The greatest philosophers of our generation (AC/DC) once opined, “It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock ‘n’ roll.” Starting out in the music business means a lot of crashing on couches, dining and dashing, and playing for “exposure” to crowds of 20 (including bar staff). Do things get easier when you make it big? Oh hell yes. But the disasters get a lot bigger too …
Joy Division was one of the biggest rock bands of the 1970s and ’80s. Even if you don’t recognize the name, you probably recognize their most famous work: this T-shirt.
For a brief spell during 1979, the police were looking into members of the band for another crime wholly unrelated to fashion: the Yorkshire Ripper murders. Between 1975 and 1980, Peter Sutcliffe — an ex-gravedigger, which seems like a clue in hindsight — murdered 13 women in red-light districts across Northwest England. Police of the time tragically didn’t have access to Wikipedia, and thus did not know this information. In 1979, they turned their attention to a motley crew of musicians whose license plates were often recorded in those very same red-light districts.
As the band’s co-founder Peter Hook explained in an interview:
“What happened was that every club we played in was run by a dodgy promoter in some dodgy part of town. We managed to play in the red-light districts of Halifax, Huddersfield, Leeds, Manchester, and probably London as well. The police had asked the public to note down the license plate numbers of any strange cars in the area, so they could investigate them later. It was very frightening — they basically asked you straight out if you were the Ripper.”
Although Hook handled his interrogation fine, the band’s drummer, Stephen Morris, came off so suspicious that he was taken to the local police station for further questioning. It’s always the drummer, isn’t it?
Motley Crue is the biggest, baddest rock band to ever exist. They rubbed egg burritos on their junk to keep their girlfriends from finding out about the groupies they were banging! One of them had a lethal overdose in Slash’s shower … and started doing heroin the second he was revived! Another killed a dude while drunk driving- OK, there’s the line in the sand.
There’s one incident that they probably don’t like to talk about, however: that time they had to cancel a gig because their lead singer got BTFO’d by a jar of mustard. Prior to taking the stage at a show in Rochester, NY, the band was backstage fixing themselves some snacks when Vince Neil — famed hater of Grey Poupon — found a jar of the stuff on their catering table in lieu of his favorite brand. In a hangry rage, he threw it at the wall … at which point the jar exploded and shrapnel hit his hand, leaving him no choice but to run to the hospital before the hated Poupon could flavor his very bloodstream.
In the end, his idiocy resulted in him severing a bunch of tendons, nerves, an artery, and almost an entire finger (he can’t stretch it out, even today). On the plus side, he never saw another jar of Grey Poupon backstage again, which seems like a minor win to us, but we’re no rock gods.
The Who was all about teenage angst. For Led Zeppelin, it was bizarre homages to Lord Of The Rings and pederasty. For Pink Floyd, it was rebellion and smashing the system — which the city of Venice learned all too well in 1989 after a gig by The Floyd caused the collapse of their government.
In 1989, Venice decided to expand its cultural horizons by inviting Pink Floyd to perform a free gig in the city’s historic St Mark’s Square. One problem: Historical preservationists argued that vibrations generated by the band could damage the city’s historic buildings. If only they had built that city on (something compatible with) rock ‘n’ roll.
As a compromise, the government moved the gig from the city center to a floating stage moored offshore. Why yes, it did look completely bonkers.
Sadly, no photos of the all-gondola mosh pit survived.
The gig, held on July 15, attracted over 200,000 fans to Venice (normal population: 60,000), and they did what rock fans tend to do and made a mess. Although the show didn’t knock any buildings down, the city was left with apocalyptic levels of garbage. Over 300 tons of the stuff, to be precise, along with 500 cubic meters of beer cans and bottles.
Once the city recovered, citizens demanded blood … or at least the resignation of the mayor, despite his protests that he was strong-armed into the deal by the local state-run television network. It was no good, however, and he was forced to resign — alongside the entire city council.
As revolutions go, it’s hard to top this one.
Alice Cooper is famed for his wild stage shows, featuring snakes, pyrotechnics, elaborate costumes, electric chairs, and the like. It is objectively and provably pretty bitchin‘. This kind of showmanship does have its drawbacks, however. When things go wrong, they go wrong in a fairly significant way. Case in point, that time he almost hanged himself during a gig.
We’re guessing this is a bit without a lot of room for mistakes.
While rehearsing for a concert at London’s Wembley Stadium in 1988, Cooper and his band were practicing that ol’ staple the fake hanging. After Cooper put his head into the noose and started play-acting strangulation, the piano wire that was holding him up broke, leaving him with the minor problem of actually being hanged … at least until a roadie realized he wasn’t just putting his all into the routine and cut him down.
As he admitted in an interview, the wire snapped because he never bothered to check or replace it between shows. “Everything has its stress limit and after doing so many shows, I never thought about changing the wire. You know, I figured it’ll last forever.”
Alice Cooper: Not the bastion of workplace safety we’d always assumed.
In June of last year, thousands of fans filed into Swansea, Wales’ Liberty Stadium and prepared for a mass Mr. Brightside singalong by drinking and drinking and drinking and then having a little drink to wash down all those drinks. Then it came time to use the bathroom, and it’s a soccer stadium, so that was no problem, right? Turns out concert organizers had taken it upon themselves to implement some kind of bizarre toilet-based class war, and the bathrooms were only available for fans sitting in the higher levels. If the lower levels wanted to relieve themselves, they had to leave the stadium and queue at a porta-potty in the parking lot.
Lines for those potties lasted upwards of 45 minutes to an hour. As you’d expect, fans started pulling a Pink Floyd and relieved themselves all over the stadium’s fences. The Killers finished their set and left the stage to discover the massive social media mess that their production staff had created, with some demanding full refunds on account of missing so much of the show.
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