Portrait of an American Family was released on this day (July 19th) in 1994.
It's hard to believe it's been 25 years since Marilyn Manson, alongside his band of the same name, released the debut album Portrait of an American Family through John Malm Jr. and Trent Reznor's Nothing label and Interscope Records. It was an iconic yet controversial beginning that kicked off Manson's unique brand of shock rock.
Marilyn Manson - Portrait of an American Family
The album had an interesting production history. Not content with Roli Mosimann's "polished" production of the record under the title The Manson Family Album (arguably a MUCH better name, but hey-ho), Manson and Reznor went on to re-produce it in LA, in part at the latter's home studio at 10050 Cielo Drive which was where the Manson Family committed the Tate murders in 1969.
Incidentally, it wasn't long after that that Reznor decided to leave the house after Sharon Tate's sister suggested he was exploiting her death by treating the house like an American folkloric relic rather than appreciating the ignorance and tragedy of the events and their effects on surviving family members. Certainly, it throws into question the moral implications of some of the themes within Portrait of an American Family, and indeed Reznor disapproved of Marilyn Manson's use of the incident for shock value within his music.
A number of other pop culture themes appeared in the record, including samples from the movies Last Tango in Paris, John Waters' Desperate Living and Pink Flamingos, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Poltergeist II, as well as references to the David Gunn murder, Twin Peaks, serial killer Richard Ramirez, Scooby-Doo, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and Aleister Crowley's Thelema philosophy. The band even experienced some paranormal phenomena when they were mixing the song Wrapped in Plastic; the creepy Charles Manson samples from My Monkey kept replaying in the mix, though they had disappeared from the tape completely by the next day.
Marilyn Manson followed up the album with a supporting slot on Nine Inch Nails' Self Destruct Tour, as well as their headlining Portrait of an American Family Tour. It remains one of the greatest albums in the history of alternative metal, nonetheless it was still very much pre-Marilyn Manson as we know him today. The record never charted, and singles Get Your Gunn and Lunchbox barely made an impact either. It was hardly at the same level as 1996 follow-up Antichrist Superstar, but it still demonstrated the utterly unique character of the inimitable Marilyn Manson aesthetic and that's why it will always be iconic.