Never Learn Not To Love

Songfacts®:

  • "Never Learn Not to Love" is not one of the Beach Boys' most remarkable songs, but the story behind it is one of the most bizarre stories in the band's history.

    The song was originally titled "Cease to Exist" and was written by Charles Manson. Manson achieved infamy a year after this song was released for his role in eight murders, including the Sharon Tate murders at 10050 Cielo Drive in Benedict Canyon, Los Angeles.

    Manson himself never killed anyone, as far as history knows (though he did try to kill a drug dealer named Bernard Crowe), but he became an American boogeyman for brainwashing young people into carrying out the killings. This band of pseudo-hippies had formed a communal cult called the Manson Family, and were a familiar sight around southern California from 1967 to 1969.

    It wasn't until years after the highly publicized Manson Family murder trials that stories started to emerge about how close of a relationship Manson had with several influential figures in the music industry, including Mama Cass Elliot of the Mamas and the Papas and Neil Young.

    There was no celebrity, however, that Manson was ever closer to than Beach Boy Dennis Wilson.

    Wilson first met the Manson Family after picking up two of its members while they hitchhiked in Malibu. After this introduction, Wilson met Manson himself, and they became friends. In an interview with Rave, Wilson talked about Manson, calling him "the wizard." He also told Record Mirror that Manson had "great musical ideas. We're writing together now. He's dumb, in some ways, but I accept his approach and have [learned] from him."

    The Family eventually moved into Wilson's home and lived there on and off for months. Wilson was impressed with Manson's music, and he introduced the conman-guru to several influential music industry figures, including Terry Melcher and Gregg Jakobson. He eventually booked a recording session for Manson.

    Manson was unruly at the recording session and wasn't able to play as well as he could when relaxed in his usual environment, so any dreams of a big-time record release were put aside. Wilson did, however, decide to use one of Manson's songs. So it was that "Cease to Exist" became "Never Learn Not to Love."
  • Manson didn't care about being officially listed as cowriter. Instead, he took some money and a motorcycle and other undisclosed items (about $100,000 worth of stuff according to Wilson) as payment for the song. He became enraged, however, when he heard that his lyrics had been altered. This led to him delivering a bullet to Wilson as a threat.

    Some have theorized that this incident, combined with rejection by the music industry, caused Manson to lash out with the Family murders, but that's just one of about half-a-dozen theories in a convoluted mix of possibilities that seems to only become more uncertain as the years pass. The official theory put forth by prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, and the one accepted in the court of law at Manson's trial, was that the murders were done in order to start a race war as part of an insane end-of-the world fantasy inspired by the Beatles' White Album, particularly the song "Helter Skelter."

    Whatever the case, Wilson was badly shaken after hearing about the Manson Family murders. Mark Dillon, author of Fifty Sides of the Beach Boys: The Songs That Tell Their Story, has written that some close to Wilson believe that this incident pushed him over the edge into a spiral of self-destruction. Consumed with guilt for his role in bringing Manson into the entertainment industry and getting Sharon Tate killed, his already considerable drug and alcohol abuse got far worse.

    So, there it is, the dark story hiding behind a vacuous love song. Remember as you listen that murder and mayhem lurk in the shadows.
  • The Beach Boys' scrubbed some of the strangest lyrics from Manson's original song, turning them into safe love-song niceties. The command to "cease to exist" becomes the innocuous "cease to resist."
  • The "Cease to Exist" line, "Submission is a gift, go on give it to your brother" indicates the spiritual gobbledygook that Manson used to rope his followers in. By simply changing "brother" to "lover," Wilson and the Beach Boys sterilized it into a line of romantic seduction.
  • The opening sound was achieved by playing a cymbal backwards. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    John Jennings - Omaha, NE
  • In Ed Sanders' book The Family, which was the first book written about Manson after the murders, Sanders wrote that Manson claimed he wrote the song for the Beach Boys because the band members were all fighting at the time.

Comments: 8

  • Barry from New York, NcThis song was the "B" side of a 45 single, and sure sounds like a throwaway tune. Not very inspired no matter who wrote it.
  • Sean from Chicago, IlI seem to remember reading that Manson specifically didn't want writer's credit, and in addition he told Dennis that if he wanted to change the melody, change it all he wants, but leave the lyrics alone...which Dennis did NOT -- he kept the melody and rewrote the lyrics ("cease to exist" --> "cease to resist," for example), and after hearing the finished product, Manson took a gun over to Dennis's house...Dennis wasn't home, but Manson took a bullet out of the gun, handed it to the person who answered the door, and said to give it to Dennis when he got home. "This is for him," he told the guy. yeeks...

    Also, I remember somebody said that "Never Learn Not To Love" contains both "Cease To Exist" and another Manson song...the "come in closer..." part, that is...darned if I can remember the title, but it's not on the LIE album.
  • Sabrina from Corvallis, OrI wish I could like this song, but I can't get past the fact that Manson wrote it. YUCK! I'm just glad Dennis got away from that maniac before it was too late.
  • Breanna from Henderson, NvWho says Charlie Manson couldn't write good songs? This is a great song!
  • Djmugster from Glasgow, United KingdomHaving heard both mansons and The Beachboys versions. The Beachboys song reflects a positive spin on the mansons lyric transforming it from mundane to uplifting. Musically mansons version is shambolic and unsophisticated and in stark contrast to the Dennis Wilson version which is soulful and musically accomplished.
  • Alex from Youngstown, OhBy no means a musician? Whatever. I'll be honest..the Beach Boys version was awful. Dennis ruined what was Charles great bare song. I actually like that about most of Manson's music. Its bare and raw. If you don't think Manson is a musician look up "Invisible Tears" on youtube. An amazing song. You really hear him sing from the heart.
  • Mari from Enid, OkI am a huge Beach Boys/ Brian Wilson/ Denis Wilson fan, but I've never heard their version. I have heard Manson's version, and while he is by no means a musician, it's a goodish song written by a simple, poetic man. Give it a listen......charliemanson.com
  • Gary from Auckland, New ZealandReportedly, Dennis didn't give Manson writer's credit (with royalties to go with it) because Manson and his 'family' ripped off about "$100,000 worth of stuff" including Gold Disc awards from Dennis's house when they crashed (and trashed) there -- and wouldn't leave. Anyway, it was apparently changed beyond recognition, transformed in the studio by Dennis's enormous talent from a nondescript folk song into a towering achievement of Gothic -- the style Dennis was into at the time.
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