums before splitting up, Thorpe subsequently becoming half of The Moody Boys alongside The KLF’s Jimmy Cauty. The second of these, ‘Look’, saw them turn up the volume on the funk and has some great cuts, but they never again matched the visceral churn of ‘…If I Kissed Her I’d Have To Kill Her First…’. Particularly ‘For Jackie M’. And since we started with Charles Manson and Tom Synder, let’s close with their final exchange on this chilling track.
Synder: “What did your mother tell you, Charles?”
Manson: “My mother told me when she worked on Death Row and they took that dude in to hang him, and his head popped off and went down them 13 stairs, and rolled over by her, it scared the shit out of her. Hahaha. So I said, ‘Wow, that sure is a far-out trip, moms’. So then when I got up on Death Row in Cell 13 for nine counts of murder, 1969, and I looked at, at her fears, with that guy’s head popping off that hangman’s noose, and I said to myself, ‘My goodness, what the hell am I doing here, I didn’t wanna come here’.”
Sleep tight tonight, folks.