Marilyn Manson In-depth Biography
Love him or hate him, the self-proclaimed "Antichrist Superstar" -- Marilyn Manson -- was indisputably among the most notorious and controversial entertainers of the 1990s. Celebrated by supporters as a crusader for free speech and denounced by detractors as little more than a poor man's Alice Cooper, Manson was the latest in a long line of shock rockers, rising to the top of the charts on a platform of sex, drugs, and Satanism. Though widely dismissed by critics, his brand of metal nevertheless struck a major chord with the youth market, and he became a mainstream anti-hero on the strength of a masterfully orchestrated marketing campaign, much to the chagrin of conservative politicians and concerned parents. Such attention pushed many of his songs -- including "The Dope Show," "The Beautiful People," and a cover of the Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" -- into the upper reaches of the modern rock charts during his heyday.
Born Brian Warner, Manson was raised in Canton, OH. At the age of 18, he relocated to Tampa Bay, FL, where he worked as a music journalist. In 1989, he became friends with guitarist and fellow outsider Scott Mitchell; the two soon decided to form a band, with Mitchell rechristening himself Daisy Berkowitz and Warner adopting the name Marilyn Manson. With the addition of bassist Gidget Gein and keyboardist Madonna Wayne-Gacy, the group -- originally dubbed Marilyn Manson & the Spooky Kids -- began self-releasing cassettes and playing gigs, their gothic stage show notable for Manson's elaborate makeup and homemade special effects. Jettisoning their drum machine in favor of one Sara Lee Lucas, the band's sound began taking on a harder edge, and by 1992 they were among the most popular acts in the south Florida area. In 1993, Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor came calling, offering both a contract with his Nothing Records label as well as the chance to open for NIN the following spring; Manson accepted both offers, and the group's debut LP, Portrait of an American Family, appeared during the summer of 1994. With new bassist Twiggy Ramirez replacing Gein, the group's notoriety began to soar. Most infamously, during an appearance in Salt Lake City, Manson ripped apart a copy of the Book of Mormon while on-stage. The Church of Satan's founder, Anton LaVey, also bestowed upon him the title of "Reverend."
While some onlookers dismissed Manson's behavior as crass audience manipulation, his cult following -- comprised almost entirely of disaffected white suburban teens -- continued to swell, and the band broke into the mainstream with the release of 1995's Smells Like Children EP, propelled by their hit cover of the Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)." Berkowitz quit a short time later and was replaced by guitarist Zim Zum, and the revised group saw their next LP, 1996's Antichrist Superstar, debut at the number three spot on the pop album charts. As Manson's popularity grew, so did the furor surrounding him. His concerts were regularly picketed by civic groups, and his music was the subject of widespread attacks from the right-wing and religious fronts. Again, however, his quick embrace of the media spotlight called into question the true sincerity of his revolutionary aims. With a cover story in Rolling Stone and the timely release of a best-selling autobiography, The Long Hard Road Out of Hell, some onlookers doubted whether Manson had sold his soul to Satan, or just sold his soul, period. The glam-inspired Mechanical Animals followed in 1998, with the resulting tour yielding the live Last Tour on Earth a year later.
Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death) came out at the end of 2000, and the band toured to support the album in 2001. During a July show in Michigan, Manson was charged with criminal sexual conduct after performing an alleged offensive act on a security guard. Another charge followed before the year's end, when an additional security guard filed a civil suit alleging that Manson had rubbed his pelvis on the guard's head. Manson's version of "Tainted Love" appeared on the Not Another Teen Movie soundtrack that December, and the July 2001 sexual conduct charges were lowered to a misdemeanor one month later. The civil suit was dropped soon after.
May 2003 saw the release of The Golden Age of Grotesque, which spent a week atop the album charts and ended up on several critics' year-end Top Ten lists. The following year, former member Daisy Berkowitz released Lunch Boxes & Choklit Cows, a compilation of demos and unreleased tracks that was credited to Marilyn Manson & the Spooky Kids. Berkowitz had obtained the rights to the material in a lawsuit against Manson, who subsequently fought the release and court-ordered some artwork to be removed. At the end of September, Manson released his own compilation, a greatest-hits affair titled Lest We Forget. The collection covered the highlights of Manson's career and included a new cover version of Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus," whose success helped push the album to gold status in multiple countries.
Late in 2005, the band announced that a new album was nearly finished; however, it wasn't until 2007 that Eat Me, Drink Me was released. The record was largely written, performed, and produced by Manson and guitarist/bassist Tim Skold, who left Marilyn Manson's lineup shortly thereafter and was replaced by returning member Twiggy Ramirez. Manson and Ramirez then began writing material for the band's seventh studio album, The High End of Low, which arrived in spring 2009. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi