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POP MUSIC | POP EYE

Helter Skelter

July 14, 1996|Steve Hochman

Charles Manson never realized his dreams of being a pop music star, but he looms large in a key chapter of the history of L.A. rock--so says rock journalist Barney Hoskyns, author of the book "Waiting for the Sun: Strange Days, Weird Scenes, and the Sound of Los Angeles," which will be launched with a free reading and signing Aug. 8 at the Borders Books and Music store on La Cienega Boulevard.

Manson's presence, Hoskins discovered in his research, went far beyond his association with Beach Boy Dennis Wilson and record producer Terry Melcher.

Neil Young actually recommended to Warner Bros. Records head Mo Ostin that he sign Manson to a deal. "A lot of pretty-well-known musicians around L.A. knew Manson, though they'd probably deny it now," Hoskyns quotes Young as saying.

The book is designed to counter the belief that L.A. culture is lightweight compared to New York or London. "L.A. is often the last of those cities to pick up on something," Londoner Hoskyns, 37, says. "And there's the whole idea that doing anything dark or dangerous or credible in this paradise of sun and beaches seems ridiculous. . . . But whose records are more valid today: [late L.A. punk] Darby Crash's or [late London punk] Sid Vicious'? It's debatable."

In a strange way, he says, Manson's presence helps validate L.A.

"I do think in a slightly sick way that if it hadn't been for factors like Manson, the Beach Boys wouldn't be seen [by some] as quite so hip today," he says. "The fact that they could descend so far into the darkness makes the story absorbing today."

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