Song of the Day (Shocktober): Bobby Beausoleil “Dance of the Fire Demons”
In many ways, Bobby Beausoleil is a very sad figure. A young man who despite a keen early interest in music, found himself cutting against his hardscrabble working class background and perpetually being sent to Juvenile detention for a series of pranks. He was a member of Arthur Lee‘s first band, Grass Roots and formed his own group, The Orkustra which recorded some wonderfully bent San Francisco acid rock in the mid-1960s. Beausoleil would eventually fall under the sway of infamous cult leader Charles Manson. As part of Manson‘s “Family”, Beausoleil would eventually end up killing his friend and fellow-Manson cohort, Gary Hinman, apparently under Manson’s instructions. Beausoleil would later assert that the killing was the result of a drug transaction gone wrong, but the details remain murky. The murder features in Vincent Bugliosi‘s book on the Manson murders, Helter Skelter. Beausoleil was originally given the death sentence but his sentence was commuted to life in prison in 1972. He remains in prison in California, despite having been recommended for parole earlier this year.
Maverick experimental filmmaker, Kenneth Anger, (who knew and had cast Beausoleil in one of his films prior to his association with Manson) decided to tap into the occult media frenzy swirling around Beausoleil and have him score his 1972 film, Lucifer Rising after rejecting an earlier effort at the score composed by Led Zeppelin guitarist, Jimmy Page. Beausoleil was allowed to put together a pick-up group of fellow inmates and record the score from prison. The result is a deeply acid-inflected psychedelic work that oscillates wildly between eerie minor-key orchestral motifs and fuzz-soaked guitar freak-outs. “Dance of the Fire Demons” falls into the latter of the two camps, with Beausoleil‘s ideas shining through despite clearly sub-optimal recording conditions. Despite this, Beausoleil manages to inflect his guitar playing with a surfy, reverb-heavy accent while still managing to emote through his playing. It is genuinely sad that Beausoleil‘s life went in the direction that it did because he is undeniably a very talented musician and composer.