7 Musicians Known for Destroying Their Instruments

When you're smashing your guitar with a style...

Ultimate Guitar
7 Musicians Known for Destroying Their Instruments

Destroying of musical instruments is often a debatable thing, because some of the musicians do this for self-promotion, etc. Some people also complain that it's just a waste of expensive equipment. But destroying gear on stage is also one of the most striking images of rock 'n' roll. And when musicians do it sincerely, not just for show, but because of their sense of music, being in the present moment - then it's really cool, translating the true spirit of rock music.

So here are 7 musicians who destroyed their instruments with a soul - and style.

And yes, if you are quite impressionable - you better not watch these videos.

7. ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead

Though being the least famous musicians on the list, alternative/progressive/indie/math/etc rockers ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead are known for their diverse music as well as their powerful and cathartic live performances, which often end in the destruction of all equipment.

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6. Nine Inch Nails

The 1990's Nine Inch Nails' concerts were violent and chaotic, with band members often injuring themselves. They would frequently attack each other, and stage-dive into the crowd - and destroy their instruments at the end of concerts, including guitars, drums, amps - and most notable keyboards. Trent Reznor once said: "When an instrument fails on stage it mocks you and it must be destroyed!"

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5. Richie Blackmore

Though Richie Blackmore is not known as a gear destroyer, his guitar execution during the Rainbow's performance in Munich in 1977 is just iconic.

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4. The Clash

Paul Simonon of The Clash famously destroyed his bass guitar only once at the side of stage, but a photograph of the event becoming the iconic cover to their "London Calling" album.

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3. Nirvana

Nirvana's live shows were really energetic, and Kurt Cobain made an artform out of guitar destruction, expressing his anger and feeling of the moment during the band's live performances. It is worth noting that often the drums, amps and other gear were also completely destroyed by the end of the band's concerts. Also, perhaps the most famous guitar the Nirvana frontman destroyed was a Fender Stratocaster built in Japan, which he smashed while in the studio recording "Endless, Nameless" on "Nevermind."

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2. Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix was also known for destroying his guitars and amps. He famously burned two guitars at three shows, most notably the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. In an effort to out-do The Who's destruction of their instruments earlier at the same event, Hendrix poured lighter fluid over his guitar and set it on fire, even though "I'd just finished painting it that day" as he would later remark. This guitar smash went on to become one of the most indelible images of the rock music history.

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1. The Who

The Who guitarist Pete Townshend was the first guitar-smashing rock artist. His smashing of a Rickenbacker guitar at the Railway Tavern in Harrow and Wealdstone in September 1964 is one of the most iconic moments in rock music, but Pete has "auto-destructed" his guitar too many times to count. According to an analysis by TheWho.net, Townshend broke more than 35 guitars in 1967 alone.

And Keith Moon, The Who's drummer, was also known for destroying his drum set. The most famous episode of this occurred during The Who's debut on US television on "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" in 1967. Moon overloaded his bass drum with explosive charges which were detonated during the finale of the song, "My Generation." The explosion caused guest Bette Davis to faint, set Pete Townshend's hair on fire and, according to legend, contributed to his later partial deafness and tinnitus.

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Know more musicians who are known for destroying their gear on stage? Feel free to share them in the comment section below.

44 comments sorted by best / new / date

    The thing they don't tell you is you will often see the same guitar destroyed multiple times...I would not feel too sad for the destroyed guitars - heck, some of them are "still alive", lol. During the 60's, Pete Townshend had a PILE Of Fender parts he would cobble together for the next guitar he would destroy when he switched to Fenders.  There's even a picture online of him with a pile of smashed Telecasters and Stratocasters where you can see he's soldering and apparently looking for the "best bits" to put together. Ritchie Blackmore had a cache of Stratocasters back stage to switch to for smashing.  He did it more than just Cal Jam 74'.  I've seen footage of him destroying a late 70's CBS black on black strat at a show in 78', and a few other shows where he was destroying some obviously very recent Stratocasters. Kurt Cobain of Nirvana smashed the Teen Spirit Mustang (69' Competition Blue) at a show in Trees Texas in 91. Ernie Bailey I suppose is the one who glued it back together before the 92' tour where it appears on Teen Spirit (and for a good chunk of a set before) with Flea on Trumpet, and it did go on tour the entire In Utero tour, but was seldom if ever used onstage.  If you had a chance to see the Mustang at the EMP - if you look at the treble side neck joint, you can see where there is a line that runs down the neck block through a part of the body that had to be reglued after Kurt destroyed the mixer with it. During all of the post-success Nirvana tours, Kurt would get Japanese (and I think some Mexican as well) strats, 3-4 for the tour, and he would smash those, and they would get glued back together and smashed again until they were too broken to fix - which takes a lot.  A few of those were at the EMP as well.  I think the White Strat was sone he smashed on the 91' tour, and the Vandalism strat has been reborn more than a handful of times.  Actually, one can get pretty far down a rabbit hole looking at the "forensics" as some guitars reappeared as others later (I still wonder if the K-Records strat and that white one may have been the same guitar, plus that turquoise mustang he smashed was the Soundgarden Stang in 89', then repainted and rebuilt into the single pickup mustang, and then the Mustang he destroyed in 1990 at the kennel club).... Okay, I'll stop before this becomes a bloody blog post in a comment.
    Yep. There's actually a bit on the Metallica DvD from 1999 with Kirk's guitar tech talking about gluing his LTD back together so he can smash it again.  Same deal.
    That would be like a mechanic cutting his toolbox in half after fixing a car.... every day. They have a thing called circus if you want to watch dumb shit like this.
    Matt Bellamy.  From musewiki.org: "Matt has the world record at breaking guitars, he smashed 140 guitars at the Absolution tour 2004." Here's the link if anyone would like to check it out: http://www.musewiki.org/Guitar_and_equipment_s...
    I'm definitely missing Muse in this list. I believe there is also a video of the band throwing almost all their gear in the sea when playing a gig on the shore?
    Classic clip. He still does this kinda stuff today, but not as much. Tends to chuck Mansons around, which I imagine is a little more expensive.
    ^ that's probably my favourite end of song smash up... The way it flies across the camera at the end is hilarious!
    This is brilliant. Once saw him smash a Manson during a concert, I died a little bit inside that day..
    How about Paul Stanley.  He ends every KISS show the same way.
    Every time I see Townshend smashing a guitar, I can't help but imagining him saying "I never really wanted to be a guitarist... I wanted... to be a lumberjack!"
    Most bands destroy cheaper versions of their signature instruments onstage these days.  I know for a fact Kirk Hammett smashes a bolt neck LTD Version of his KH signature ESP on stage. 
    Yeah, but it's not so "rock 'n' roll" I think. For example, Linkin Park have a special guitar tech man who switched the actual guitar to a cheaper version right before it'll be broken
    Also as far as I known Muse have the same type of guitar tech.
    paul 13
    When I see bands smashing up gear I always think “Man, this bellend is smashing up that guitar and there is probably some kid in the audience that could be the next (insert preferred guitar hero here) but can’t afford a guitar”. It might not be as “rock ‘n’ roll” but I’d much rather see an artist just give their guitar to some kid in the crowd.
    This is how I've always felt too. As someone who grew up dirt poor, seeing people smash guitars is just so disheartening. I remember being extremely happy and proud of my "upgrade" to Wal-Mart First Act guitar and amp because my first guitar and amp barely worked. I'm sure there are kids even worse off than I was that would give anything for even a cheap guitar. People with more money than brains, I suppose...
    Dave Grohl would probably do that rather than destroy guitars. After all, the man has a reputation for being the nicest guy in rock n' roll, so I wouldn't put it past him, really...
    I think Blackmore destroying multiple Strats and a very expensive video camera at the California Jam 1974 is more well known as it was broadcast around the world.  He was pissed off that the cameraman was constantly in his face so broke his camera as well as his guitars  
    There was a lot more to Blackmore's mood that day. At first prior to the festival he said no due to those sorts of events being disorganized. A list of demands were then agreed on and Purple did arrive. However the festival insisted the band go on early and Ritchie stuck to the agreed principle. He got a lot of heat from the festival guys for doing so. Finally he took the stage and thank good it was filmed!
    I'd also read that he contract gave him the choice of whether to headline the show or play 2nd to ELP.  He chose to go on at dusk and play as the sun set rather than play last.  A poor choice I always thought...and possibly another thing about that day that pissed him off...
    Not destroying the instrument per say, but one that really impressed/surprised me is Steve Von Till from Neurosis. When I saw them live a couple years ago, at the end of the set he just grabbed the strings of his guitar and ripped them off in one jerk on the last note of the song. It's not smashing the guitar through a cab, but it really was brutal and unexpected.
    I saw The Who at Shepherd's Bush Empire in London in 1999 and watched Townshend go through three or four Strats during one song without any of them being responsive. Once he realised there was a problem with the final one he destroyed it before walking back to the front of the stage with a Gibson Acoustic. Billy Howderel was Trent Reznor's/NIN's instrument tech and the first Les Paul he used was cobbled together from the remnants of various instruments that Trent had destroyed on stage over the tenure of his time with the band.
    I've seen rob zombie a few times and john 5 has broken those signature teles every time. Plus Black Label used to really fuck shit up back when zakk was hittin the booze hard
    No Paul Stanley? How the hell do you even get this garbage published. who the hell is Trail of Dead? 
    Legend says that NIN has 'destroyed' all their incomes at the end of the Downward Spiral ...
    Kurt Cobain broke guitars with such style. All the feed back that went along with it too, amazing. 
    This a good list but age has shown its ulgy head here. The very fisrt band know for such actions and maybe becuse they didn't make it a common place but a huge Shout out of respect to the ORGINNATOR!!!!  Yes "Rock aaround the Clock" Bill Haley and the Comets!!!!! Google Young ones and check it out!!! also a scondary mention for the KILLER  Jerry Lee Lewis haveing set many Piano's a light maybe even inspiring a young califonian to pen " Light My Fire "