From the moment Elvis Presley started to gyrate his hips on national television back in the ever conservative 1950s - and even earlier still with the many sexual overtones that were pervading much of jazz music - rock and roll has oozed with a sense of reckless abandon and middle finger outrageousness. Bands such as The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Alice Cooper and The Rolling Stones would go on to push the boundaries of what was considered taboo and wild in society to new heights of fancy. But it would be Motley Crue who would forever be crowned the kings of depravity. Yet in their aftermath, rock's wild spirit sort of took a backseat, that is, until bands like Marilyn Manson and Slipknot started voyaging back into that same dangerous territory of their fore fathers again. And from the look of things, it seems that this adventurous spirit in rock and roll is very much back at the fore and in vogue. Joe Matera takes a retrospective look at the top ten wildest moments in rock and roll (and metal) history.
Motley Crue's Nikki Sixx' hard core heroin addiction cost him his life, well almost, when he died from an overdose only to miraculously be brought back to life. After his heart had stopped beating for two minutes, paramedics administered two shots of adrenaline to bring him back from the brink. Sixx - the epitome of rock and roll dangerousness personified - then on the same day, checked himself out of the hospital, and left a message on his answering machine saying; "I can't come to the phone right now 'cause I'm dead," then went and shot up a nice healthy dose of heroin. Years later, looking back on his near death experience, Sixx told me in an interview, conducted in 2007 that, I remember sort of seeing the event even though I was actually lying on the ground with a sheet over my head. He then added, I think the secret to my success is simply that I just won't die!
Legend has it that back in the 1930s, classic Delta bluesman Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil at the Crossroads in exchange for guitar virtuosity, which turned him into one of the most electrifying musicians of his time. Simultaneously the legend would forever marry rock and roll to Satan. Johnson later repaid the devil his due when he was poisoned by a (reportedly) jealous girlfriend. Later on down the years, the outrageous debauchery of Led Zeppelin along with Jimmy Page's heavily dabbling in the occult and his fascination with the wickedest man in the world Aleister Crowley, and the further exploitation of the myth for mass consumption via the 1986 film Crossroads - would only serve to steep the legend further into fact.
When the Rolling Stones played the Altamont Speedway outside San Francisco in 1969, Meredith Hunter, a young black teenager in the crowd, was set upon by the Hells Angels who attacked him with a knife, and when he drew a gun, was hacked and stomped to death to the background strains of Sympathy for the Devil (in ensuing years it was noted that it was not while the band were performing Sympathy For The Devil but in fact, performing Under My Thumb). With that slip of the knife, all the claims of rock's dangerous qualities were confirmed once and for all.
The psychopath known to every one as Charles Manson wanted to start a global race war between blacks and whites. This philosophy of his was fuelled by mad hidden meanings he found in The Beatles' White Album and in particularly "Helter Skelter" that Manson claimed spoke to him directly. Eventually these so called messages instructed him to brutally and savagely murder actress Sharon Tate and four others at their Hollywood home. But ironically, the Manson clan wrote the words in blood on the walls but spelled it wrong: - Healter Skelter.
On the eve of a Stooges gig at the Michigan Palace in 1974, (later captured in all its resplendent glory on the Metallic K.O album) Iggy Pop went on a Detroit radio baiting a local motorbike gang, the Scorpions, by calling them a bunch of pussies. The gang later turned up at the show and all hell broke loose. As soon as the band walked onstage, the band was immediately bombarded with broken glass, beer jugs, bottles of piss and shovels. Amidst the madness, Iggy brazenly taunted: 'You pricks can throw every goddamn thing in the world ... and your girlfriend will still love me'.
During an Ozzy Osbourne concert in Des Moines, Iowa (home to that other dangerous band Slipknot) in the early '80s, a bat was thrown on stage. Stunned by the light, the bat lay motionless until Osbourne thinking it was plastic, picked it up and bit the head off of it. Immediately the bat started flapping its wings upon which Osbourne realized it wasn't a fake after all! After the show, Osbourne was rushed to hospital for rabies shots. Osbourne later described the event as "one of the most horrible, painful experiences of my life."
The logo for Death Row Records is a blindfolded black man strapped into an electric chair at the moment of execution, apt for a label with a violent history, and one that includes alleged beatings and public humiliations which culminated in the violent murder of rapper Tupac Shakur. Shakur would be shot multiple times while sitting in the front passenger seats of a car in the midst of a crowed Las Vegas street. And at the time, it was reported that Shakur was taking steps to sever his relationship with Death Row.
It seems that where ever Courtney Love goes or has gone, only bad (and hate) is sure to follow. And the statistics are frightening: Her famous late husband committed suicide (though conspiracy theorists argue Love knocked him off), she has constantly battled with debilitating drug addictions, has been embroiled in a messy legal fight with her former record label, has had violent outbursts including one where she allegedly struck an audience member with her microphone stand, was arrested for prescription drugs and for causing a disturbance on an airplane. And that's only for starters!
Michael Jackson's - who has earned the title of Wacko Jacko - tribulations with child sex allegations may now be a thing of the past, but they were just another in a long line of accusations and disastrous events that seemed to have plagued his entire long standing career. After all, he did name one of his albums Dangerous and he came precariously close to snuffing it back in 1984 too, when his hair turned a slightly brighter shade of red after catching fire during the sixth take of a Pepsi commercial. Ouch!
And finally to end this special feature, Syd Barrett was the original guitarist, vocalist and songwriter with Pink Floyd, responsible for many of the band's early psychedelic gems as See Emily Play that reflected Barrett's fragile, frazzled mental state, due largely to his copious intake of hallucinogenic drugs. All of which would eventually lead to his complete mental breakdown. It's after effects would see Barrett retire to a hermit like, recluse existence that would end in his untimely death in 2006. A death that would rob the rock world and guitar playing fraternity, of one of its most gifted visionary musical ingenuities.
By Joe Matera