Lucifer, Arisen

A quintessential San Francisco story, starring charismatic musician/murderer Bobby BeauSoleil*

*with underground filmmaker Kenneth Anger, cult leader Charles Manson, Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey, and the Straight Satans motorcycle gang in suppo

Anger sent an unfinished black-and-white version of Lucifer Rising, and one evening BeauSoleil screened it in (of all places) the prison chapel. The footage Anger had shot of BeauSoleil in the late 1960s was gone, much of it used in an earlier film called Invocation [of My Demon Brother]. The men saw a montage of primordial, mysterious images. A volcano bubbles lava. The Egyptian god Osiris and goddess Isis lift staffs to the heavens. An elephant stomps a cobra. A Magus magician figure enacts a bloody ritual around a circle to resurrect Lucifer. People carry a torch through the mountains. Marianne Faithfull, as Lilith, goddess of destruction, walks along the Nile and among the pyramids at Gîza.

"To them it was just weird images put together," BeauSoleil says of his fellow inmates. To BeauSoleil it was something personal.

"I recognized myself in the central character, being something of a fallen one myself," says BeauSoleil. "The mythology of it perfectly coincided with what was going on in my own life at the time. Lucifer's punishment was that he was exiled and cut off from the beloved, which was my pain."

BeauSoleil in the 1990s.
Courtesy of Barbara BeauSoleil
BeauSoleil in the 1990s.
BeauSoleil in the 1970s.
Courtesy of Barbara BeauSoleil
BeauSoleil in the 1970s.

"I was struggling," BeauSoleil continues. "I needed to demonstrate to myself that I was not dead or destroyed."

BeauSoleil began to compose an ambitious electronic symphony in his head that would carry the listener through painful dark places and loneliness, then end on a hopeful note. With $3,000 Anger sent to a teacher at the prison, BeauSoleil bought microphones, a four-track recorder, an open-reel tape deck, a six-channel mixer, a drum set, and a PA system. He found a battered trumpet under the prison gym bleachers. Then he built the rest of the instruments and electronics himself.

He constructed Grogan's guitar, a bass, and then, because each inmate was allowed to have only one instrument, a double-necked guitar for himself, one neck for the bass strings. After taking an electronics course through a local community college, he built synthesizers, a reverb unit, and amplifiers, some from kits, some from scratch.

The soundtrack took three years to finish. The Freedom Orchestra's members kept getting paroled or transferred to other prisons. There were other problems, too. The prison convulsed in a series of riots, during which the inmates were locked in their cells and denied access to the music room. Finally BeauSoleil was granted permission to move some of the equipment into his cell. He edited the tapes using a razor blade.

In 1980 he sent the finished soundtrack to Anger.

It starts in a broiling, roiling, cosmic fugue, windlike blasts from a synthesizer, an anxious chorus of strings, then a Middle Eastern-sounding bass riff in a minor key. The listener feels as if he's suddenly been cast alone into a vast inhospitable landscape that's about to be obliterated by a natural disaster. Then suddenly the noise cuts out, and a lone trumpet begins to play the Lucifer Risingtheme -- a melancholy reverie with echoes of Ennio Morricone's spaghetti-western scores.

The soundtrack winds its way through desolate atonal reverberations on synthesizers and organs that collect into beautiful, sad, music box-like melodies. It erupts in a Pink Floyd-esque guitar jam with clashing cymbals. This becomes a repetitive dirge of cascading notes from an organ and trumpet. The last part of the composition sounds like supernatural circus music that starts out deranged and wicked and ends triumphantly amid the crash of waves. The Lucifer Rising soundtrack is troubled, passionate, and grieving. Its power is greater knowing that BeauSoleil created it on such crude equipment, in prison.

When the Lucifer Risingfilm debuted, BeauSoleil's musical odyssey seemed to come to an anticlimactic end. During a modest run of mostly art museums and film schools, the movie and soundtrack received little attention. A Canadian label, Lethal Records ("I didn't much like the name," gripes BeauSoleil), pressed 1,000 records that quickly fell out of circulation. There was a single review in an obscure newspaper in Canada.

BeauSoleil had one last contact with Anger after the film's release. The director came to visit him, looking dapper in a gray corduroy three-piece suit.

"There was never any other Lucifer, you know," he told BeauSoleil.

But their relationship remained tortured. Shortly thereafter, BeauSoleil stumbled upon a magazine article in which Anger again accused BeauSoleil of stealing the original Lucifer Rising footage.

"There was never any film to steal, except for the footage that wound up in Invocation [of My Demon Brother]," says BeauSoleil angrily. "But he kept telling that lie so often, I think he started to believe it."

As he entered middle age, BeauSoleil took comfort where he could find it. In 1980, he married in order to enjoy the conjugal visits then afforded lifers. He quickly realized he'd made a mistake and had the marriage annulled. He married again in 1982, to a woman named Barbara, who had written him a letter after seeing a television segment about BeauSoleil's music program at Dueul. After surviving his near-death stabbing that same year, he is still happily married to Barb, a belly dance teacher and graphic designer who lives in Salem, Ore.

With the advent of the Internet, BeauSoleil began selling CDs of the Lucifer Rising soundtrack, along with a few pieces he recorded later, from a Web site Barb helped him create. He didn't sell very many. He did, however, get a lot of e-mails asking him about Manson.

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