A Brief Biography of Shirley Manson – One of Alt Rock’s Great Icons

Shirley Manson, front woman of alternative rock band Garbage, will go down as one of the greats. Her impressive career and unique persona have cemented her place in music history and with Garbage touring on the back of their 6th studio album Strange Little Birds (released in June 2016), now’s the perfect time to take a look back over Manson’s lifelong dedication and contribution to music.


Early Life

Shirley Manson was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on the 26th of August, 1966. Manson was the middle child of three daughters; her father, John Manson was a geneticist, while her mother, Muriel Manson, was a former big-band vocalist. Manson seemed to inherit her mother’s innate musicality, and began learning piano at age 7. Her intense passion for music would eventually lead her to study at the City of Edinburgh Music School. Unfortunately, Manson’s experience at the school was tainted by her poor treatment; she was bullied relentlessly by her peers and fell into a deep depression. Eventually she dropped out at the age of 16. Manson played in three bands throughout her teen years: Autumn, Wild Indians, and Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie (who she performed with until 1992). It was clear by now that she was to live a life on the stage.

The Rise of Garbage

Manson’s experience playing in Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie lead to her taking the position of lead vocals in another band, Angelfish. Angelfish released an EP Suffocate Me in 1993 and recorded several music videos to promote their songs. In 1994, musician Butch Vig, noticed Manson’s captivating performance while watching an Angelfish music video on MTV. He contacted the singer and asked her to audition for a new music project in the US. Manson accepted the invitation and Garbage was formed in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1994. The band consisted of Shirley Manson (lead vocals, keyboard, guitar) and American musicians Duke Erikson (bass, guitar, keyboard), Steve Marker (guitar, keyboards), and Butch Vig (drums, percussion).

Garbage released their self-titled debut record in 1995, which went double platinum in the US, the UK, and Australia thanks to hit singles “Stupid Girl”, “Only Happy When It Rains”, and “Vow”.  Garbage continued to enjoy critical success over the coming years, releasing their Grammy Award Nominated second album Version 2.0 in 1998, which Manson promoted with a modelling stint for Calvin Klein. In 1999, Manson co-produced the theme song “The World Is Not Enough” for a James Bond film of the same name. Garbage went on to release Beautiful Garbage in 2001, before a brief split spanning 2003-2005. Garbage released their fourth album Bleed like Me in 2005, before going on another hiatus.

Hiatus Years to Present

While Garbage was on hiatus, Manson began to record and write solo material, however it was never released due to restrictions from her record label. Manson also delved into professional acting in 2008, starring as Catherine Weaver in the final season of TV series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. She returned to the studio in 2010 to begin recording for Garbage’s fifth album Not Your Kind Of People, released in 2012. Over twenty years since their inception, Garbage have sold upwards of 17 million records and have released their 6th studio album Strange Little Birds.


Garbage’s musical success can be largely attributed to Shirley Manson’s unrelenting energy and overwhelming musical talent. You can catch the band, along with homegrown acts the Temper Trap, The Preachers, Adalita, and Tash Sultana, at A Day On The Green Rochford Wines on Saturday the 26th of November, 2016. Melbourne On The Move are offering charter bus hire to and from this special event, so you can sit back and enjoy the music.