The original members of his shock rock flock included bassist Twiggy Ramirez (the only other current member), guitarist Daisy Berkowitz (who formed the band with Manson), secondary bassist Olivia Newton Bundy (later replaced in 1990 by Gidget Gein), and keyboardist/drummer Madonna Wayne Gacy. Does one see a pattern with this eclectic group of alter egos? Famous female pop icons and serial killers? Now that’s rock and roll. From there it was certified Mainstream domination and controversy for the band; everybody who existed in the nineties I’m sure remembers the Columbine school shooting where Mason’s musical content was blamed for the tragedy. Of course that distorted argument holds no substantial weight when it comes to justifying the motives of ones actions just because a particular artist had some form of influence on said person; condemning a musician for their subject matter instead of coming to grips with the true root of the problem belittles the sincerity of their artistry. Other infamous hallmarks include his unpredictable, and at times pugnacious, onstage antics, as well as his consecration into the Church of Satan as an honorary priest.
All of that aside though. There should be no personal differentiation between Mansons’ music and the way he lives if as a human being; when he’s not in character, he’s actually a very eloquent, intelligent, and fascinating soul. It’s like that proverb goes: don’t judge a book by its cover. Even to this day, Manson and his band are still out touring and recording new albums every so often, so it’s safe to say that their shtick has yet to run dry. For now though, we’ll just take the time to honor some of their classic tunes that melded them into who they are.
10.) Personal Jesus
What a song to properly introduce this top 10 list, and it’s a cover to boot; not the last one to appear on here, that’s for sure. Most of you probably know, judging by the title, that it’s the classic 1989 hit by electronic group Depeche Mode. Marilyn Manson revamps their transfixing version about finding hope and inspiration in somebody, and they turn it into something just as haunting but twice as hard-hitting. Personal Jesus was released as a single in 2004 to promote their compilation album, Lest We Forget: The Best Of.
9.) In the Shadow of the Valley of Death
Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death) was the last rock opera in Manson’s trilogy which included Antichrist Superstar and Mechanical Animals. It’s central theme is about America’s glorification of violence, death, fame, and firearms, with inspiration going towards the aftermath of the Columbine High School massacre for which Manson was blamed for. And perhaps the other biggest form of influence for Holy Wood is the Beatles’ White Album.
Manson compared the kind of cultural impact it had on the Charles Manson family murders in contrast to Columbine; innocent themes being misinterpreted in a way that incites violence. Another motif on the album is the symbolism of Christs’ crucifixion, the role it’s played in our modern definition for the term “celebrity,” and how the exploitation of it turned the concept of organized religion into something dangerous and hypocritical. In the Shadow of the Valley of Death is one of the more band’s lighter compositions, substituting maniacal distortion with beautiful acoustics and lyrics that speak to those who’ve ever felt ignominious for being different or unable to have their voices heard.
8.) The Dope Show
Their 1998 concept album, Mechanical Animals, was an organic change in pace for the band; they ditched their shock rock attributes for a more glam approach. Inspired by David Bowie’s extraterrestrial rock star, Ziggy Stardust, Marilyn Manson takes his persona of Omega, and he creates a sympathetic illustration of an abused anomaly who uses drugs as a coping mechanism to escape from the controlling grasp of his corporate superiors. The Dope Show is a glittery infestation of glam, electronic, and classic rock conventions with lyrics that take shots at the vanity and obsession of fame and show business. It was the single that anchored the record to critical and financial success, and also earned the band newfound respect for their ability to switch their style up.
7.) This is the New S*!t:
The Golden Age of Grotesque, released in 2003, was yet another paradigm shift for Marilyn Manson; this was when Twiggy Ramirez left the band and was replaced by Tim Skold. They stayed true to their industrial rock roots, but it was more of an electronic conglomeration, with the conceptual themes of the album resting on the shoulders of imagery and references to the Weimar Republic, 1930’s swing, Mickey Mouse, and Vaudeville, among various other things. This is the New Sh** remains, however, the biggest and baddest song on the record, and the bands most anthemic to date. It’s message is simple yet powerful, and it’s the kind of song moshpits are created for.
6.) Mechanical Animals
This is one of the main songs off Mechanical Animals that really echoes the glam essence of David Bowie; his 1974 record, Diamond Dogs, served as a tool for inspiration. Of course Manson cites Bowie as the biggest musical influence on him, and that’s obviously no surprise. On the title track, Manson takes his character Omega, a gender-ambiguous alien snatched up by the music industry and unwillingly transformed into a rock and roll star, and he creates a solicitous form of exposition that properly punctuates the album’s shadow of detachment and yearning for a sense of purpose, much like with Bowies’ Ziggy Stardust. It’s melody and structure, outlining an inversion of hard rock and sensitive acoustics, also leaves plenty of room for Manson to exercise his range as a vocalist; he really comes alive here.
5.) Sweet Dreams
Marilyn Manson put out an EP in 1994 titled Smells Like Children after the release of their debut, and was an eclectic collage of cover songs as well as originals. Manson has described the EP as an extremely dark period, with the main thrusts of the album being abuse and the loss of innocence as a result of said abuse; other factors that played a part in its sound were drug abuse in the band, along with excessive touring and experimentation. There was also the Danzig/Pantera tour bus driver Tony F. Wiggins, who was a leading contributor in the corruption and mental anguish of Manson and the other members at that point; this man was extremely perverse and notorious for numerous reasons, but somehow managed to fall off the face of the Earth in a span of three years without any trace of his whereabouts. All of that aside, this hardcore rendition of the Eurythmics original blasted the band into Mainstream super stardom, and became a staple for MTV rotation. It’s an extremely well done cover, and when it comes to Marilyn Manson, they surely know how to put their own stamp on a song and make it their own.
4.) I Don’t Like the Drugs (But the Drugs Like Me)
This is bar none, one of the band’s funkiest tunes, but with a valid message that keeps within the recurring theme throughout Mechanical Animals. With I Don’t Like the Drugs (But the Drugs Like Me), The message is all about the conformity of societys’ preconceived notions, while simultaneously keeping with the albums’ satire of a rock star’s self indulgent lifestyle. It’s one of their loudest and most ambitious tunes, ushering in a fun equilibrium of abrasive badinage and anatomical oscillation. Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction also plays the guitar solo towards the end as well.
3.) Lamb God
Another important reoccurrence throughout Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death) is Manson’s analysis of the media, especially his critics who’ve blamed him for everything under the sun, and how they put certain figures in the category of being a martyr just because they’re dead. In Lamb of God, he uses the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, John Lennon, and Jesus Christ as an example of how people turn historical and monumental individuals into something bigger than they already are, while at the same time ill-treating their ttragedies as media consumption; Manson also lambasts those in the media who took the Columbine shooters and turned them into celebrites, cashing in on the Columbine Massacre and those who lost their lives. Lamb of God is definitely one of the band’s more poignant efforts.
2.) Man That You Fear
Without being objective to the integrity of their discography, it’s probably without argument that Antichrist Superstar is Marilyn Mansons’ best album; everything about it hit all the right notes, and it crowned the band as the molotov cocktail of modern music at that point. It came at a time when grunge was just dying out, creating an all new genre of rock with the excess malleability of heavy metal, and the macarbe traits of a Francisco Goya painting.
Antichrist Superstar, with the title being a parody of the musical Jesus Christ Superstar, is a rock opera inspired by the works of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche; it was the first album in a conceptual trilogy that was followed by Mechanical Animals and Holy Wood. In the midst of the albums’ chaotic imagery and anti-religious nihilism, Man That You Fear is Manson sharing a very intimate aspect of himself with the listener. His disturbing yet poignant prose highlights his troubling beginnings as an outsider and the kind of individual it turned him into. Say what you will about Marilyn Manson, but give him the respect he deserves for the emotional candor of his art.
1.) The Beautiful People
The number one spot was between this and Man That You Fear, but after much deliberation, The Beautiful People is too much of an iconic tune not to acknowledge. It’s quintessential Marilyn Manson. Its killer drop D riff, punctuated by thunderous distortion and sludgy palm muting, immediately grabs your attention, while the bellicose drum beat marches relentlessly over Manson’s jagged wordplay. The lyrics are both feisty and intelligent within its underlining meaning ; there are many references to Nietzche’s Übermensch, as well as the ruinous political systems of capitalism and fascism. The Beautiful People is the bands signature song, and deserves high praise for giving birth to one of the coolest antiheroes of modern rock.
Top 10 Marilyn Manson Songs
Written by Matthew Pollard
Photo by Andreas Lawen, Fotandi (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Updated March 1, 2021
Top 10 Marilyn Manson Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2016
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