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Bootleg copies of Charles Manson recordings have been circulating for years, and often the sound quality leaves a great deal to be desired. When Manson’s 1968 demo tapes first appeared on CD, it was obvious this reissue had been mastered from a vinyl copy of Lie since it was bedevilled by surface noise. However, it wasn’t long before cult bootleggers Grey Matter put out both Lie and The Family Sing The Songs Of Charles Manson as a single CD. Better still, Grey Matter denoised and digitally enhanced the tapes before packaging the whole thing as a parody of the White Album. Since the track Helter Skelter on the Beatles platter is alleged to have provided the inspiration for the Tate-LaBianca murders, someone, somewhere, had a very sick sense of humour. Likewise, when Grey Matter circulated Charles Manson Live At San Quentin on CD, they plagiarised the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds cover, and as every rock trivia freak knows, Brian Wilson used Manson as a source for songs.

Rumour has it that Grey Matter is run by music business insiders who felt so guilty about the million pounds they’d made from Manson reissues, that they burnt the money on a remote Scottish island. If this story is true, it fails to explain why Grey Matter Manson releases are still openly on sale in London record stores, alongside their other semi-legitimate and lovingly packaged CD reissues such as He’s Able by suicide guru Pastor Jim Jones and the People’s Temple Choir, Poems And Insults by cult novelist Charles Bukowski and A Witch Is Born by the now deceased high priest of British paganism Alex Sanders. It has become rather more difficult to locate copies of Grey Matter’s Culturcide CD, which irreverently samples every major act from Michael Jackson to Bruce Springstein. Likewise, it isn’t easy to find the Grey Matter reissue of two William Burroughs spoken word albums on one CD, which were allegedly put out in this form to wreck a licensing deal the writer’s manager was in the process of negotiating.

Word on the grapevine is that there will be no further Grey Matter releases because the company burnt its financial assets to prevent anyone from recovering the potentially huge legal costs of suing them for copyright infringement. According to another story, the men behind this operation are said to have faked the death of a junkie called Alan, who was set up to take the rap if anyone launched a serious enquiry into their bootlegging activities. I was told by someone supposedly in on this scam that Alan recently overdosed in a public toilet. However, before dying, he managed to scrawl the phrase ‘political piggies’ in his own blood on a wall. If you believe that, you’ll believe anything, and it is precisely by exploiting public gullibility that Grey Matter have built their cult reputation. Burn the bastards.

Commissioned by Vox for their Charles Manson special but not used.

On the KLF


Confusion Incorporated by Stewart Home cover

There is more on Bill Drummond & Jimmy Cauty in "Confusion Incorporated" a collection of Stewart Home's essays & journalism.