For Marilyn Manson’s 2003 album “The Golden Age of Grotesque“, the musician collaborated with photographer Gottfried Helnwein for the album’s artwork, but Manson’s record company deemed the photographs too risqué to be used for the cover.
Although this is old news, it wasn’t until I became familiar with the photographer that I found limited edition prints available for purchase of these controversial photos (all shown later in this post), as well as this very interesting essay.
Below is a reprint of Nazism: The Black Collar Song. An exploration of Manson’s use of Nazi imagery in The Golden Age from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas
NAZISM: THE BLACK COLLAR SONG:
Contrary to what his critics may believe, Manson in no way supports Hitler or Nazism. Not only is it “impossible to be fascist when you’re into fashion,” but the very nature of Hitler’s rise to power sounded a death knell to the very art movements that Manson was inspired by. The final track on The Golden Age of Grotesque, Obsequey (the Death of Art) and the painting by the same name, demonstrates how fervidly anti-Hitler Manson really is. The painting shows the dome of Berlin burning, a direct result of Hitler becoming chancellor. According to Manson in an interview with NY Rock, “Hitler tried to define art and outlawed some of it by calling it degenerated and decadent. Hitler imposed his will and banned art he considered immoral. I’m not sure if the people who adopt those phrases and try to ban my art are aware of the implications they carry.”
Interestingly enough, when the same outfit was used in the mOBSCENE video, the insignia was missing. Of course, the time period for that song was exclusively Weimar Berlin, before the Nazi takeover. The outfit was also similar to that worn by Marlene Dietrich in the film Seven Sinners.
Some of Manson’s other wardrobe is reminiscent of Nazi dress as well. In the series, Album Covers that Never Were, (Manson’s record company deemed the photographs too risque to be used for the cover) in which Manson collaborated with Gottfried Helnwein, he wore a typical Nazi officer’s cap. The same outfit was used when Manson posed for the cover of Metal Hammer. He dressed in Nazi regalia, clutching a gun as a young girl looked on. His expression, however, again shows exactly how he feels about the Nazi movement.
above: Gottfried Helnwein : The Golden Age, The Golden Age 2003, mixed media (oil and acrylic on canvas), Marilyn Manson
Artists like Picasso and Van Gogh, just to name a few, were banned during the time of the Third Reich. Art was limited to politics. In his Party Day speech in 1935, Hitler insisted that the only true art would be linked with one’s country, health, and the Aryan race. But the suppression of artistic expression began in the late 1920’s, with the National Socialist Society for German Culture. The organization aimed to halt the corruption of art, and foster the relationship between art and the Aryan race. By 1933, all modern art was considered degenerate. The organization raided museums and galleries, burning 5,000 pieces of impressionist and abstract paintings, drawings, and sculptures. Works by renown artists were auctioned in Switzerland to provide more money for the Nazi party.
Those who found creative expression through music fared slightly better. Although certain musicians were still suppressed by the Nazi regime, musicians were permitted limited artistic freedom. Loyal Nazi members who were talented musicians were guaranteed a job. And any non-Jewish musician with talent was also permitted to continue working. In order to appease the German people, the Third Reich had to create a balance between creativity and censorship.
The one art form that Hitler expanded upon was architecture. Albert Speer, Hitler’s head architect, was in charge of renovating the party office, and later became his Minister of Armaments. His organizational skills, and surprisingly democratic economic methods, then dramatically increased Germany’s production. Together, Speer and Hitler made plans for a new capital, with buildings designed to last a thousand years. The construction would take until the 1950’s, but was eventually stopped by war. He later disobeyed Hitler’s orders, and after the war ended, became the only man to plead guilty at the Nuremberg trials. The architecture he helped design, however still remains. Manson’s Ozzfest 2003 set resembles this to an astonishing degree.
The Mickey Mouse logo adopted for the latter part of the Grotesk Burlesk tour also stems from Nazi imagery. It is extremely similiar to the SS Nazi skull. In fact, minus the Mickey ears, it’s almost identical. This presents an interesting parallel between the supposedly wholesome values of Disney and the lack of those values in Nazism. It’s that very juxtoposition of good/evil that Manson strove to create with his own name. As an added metaphor, that is also the symbol of the Totenkopfverbände, a special unit of the SS. It is mentioned in the song, (s)AINT
But even though Manson stands against Nazi principles, the use of Nazi imagery exists throughout The Golden Age of Grotesque. “The lyrics [and I would add visual imagery] on the album are about taking symbols that people think they understand … whether that be taking chaos and order and putting them against each other by combining controlling fascist imagery with chaotic degenerate art imagery, people are tossed in between. People think something is offensive because it’s pornographic, or they think it’s offensive because they think it’s promoting fascism. They don’t realize it’s not doing either of those things. It’s making you think … the fact that you got upset about it really justifies and solidifies it as an artistic statement.”
Not only does Manson take a stab at the “paparazzinazis” but he recorded an entire song comparing the current state of America with 1930’s Germany. Use your Fist and Not your Mouth is first and foremost, “a black collar song.” This is a direct reference to the Allgemeine-Schutzstafeln (SS) uniforms, which were often referred to by non-Germans as “black shirts” (Technically their shirts were brown. It was everything else on uniform that was black). This uniform existed when the SS was still part of the Sturmabteilungen or SA. Lyrics like “I’m on a campaign for pain, and when I get elected, I’ll wipe the white off your house, the smile off your face” parallel nicely with Hitler’s platform, which was based in violence and racial hatred. The campaign for pain could refer to the totalitarian police state between 1934 and World War II. Of course, Manson also defends himself and his fans from criticism by insisting that “no, this isn’t your song.” But it very well may be our song, since numerous television commentaries have compared Saddam Hussein to Hitler, and American generals referring to the infiltration of Iraq as “Blitzkrieg.” While Manson denies seeing the comparison while he was writing the song, the comparison is certainly still there.
The entire band also adopts some of the imagery of the SS’ military bandsmen, or musiker. The other band members don outfits of musicians from the Political Leadership Corps. This is designated by the insignia on their shoulders, the ‘Swalbennester’ or Swallows Nests. All musicians during the Third Reich wore that pattern, throughout the era, regardless of which level of the party they were in. Because they have no fringe on their insignia, they are simply musicians, or Spielmänner. Very simply put, they are a “death-marching band.”
While on the back of the album cover, Manson is the only one not in Nazi regalia, but on the inside of the lyric booklet, Manson is pictured in a much more stunning uniform. In contrast to his other band members, Manson is dressed as a band master. His uniform is quite similar to the SS- Hauptscharführer, or Chancellery Staff Attendant uniform from 1939 or an SS honor guard. The collar patch was worn by SS musicians. The shoulder board signifies a rank of Sturmbannfuhrer, or Lieutenant Colonel. Of course, he is also pictured crying, a reaction to what he has entitled, The Death of Art.
above: Gottfried Helnwein, The Golden Age 2003, 200 cm x 130 cm, photograph of Marilyn Manson
But that is not the only visual aid taken from Nazi era Germany. Some feel that the new MM logo was inspired by Nazism. The double letters clearly resemble the SS logo, as well as the runic letters that symbolized the UFA logo Deutches Jungvolka, a Nazi youth organization geared toward boys from 10-14. The rhombus shape that surrounds it may also have Nazi connections, as the same shape was used by the Hitler Jugand, or Hitler Youth, an Nazi organization for boys 14-18 years of age. The symbol itself isn’t necessarily fascist, but it could connote rigidity and power. The shape originally had an erotic meaning to it, however, and represented dualism. The letters also resemble a Nazi eagle to some degree, but I see it more as a paralell to the Universal Film Company (Universum Film Aktien Gesellschaft).
Original source of above article (link no longer active)
Gottfried Helnwein photos of Marilyn Manson
Limited editions of the original photographs are available for purchase as prints. With the lone exception of “needle”, each print in the collection features Marilyn Manson.
above: Golden Age (black mirror3)
above: Golden Age 1
above: Golden Age 2
above: Golden Age 9
above: Golden Age 12
above: Golden Age 32
above: Golden Age (Madonna)
above: Golden Age (White Officer)
The pigment prints are offered in two sizes.
Information about the prints:
Each limited edition print is proofed, signed and numbered by Gottfried Helnwein personally.
Pigment prints are the newest generation of digital fine art printing with a very fine resolution and the highest light resistance, and are accepted by museums and galleries worldwide as the leading standard in art reproduction.
Pigment Prints on Paper:
Our museum-quality, fine-art paper prints are printed with archival pigment inks on somerset velvet paper (matte finish).
As with any valued fine art piece, it is recommended that these prints be displayed in indirect lighting conditions and away from any contact with moisture or heat. Using archival materials for mats, backing and spacers, museum quality framing and UV protected glass or plexiglas will add to the life of the print.
Digital Vinyl Prints:
These large prints of lower edition are also made with archival inks and are stretched on an aluminium frame.
As with any valued fine art piece, it is recommended that these prints be displayed in indirect lighting conditions and away from any contact with moisture or heat. Also take care not to touch the surface with bare hands as it will leave finger prints. As these prints are already stretched on a frame, they do not need any extra framing behind glass or plexiglas.
By the way, one could go on and on about Helnwein’s work. A diverse artist, his site is here, go ahead and start exploring…there’s lots to look at.