Guns N’ Roses: Why Axl Rose Covered Charles Manson

Axl Rose

Guns N’ Roses Would Cover Charles Manson in 1993

Guns N’ Roses released their final studio album in 1993 with their classic lineup of frontman Axl Rose, guitarist Slash and bassist Duff McKagan. In the years that followed the nucleus of the band would fall apart with Rose being the one lone member. Today we take a look at the controversy that erupted over the band covering the Charles Manson song ‘Look At Your Game Girl’ on the ‘The Spaghetti Incident!?’ Check it out below!

Guns N’ Roses would rule the world for six short years from 1988 to 1993 and remake rock n’ roll in their own decadent image. Of course it didn’t come without any costs as drug abuse, in fighting and controversy seemed to tear the band apart by the mid 90’s with the only remaining member by 1997 being original vocalist Axl Rose. The last studio album from the band to feature the classic members  Axl Rose, bassist Duff McKagan, and guitarist Slash would be the group’s 1993 cover album ‘The Spaghetti Incident?” It seemed like with every album release leading up to the Spaghetti Incident the band was marred in controversy. The band’s debut record Appetite for Destruction was criticized over it’s original artwork that depicted a half nked woman with some criticizing the band for glorifying rpe. The band’s subsequent release, the 1988 EP GN’R Lies created a firestorm over the song ‘One in a million’ that featured explosive lyrics against immigrants, and gys. 1991’s double album Use your Illusion was no different as the band was accused of being misyogenstic with songs like back off bitch and locomotive. And of course 1993’s Spaghetti Incident was no different.

Only a week after the album hit store shelves in November of 1993 law-enforcement and victims-rights groups began expressing outrage What were the outraged over? Stay tuned to find out!

The covers album was mostly a tribute to the glam and punk bands who influenced Guns N’ Roses including the Dead Boys, The Misfits, T-Rex, but included was a hidden track written by cult leader Charles Manson called ‘Look At Your Game Girl.’ Even David Geffen, head of the the band’s label Geffen Records wasn’t aware of the song’s inclusion until he saw a news report on CNN. He was appalled by the song releasing a statement to the LA Times that read. “I would hope that if Axl Rose had realized how offensive people would find this, he would not ever have recorded the song in the first place. The fact that Charles Manson would be earning money based on the fame he derived committing one of the most horrific crimes of the 20th century is unthinkable to me.”

If you’ve looked at pretty much any photo of Rose in 1993 then you’d see him frequently wearing a Charles Manson shirt in concert. He even wears one in the band’s music video for the power ballad Estranged.

According to the California Board of Corrections, for every million copies the band sells, Manson would receive $62,000 in royalties.

Rose, in a Nov. 30 statement, claimed the band had no intention of glamorizing the cult leader revealing

“The reason we didn’t list that song on our album is we wanted to downplay it. We don’t give any credit to Manson on the album; it’s like a hidden, bonus track.” Rose was correct on the packaging for the album “The Spaghetti Incident?” doesn’t list the song or mention Manson anywhere. The song plays after 12 seconds of silence following the final listed track a cover of the Fear song  “I Don’t Care About You”.

Well you’re probably wondering how the song even ended up on a guns n’ roses album. It was Rose’s brother Stuart who brought it to Axl’s attention According to interviews with band members over the years it appears it was the singer’s idea to include the track, while the other members reluctantly agreed to it provided it was hidden. You’re probably wondering why Rose chose the songs to begin with. Well in early 1993 he broke up with long time girlfriend model Stephanie Seymour and it affected him deeply and Rose would claim what appealed to him about the song was and i quote

“it’s about a woman who has thrown things away. She thinks she’s gaining love but basically she’s gaining sadness.”

The only members of the band who played on it included Rose, keyboardist dizzy reed who played bongos and I kid you not Axl Rose’s gardener a guy named Carlos Booey who played guitar.

. . . The song talks about how the girl is insane and playing a mad game. I felt that it was ironic that such a song was recorded by Charles Manson, someone who should know the inner intricacies of madness.”

Regarding Manson possibly collecting royalties Rose would claim. “It is my understanding that the song was written by Beach Boys member Dennis Wilson,” Rose wrote, adding that in any case, he was donating any personal profits from the song to an environmental group. It seemed like at press time in 1993 nobody knew who owned the copyright to it.

As for the Manson song it first showed up on the 1970 album “lie”, which was a bootlegged collection of recordings issue by awareness records following the 1969 LA murder spree during which actress sharon tate and 6 others were killed.

Patti Tate, the sister of Sharon Tate would release a statement slamming Guns N’ Roses for releasing the song saying “Doesn’t Axl Rose realize what this man did to my family? It really hurts and angers me that Guns N’ Roses would exploit the murders of my sister and others for capital gain”

The controversy did little to hurt album sales as the album was barely promoted by the band and served more as a stop gap for their next record. “it sold nearly 190,000 copies its first week with local retailers in maryland telling the baltimore sun claiming the controversy didn’t result in any backlash at their stores.

Geffen Records tried to do damage control with president Ed Rosenblatt issuing a statement claiming. “We are looking into what might be done to mitigate this situation, and plan to provide support for the Doris Tate Crime Victims Bureau.” Doris Tate was the mother Sharon Tate.

What’s funny about this whole controversy is that many of other bands covered manson’s songs but it never generated as much controversy as when Guns N’ Roses did it. Here’s an interview with Slash following the release of the album where the guitarist is asked about the song.

In 1994 Rose and Slash were both interviewed on Rockline to promote the album., it was the final interview the pair have ever done and the song came up.

You’re probably wondering did Manson collect royalties on the record? Well the simple answer is No. Under a court order the royalties would end up going to the son of one of Manson’s followers victims. One of the victims of the 1969 killing spree was Voytek FRyskowski. Twenty Two Years prior to Guns N’ Roses releasing the Spaghetti Incident the son of Frykowski named Bartek won a 500K lawsuit against Manson over the murder of his father. As a result of that settlement he would also collect the royalties over the track ‘Look at your game girl.’ Geffen Records would announce that he would collect $62K for every one million copies of the album sold. Frykowski would say in a news conference it was a small compensation for a tragic event, but the irony of the whole thing is that his two children were both fans of Guns N’ Roses.

Following all the controversy the band would promise to pull the song from all future pressings of the album, but even by 2000 that hadn’t happen.

At Charles Manson’s funeral several years ago the band’s cover was apparently played.