Tales of Rock: Man photographed as baby on ‘Nevermind’ cover sues Nirvana, alleging child pornography

The man who was photographed naked underwater as a baby and later ended up on Nirvana’s iconic “Nevermind” album cover filed a lawsuit Tuesday alleging that he was a victim of child pornography.

The album cover shows Spencer Elden, now 30, in a swimming pool as a then-infant with his penis exposed.

The image used for the cover of Nirvana’s sophomore 1991 album includes a digital imposition of a dollar bill on a fishhook that the baby looks like he is trying to grab. The cover was widely considered a rebuke of capitalism.

Non-sexualized nude photos of infants are generally not considered child pornography under law. But Elden’s lawyer, Robert Y. Lewis, alleges that the inclusion of currency in the shot makes the baby appear “like a sex worker.”

Kurt Cobain “chose the image depicting Spencer—like a sex worker— grabbing for a dollar bill that is positioned dangling from a fishhook in front of his nude body with his penis explicitly displayed,” the suit, filed in the U.S. District Court’s Central District of California, stated.

Elden is asking for at least $150,000 from each of the defendants, who include surviving band members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic; Courtney Love, the executor of Kurt Cobain’s estate; Guy Oseary and Heather Parry, managers of Cobain’s estate; photographer Kirk Weddle; art director Robert Fisher; and a number of existing or defunct record companies that released or distributed the album in the last three decades.

Original Nirvana drummer Chad Channing is also named as a defendant, even though he had been replaced by Grohl in 1990, before the album was recorded or the cover photography shot.

Nirvana's "Nevermind"
The cover of Nirvana’s 1991 album “Nevermind.”

Entertainment Weekly reported in 1992 that Elden, at 4 months old, was cast for the shoot along with three other babies. Cobain commissioned the shoot after he had seen a documentary on babies being born underwater and “thought the image would make a cool cover,” Fisher told the magazine at the time. “That vision was a bit too graphic, so we went with the swimming baby instead.”

Weddle took the pictures in an Olympic size pool at the Pasadena Aquatic Center in California.

“Weddle took a series of sexually graphic nude photographs of Spencer,” the suit said. “To ensure the album cover would trigger a visceral sexual response from the viewer, Weddle activated Spencer’s ‘gag reflex’ before throwing him underwater in poses highlighting and emphasizing Spencer’s exposed genitals.”

“Weddle produced these sexually graphic images with the goal of enhancing and increasing the commercial success of Nirvana, L.L.C.’s Nevermind album.”

The album was selling about 300,000 copies a week when it reached number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 in early 1992. The album, with the classics “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Come as You Are,” has spent at least 335 total weeks on the Billboard 200.

The cover image did receive pushback, at which point Cobain agreed to release the album with a sticker over Elden’s genitals that said: “If you’re offended by this, you must be a closet pedophile.”

“The sticker, however, was never incorporated into the album cover,” the lawsuit said.

As a result, Elden “has been and will continue to suffer personal injury” and “permanent harm,” including “extreme and permanent emotional distress with physical manifestations, interference with his normal development and educational progress, lifelong loss of income earning capacity, loss of past and future wages, past and future expenses for medical and psychological treatment, loss of enjoyment of life, and other losses,” the suit stated.

Neither Elden nor his guardians signed a release authorizing the use of the image, according to the suit said. The family was paid $250, Entertainment Weekly reported in 1992.

In 2008, Spencer’s father, Rick, recounted the 1991 shoot to NPR. His friend Weddle, the photographer, “calls us up and was like, ‘Hey Rick, wanna make 200 bucks and throw your kid in the drink?'” the father recalled. “I was like, ‘What’s up?’ And he’s like, ‘Well, I’m shooting kids all this week, why don’t you meet me at the Rose Bowl (Aquatic Center), throw your kid in the drink?’ And we just had a big party at the pool, and no one had any idea what was going on!”

The NPR story went on to say that the family didn’t think more about it until, three months later, they saw a 9′-by-9′ blowup of the cover on the Tower Records wall on Sunset Boulevard.

“Two months later,” the article said, “Geffen Records sent 1-year-old Spencer Elden a platinum album and a teddy bear.”

Elden has repeatedly recreated the pose as a teenager and adult, diving into pools to pose — with swim trunks on — on the occasion of the album’s 10th, 17th, 20th, and 25th anniversaries.

However, in most of the interviews accompanying these photoshoots, he expressed mixed feelings about being famous for the “Nevermind” cover and whether he was exploited by it. Until now, despite his ongoing ambivalence about the photo’s legacy, he hadn’t described it as pornographic.

In previous interviews, he’s also said he tried to get in touch with Grohl and Novoselic, on a friendly basis, but never got a reply.

In 2016, the last time Spencer recreated the pose as an adult, he told the New York Post he wanted to take the shot naked.

“I said to the photographer, ‘Let’s do it naked.’ But he thought that would be weird, so I wore my swim shorts,” he said.

“The anniversary means something to me. It’s strange that I did this for five minutes when I was 4 months old and it became this really iconic image,” he said at the time. “It’s cool but weird to be part of something so important that I don’t even remember.”

He added that he prefers The Clash over Nirvana.

Phicklphilly: This is not child pornography. This is an artistic photo of a naked baby in a pool. There is nothing sexual or lascivious about it in any way.

This sounds like a cash grab 30 years after the fact by a desperate person.

 

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Tales of Rock – Wild Stories Of Rock Stars Taking Their Fame Way Too Far – Part 2

11. Van Morrison Recorded 30 Songs In One Day
If the rumors are true, that would have meant that Van Morrison recorded a more than one song every hour. Given that your average track is only 3-4 minutes long, it’s certainly not unfeasible. Especially not for Van Morrison who has always been somewhat of a prolific and brilliant singer and songwriter.
In 1967, we’re pretty sure he broke the record for the most songs recorded (to any discernable quality) in one sitting. The reason why he did it is even better! Morrison was tied into a pretty miserable record contract that wanted 36 tracks out of him before he could escape. In a genius move he smashed out 30 in a day, although not all of them were all that great, it’s still ridiculously impressive. Hell yeah!
12. Michael Jackson Wrote Music For Sonic The Hedgehog 3
Did the greatest Popstar of all time write the music for one of the most successful video game franchises of all time? It turns out that he did! Michael Jackson was the magnificent mind behind the music for the iconic 1993 console game Sonic the Hedgehog 3. Now that you consider Michael Jacksons’ quirky nature, it doesn’t seem all that out there to consider the fact he created one of the most infectiously catchy theme tunes of all time!
The rumor started when one MJ superfan found a strange similarity in sound between the game’s music and MJ’s famous style. The rumor floated around the internet for years before being confirmed in January 2016 by the composers of the soundtrack of the Sega game.
13. David Bowie Can’t Remember Recording One Of His Albums
At the point in time when David Bowie recorded Station to Station, it’s easy to see he was in a pretty dark place. The recording happened during all-night sessions in the studio when Bowie was living a somewhat vampiric existence and eating a ridiculously small amount of food daily.
Somehow, he made it through the hazy experience in 1976 in a Los Angeles studio with a rather blank recollection of the entire process. Looking back, it is easy to see that Bowie was suffering from pretty severe cocaine psychosis, making Station to Station potentially one of the darkest albums ever recorded. Bowie may not be able to remember, but we’ll never forget the iconic masterpiece that stemmed from his delirium. (God, we already miss him.)
14. Keith Richards Doesn’t Sleep
Surely this one can’t be true, can it? No, not quite, he is human after all – just about. Keith Richard’s sleeping patterns do almost defy human physiology, though. In an interview, Keith Richards told an interviewer that he basically runs off the fumes of adrenaline.
The longest that Keith Richards has gone without sleep is nine days, which we suppose is almost as impressive as not sleeping at all, considering the amount of awesome music he created in the times he was at his most sleep-deprived. If his 1978 track, Before they Make Me Run, from the album Some Girls sounds a little otherworldly, now you know why. He was also prone to collapsing at a moment’s notice against speakers. That’s not quite as Rock n Roll is it?
15. Gram Parsons’ Body Was Stolen
First things, first. Yes, it’s absolutely true. After the sad death of Graham Parson, his corpse was exhumed. After receiving high acclaim as the man that brought the Byrds into a brand-new arena of sound, he tragically died aged 26 on September 19th, 1973. What happened to him after death was almost as exciting as the raucous adventures he got up to when he was alive.
Gram had previously expressed his wishes to be cremated instead of buried, however, his father decided on funeral arrangements that weren’t in keeping with his son’s. Therefore, fellow road manager Phil Kaufman and his assistant took it upon themselves to steal the body and set alight to it in the desert. More surprisingly, there were no criminal charges and only a $300 fine.
16. Prince Went Door To Door As a Jehovah’s Witness In Minnesota
This one won’t be much of a surprise to hardcore Prince fans who knew at a time that his religion meant everything to him. Imagine opening your door and seeing Prince standing there, ready and willing to teach his faith.
Before his untimely death, Prince once went under the guise of ‘Brother Nelson’ and not so coincidentally ended up getting spotted by a fan. His church elder James Lundstrom recalled that Prince, we mean, “Brother Nelson” was a very shy man, but a member in good standing. Considering most of the reasons why rock stars are on this list, we’d say Prince’s are the most respectable, even if they are somewhat conflicting with his overtly sexual on-stage persona. He also cared a lot for ‘God’s Kingdom’.
17. Axl Rose Recorded Himself Having Sex For Rocket Queen
Yes, that’s right, the sex moans on his track Rocket Queen weren’t fake. Axl Rose enlisted the help of keen groupie Adriana Smith, who agreed to enter the studio with Axl and the other legendary musicians to create the track. She was certainly very brave!
Alongside Axl Rose’s steamy moans you will also be able to hear Adriana having quite a bit of fun with the vocalist. She has recently come out and admitted her role in the track after keeping pretty quiet about her involvement in the production. It sounds like Slash didn’t want to get left out after Adriana told the Mirror that a threesome also happened that evening. Axl and Adriana romantically met whilst she was working as a stripper in the LA club, Seventh Veil.
18. Rick James Was High As Hell On American Bandstand
Considering the X-rated nature of Rick James’s memoirs, this should really come as no surprise, and we’re not actually sure it’s the most ludicrous rumor in circulation about the legendary artist. The artist, who died in 2004 of a heart attack, posthumously released the accounts of his life, and it’s not for the faint-hearted.
James made his national TV debut on American Bandstand where he performed his most acclaimed singles, You and I and Mary Jane, along with an hour-long interview with Dick Clark, who he later referred to as “one of the nicest cats he’d ever met”. We suppose everyone seems pretty nice when you’re high, though, don’t they? James’s cocaine high didn’t go unnoticed by Dick Clark or the millions of viewers watching.
19. Rapper Danny Brown Received Oral Sex While Performing
Following on from the Wyman scandal, this one almost seems tame – well at least it’s almost legal. We’re guessing rapper Danny Brown didn’t get prosecuted for indecent exposure after his X-rated performance, which pushed the idea of embracing sexuality on stage just a little bit further.
Elvis may have once shocked the nation in the 50s with his gyrating hips, yet Danny Brown showed how far sexuality in musical culture has evolved when he allowed a female fan to give him a blowjob on stage back in 2013 when he was performing live in Minnesota. We’re just amazed that he could carry on hitting the notes during his performance. If there was ever a sign of a true rock star, we think this is it.
20. Ozzy Osborne Snorts Ants
Ozzy Osborne has gained his third entry on the ridiculous rumors list, making him the most prolifically anarchistic rock star in our minds. Sadly, it’s yet another incident that meant the death of innocent life. We can’t imagine any of these acts won him any favors with animal rights groups.
Whilst it’s not uncommon for rock stars to put things up their noses, this is an extreme by anyone’s standards. The incident happened when Ozzy found himself in the company of Nikki Sixx from Motley Crue on tour. When Ozzy heard they were all out of cocaine, he snorted what he believed to be the next best thing, making Motley Crue look rather tame in comparison to his little escapades. We can only imagine how much it stung the next day.

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Tales of Rock – 4 Crazy Tour Stories

Rock ‘n’ roll isn’t quite the same these days is it? We don’t hear quite as many crazy touring stories, fueled by drugs, alcohol, and god knows what else. But at least we still have the memories of the true rockstars; here are some of the more memorable:

ZZ Top’s buffalo escaping
ZZ Top had a real-life, living, and breathing buffalo on one of their tours, and it wasn’t the only animal tagging along. They also had a longhorn steer, two vultures, and two rattlesnakes for their famous 1976 and 1977 Worldwide Texas Tour.

You can imagine that having wild animals on tour is probably going to end badly, and you would be right – the animals escaped after a show on 12th June 1976 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, doing damage to the stadium field. The buffalo escaped again in November that year, close to wrecking the nine rented limos parked at the venue.

Marilyn Manson doing $25,000 worth of damage to a hotel
After a concert in New York City in 1998, 29-year-old Marilyn Manson and his bandmates trashed the dressing room of the venue in a very ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ move. They then returned to their hotel where they started a food fight and proceeding to completely trash one of the rooms.

The posse ended up causing up to $25,000 worth of damage, including telephones struck in the middle of walls, burns on carpets, and stained bathtubs from their purple hair dye.

Van Halen’s equipment ruining venue stage
Van Halen used to have a very specific request for their shows backstage – a bowl of M&Ms with no brown ones. While this seems ridiculous, the request was actually part of a larger tactic. Compared to other bands of the time, the band had quite an impressive stage production, including nine 18-wheeler trucks full of equipment. So the M&Ms request was actually to make sure the promotor had read all the requirements of the tour, including some strict safety measures – like whether the venue floor can withstand the weight of the stage set.

At a concert at a university in Colorado back in 1980, the band found one brown M&M in the bowl – so they decided to trash their dressing room in true rockstar style. And it turned out the M&M trick worked – the contract was clearly not read correctly, and the venue floor couldn’t hold the stage set. $80,000 of damage (a lot more in today’s money) ended up being caused by the stage collapsing.

Ozzy Osbourne goes missing on Black Sabbath tour
Ozzy single-handedly made some crazy rock ‘n’ roll stories over the years, some odd like snorting a line of ants, and some offending entire states of the US like urinating on Almano in Texas.

A more amusing story though is when Ozzy went missing during a Black Sabbath tour in 1978. The band checked in to a hotel in Atlanta, and as they were preparing for their show that evening they realized Ozzy wasn’t in his room. His luggage was there untouched with a made bed, proving he had never even arrived. The police and local TV and radio were notified, with alerts sent out to the public.

Van Halen did their opening slot, then Black Sabbath got up on stage and apologized for having to cancel the show. Fast forward to 9 am the next morning, and the band gets a call from Ozzy asking when they’re leaving for the venue. Turns out he had drunk a bottle of something, went into the wrong empty room, and blacked out for over 24 hours. When he woke up he thought he’d only slept for one night.

 

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Tales of Rock – Rock ‘n Roll Mugshots

But some stars take acting out to a whole new level, and their deeds—or rather, misdeeds—cross the thin blue line that separates the legendary and the illegal, and brings them straight into the police station. Sure, charges related to sex and drugs may not be entirely unexpected for rock-n-rollers, but larceny, aggravated assault, and even murder are also in the mix below.

c. 1938
Frank Sinatra, aged 23, poses for a mugshot after being arrested and charged with “carrying on with a married woman” in 1938 in Bergen County, New Jersey.
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
c. 1947
Jazz singer Billie Holiday’s mugshot in May 1947, when she was 32. She was arrested for possession of narcotics and served eight months in prison.
Bureau of Prisons/Getty Images
c. 1963
The first of three mugshots of Jim Morrison of The Doors. Here, aged 20, Morrison had been arrested on September 28, 1963, on charges of petty larceny, disturbing the peace, resisting arrest, and public drunkenness at a football game in Tallahassee, Florida. Morrison made fun of the players and the crowd and went so far as to steal an umbrella and a police officer’s helmet from a police car. Charges were dropped, but Morrison was fined.
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
c. 1967
Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler, aged 18, posed for his mugshot on March 15, 1967, in Yonkers, New York. He was arrested for possession of marijuana.
Bureau of Prisons/Getty Images
c. 1968
Jim Morrison’s second appearance, on January 29, 1968, in Las Vegas, Nevada, when he was 25. On this occasion, Morrison was detained at the Pussycat a’ Go-Go bar for public drunkenness and vagrancy.
Bureau of Prisons/Getty Images
c. 1969
Jimi Hendrix poses for a mugshot after his arrest for narcotics possession at Toronto International Airport on May 3, 1969, in Toronto, Canada.
Donaldson Collection/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
c. 1970
Jim Morrison in Dade County, Florida, in September 1970. His arrest was for an incident a year previously, at Coconut Grove, Florida. Morrison was charged with a felony for lewd lascivious behavior, two misdemeanors for public profanity, two for public exposure, and one for public drunkenness—all while on stage.
Bureau of Prisons/Getty Images
c. 1976
David Bowie was arrested in March 1976, after a performance in Rochester, New York, for possession of around half a pound of marijuana. Three others were detained with Bowie, including Iggy Pop. They were all released on bail after three hours.
Bureau of Prisons/Getty Images
c. 1976
Jerry Lee Lewis was arrested by Memphis police in November 1976 and charged with public drunkenness and gun possession.
Bureau of Prisons/Getty Images
c. 1978
Bassist Sid Vicious of punk band The Sex Pistols poses for his mugshot after being arrested by New York City police for allegedly murdering his girlfriend Nancy Spungen on December 8, 1978 in New York City.
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
c. 1980
An 18-year-old Axl Rose posed for the above Lafayette, Indiana police mugshot in July 1980. It was the first of at least five arrests for Rose.
Bureau of Prisons/Getty Images
c. 1982
David Crosby, founding member of The Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash was arrested by Dallas police in April 1982 and charged with drug and gun possession.
Bureau of Prisons/Getty Images
c. 1984
John Osbourne (aka Ozzy Osbourne) was arrested by Memphis cops in May 1984 and charged with public intoxication.
Bureau of Prisons/Getty Images
c. 1986
Kurt Cobain, singer of the Grunge band Nirvana, was arrested by Aberdeen, Washington police in May 1986, for spray painting the phrase “ain’t got no whatchamacallit” on vehicles.
Bureau of Prisons/Getty Images
c. 1988
James Brown posed for this South Carolina Department of Corrections mug shot in December 1988 after a jury found him guilty of aggravated assault, weapons possession, and failure to stop for police. His “failure to stop” saw Brown flee police across two States. When police blew out two of his tires, he drove on the rims for six miles. He served three years—one of a number of periods in prison.
Bureau of Prisons/Getty Images

 

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Tales of Rock -10 Most Notorious Hell-Raiser Rock Bands

Rock ‘n’ roll, as a rule, is not built for the faint of heart. You can be a sensitive soul with a message to get across in your emotionally wrought lyrics, sure, but if you’re looking to live that life, you’ve got to be prepared for a little rough and tumble.

The travel, the expectations, the screaming fans – it can become pretty grueling. And in such circumstances, it’s no surprise that some – most – rockers decide to kick back and party.

There’s indulging in a little carefree leisure time, though – and then there are the extremes to which some of rock’s most legendary hell-raisers take things. The music industry is filled with tales of excess and wild behavior, some of them funny, some of them impressive, some of them downright sinister.

The age of the degenerate, uncontrollable, pure id rockstar seems to be fading away – which may be for the best, given some of the legacies left behind – but with a century of hard-hitting, fast-living cowboys behind us, there’ll always be the stories to revel in, to be wowed by, and often appalled by.

10. Happy Mondays

Few bands have caused so much chaos with such good nature as the Happy Mondays. As part of the Madchester scene of the ‘80s and ‘90s, hedonism was naturally on the cards, and the band embraced the chemicals as much as any raver. And then, they took things that little bit further.

The Mondays’ drug habit was such that they would burn through their record label’s money at an astonishing pace, a lifestyle which has led to several members of the band declaring bankruptcy post-heyday. The uber-mellow ecstasy scene of the band’s early period led to some great psychedelic throwback records.

Things got sinister when the hard stuff set in during the early ‘90s. In an attempt to wean the band off heroin, the 1992 album Yes Please was recorded in Barbados, where Shaun Ryder successfully kicked his habit by transitioning onto crack. The sheer excess of this excursion led to the ruination of Factory Records.

Hearteningly, the majority of the Mondays seem to have come out the other side, and while one might argue that the modern mannerisms of Ryder and Bez show remnants of former drug use, the fact that they’re still in one piece, and still intermittently performing, is impressive indeed.

9. Guns N’ Roses

In a heartwarming postscript to the band’s ‘80s heyday, Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash now seems like one of the soundest musicians in rock. Always good for a quip and still clearly in love with what he does, he has, it seems, escaped a grubby scene unscathed.

Things seemed like they could go the other way for a long while. In the 1980s, as well as a brief stint as the biggest band in the world, few acts could have been consuming more booze and gear than Axl and the boys.

Slash took things the furthest when he briefly died in the early ‘90s after overdosing on speedballs. Resuscitated after eight minutes, it was the wake-up call he needed – a scant 15 years later, he got himself clean. Bassist Duff McKagan, meanwhile, managed to drink enough that his pancreas was swollen to the size of a football by age 30.

Most worrying, though, was the behavior of frontman Axl Rose. While less famous for his substance abuse, the man was a ticking time bomb for much of his career, challenging the entirety of Nirvana to a fight, ruining gigs with his timekeeping and temper, and hiring and firing band members at will.

8. Led Zeppelin

The band that wrote the rule book for rule-breaking rock bands, Led Zeppelin had seen it all and done it all before most notable bands had picked up a guitar or a needle. Some of their exploits are classic tales of wild rockers; others are downright sinister and indecent. One thing’s for sure, though: few if any have cleared the bar that Zeppelin set over 50 years ago.

There are particularly famous anecdotes (the mud shark incident, which doesn’t bear repeating, for one), but the band was just excess personified full stop. The hotel room trashing, hard-partying, the fast-living group was given its template by the success of Zeppelin, who only got more successful the faster they lived.

They all had their own vices – John Bonham, booze and fast cars; Robert Plant, ladies and eventually heroin; Jimmy Page, black magick and questionable romantic pursuits (to say the least). They flaunted their chaotic lives while putting out eight good to great albums in 10 years, which isn’t bad going.

They’ll forever be one of the most influential bands ever, but it’s debatable which part of their legacy is more important: the sound, or the decadence.

7. The Beach Boys

The clean-cut California surf enthusiasts may not strike you as the hardest partying outfit, but between the precise harmonies and musical innovation was a shockingly dark side, particularly in its most talented and most charismatic members, Brian and Dennis Wilson.

Brian, the epitome of tortured genius, raised hell primarily in his own mind. With the weight of the group on his shoulders and feeling in direct competition with the Beatles, he pushed himself into increasingly ambitious works through unconventional means, turning his mansion into a recording studio and filling it with sand.

His drug usage made him a hermit for a while, but that streak of self-destruction was more explosive in younger brother Dennis, who embraced the fast living sixties more than most. A major star before his 20s, there was no way he wasn’t going to embrace the lifestyle afforded to him by his group’s success.

So free-spirited was Dennis that he allowed the Manson family, pre-murders, to crash with him for a long while, an association he regretted to his premature death. It doesn’t get much more literally hell-raising than that.

6. Butthole Surfers

The legendary Texas band thrived on pure chaos. Their records are brash and irreverent, at times impenetrable, others brilliant. Their live shows were known and loved for their visceral, unpredictable nature (which later became pretty predictable, with audiences showing up specifically to become embroiled in the chaos).

The band built their own mythology, telling anyone who would listen of their daily routine – LSD-laced cornflakes, whisky, and gin being the regular diet for a six-month-long European tour – but they were no idle talkers. For those caught up in their drift, they were a frightening proposition, with concerts turning into orgies, brawls, or both.

The band’s music has been influential for heavy hitters like Kurt Cobain, but few since have been able to capture the sheer weirdness of the Surfers, who have burned enough bridges to sabotage a dozen careers, but always seem to come bouncing back,

Now well into middle age, the band’s core members have barely changed at all, still more than willing to catch a ban from various prestige festivals through sheer belligerence. Somehow, though, they always seem to bounce back.

5. Aerosmith

You don’t get a nickname like “The Toxic Twins” without putting in some serious mileage. From the late ‘70s to the tail end of the ‘80s, Aerosmith’s Joe Perry and Stephen Tyler were unstoppably indulgent. Given their status in the scene at the time, they’ve partied to extremes few could afford to top.

Perry, for example, hired a roadie whose sole responsibility was to sort him out with a bump of powder during a performance. Aerosmith had no time for admin – they had the money to ensure that they were fully topped up at all times; they had only to enjoy the spoils of war.

Burnout was inevitable, of course, and the rampant self-destruction led to infighting and a downturn in quality. Gigs were ended prematurely by Tyler, too blasted to notice they’d only just started playing. In due course, the band decided they had too good a thing going to let substances get in the way – they entered rehab and came out an entirely different proposition.

Aerosmith is now the power ballad band, rather than a group of raucous rockers. And while their bank balance and their health have taken a step in the right direction, the danger and the riffs are long gone.

4. The Sex Pistols

It’s no secret that the Sex Pistols, far from the new voice of gritty British discontent, were essentially a manufactured act. While they may have been the image-centric brainchild of Malcolm McClaren, though, they used their status as the country’s most dangerous group to live faster and harder than any other boyband you’d care to mention.

The Pistols were pure combat and codified much of what we now associate with punk: the antagonism, the spitting. Their gigs could turn into brawls, especially when they took the act to the USA, where crowds could be riled into launching glasses at the group, who lapped up the hatred like milk.

Chief among the miscreants was bassist Sid Vicious, hired for his look and attitude rather than his musical skills. While he didn’t contribute much musically, the band’s mythology resolved majorly around him. He attacked journalists, leaped with both feet into the heroin scene, and overdosed not long after (allegedly) murdering his girlfriend – a charming character all around.

They took on the monarchy and won (sort of), and brought unpalatable music and lifestyles to the mainstream. They may have been performatively outrageous (see: the Bill Grundy show), but few acts have made as much of a scene with so little time.

3. Robert Johnson
Wikipedia

Among the most mysterious figures in the history of rock, the famous Robert Johnson story purports that he sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for his legendary guitar prowess. One of the masters of the Delta Blues, Johnson’s relatively small back catalog means it is his wild and mysterious life that is now better remembered than the music itself.

Johnson spent much of his brief time wandering the earth (or, more specifically, America), peddling his blues and enjoying the fringe benefits afforded to a musician of his caliber. He would form relationships in every town, staying with various women who knew nothing of one another’s existence.

Johnson’s (possibly apocryphal) demise only serves to add to his legend: it is said that the notorious womanizer was poisoned – by a jilted lover, a jealous husband, or a rival, no one can be sure. Historians suggest he may have died of boring old syphilis – which, given his lifestyle, seems believable.

Whether or not he bartered with Satan, Johnson was one of 20th-century music’s first great wildmen, in a time when you could simply split town once you’d pushed your luck too far.

2. Mötley Crüe

Quite bad Mötley Crüe’s film The Dirt shows the group being out-extremed by Ozzy Osbourne, who cheerfully laps up urine and snorts a line of ants to wow the Californian rockers. While that anecdote sees Ozzy come out on top, though, there can be few acts for whom partying took such precedence as the Crüe,

The lifestyle suited the quartet, who embraced every faucet of rock stardom from the off. More groupies, more drugs, more booze. The band’s increased status directly correlated with the scale of their partying. They behaved like monsters for a good decade and got away with it because they were so popular.

Perhaps the most metal moment of their careers came when Nikki Sixx wrote the song “Kickstart My Heart” based on an overdose which led to his heart genuinely being restarted with adrenaline, allowing the Crüe bassist to join Slash in the “has been dead for a bit” club.

In one of the easiest gigs in journalism, author Neil Strauss got a book published simply by writing down all the grotty stuff Mötley Crüe got up to in the ‘80s, and it remains a classic of the genre – basically the Bible for bands whose ambition is to live the rock star cliche.

1. GG Allin & The Murder Junkies

You know you’ve sealed your credentials as a hell-raiser when you’re far, far more famous for being an undeniably disgusting human being than you are a musician. You know you’re not in for a gentle night of cheery tunes when you go see a band called “The Murder Junkies”, but audiences had never seen anything like GG Allin.

Allin would appear on stage, undress, and swiftly soil himself – and that was for starters. Fights with audience members were routine, and if a Murder Junkies gig ended without the frontman filthy, bloodied, and in the bad books of the venue owner, then you’d caught him on an off night.

The music was secondary to the performance, but in his lyrics Allin was ever incendiary, cheerfully throwing in racism and misogyny, ostensibly to provoke controversy and debate, rather than out of any real hatred. Naturally, you’ll find few backers for his discography these days.

Allin died predictably young, and he went out as he would have wanted – with his unpreserved, bloated corpse taking pride of place at a funeral-cum-party, during which his friends got loaded and posed with the carcass. There’ll never be another GG Allin, and that’s probably for the best.

 

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