“Black Metallic,” Manson share troubled past

Mike G.
Co-Editor In Chief

Somehow, the rumor has spread that the Catherine Wheel’s members are out of touch with everything happening in popular music outside of themselves. Frontman Rob Dickinson wants to set the record straight.

“For some reason,” Dickinson said in a recent interview, “just because we didn’t know that Marky Mark used to play for the Beastie Boys, people say we think we’re too good to associate with our so-called peers in rock. But nothing could be further from the truth! In fact, some of our them are very good friends of ours.

“For instance, I don’t suppose many people know that I was once close friends with Marilyn Manson.”

The extremely rare “White Albino” single.

According to Dickinson, back when the Catherine Wheel was first coming together, he kept in contact with the now-famous Marilyn Manson [Brian Warner], who at the time was more or less unknown as a guitarist for Nine Inch Nails.

“The friendship was, shall we say, interesting but brief,” Dickinson said. “I quickly realized how difficult Marilyn was to get along with.”

The “vacuous stares into the nearest wall” and the “overly frequent references to patricide” were just two of the things that pushed the friendship past the point of no return, Dickinson said. But although it seemed doomed to fail from the start, the experience affected Dickinson deeply nonetheless. And it actually provided the inspiration for a song.

At this point in the interview, Dickinson picked up his guitar and began to play a rough version of a familiar tune, “Black Metallic.” But the words he sang were noticeably different:

Verse One
I never see you when you’re smiling
Your cigarette’s touching my skin
You say it’s funny when it’s painful
I still don’t think you’ve got a brainful

It’s the colour of your skin
Your skin is white albino…[etc.]

Here, Dickinson paused momentarily. “The second verse actually had quite an effect on Marilyn when he heard it. It didn’t make him change his attitude or habits, but it did make him change from the—ahem—Reznorian black leather wardrobe he used on tour in the early 90s to his present vinyl-and-PVC one, which is much more amenable to rainy road trips.

“Obviously, he knew I was still concerned about him, despite whatever had happened between us in the past.”

Verse Two
I think of you in a Nor’wester
While I’m wearing my polyester
You can’t stay all dry under your leather
‘Cos Minnesota’s got nasty weather

It’s the colour of your skin… [etc.]

“I loved the emotion reflected in ‘White Albino,'” Dickinson said after he had finished playing, “and I thought it should be the band’s first major single. However, Merck [Mercuriadis, the band’s manager] concluded that such lyrics would not be radio friendly.

“Merck is a walking public relations machine,” Dickinson noted dryly.

Dickinson ended up revising the song heavily, and “White Albino” became “Black Metallic.”

(The “White Albino” single does exist in limited quantities, however. Apparently a dozen or so copies have surfaced that were supposed to have been destroyed, according to Jason E., unofficial CW expert. The scarcity of these copies makes the single one of the most sought-after releases in modern British rock. But Jason can get it to you on MP3 if you’ve got any rare live stuff by Bjork.)

So what inspired Dickinson to write the “new, improved” lyrics?

“I don’t know,” he answered immediately. “‘Your skin is black metallic’? I have no idea what that means. Ask Merck.

“My only guess is that it has something to do with that Kafka story—you know, the one about the bloke who turned into a crab, or whatever the fuck it was.”


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