by Bryan Johnson
Rock music is littered with hundreds of myths about musicians. Some of the most famous examples include stories that have been exaggerated and made popular by the media. These include false tales such as the suggestion that Cass Elliot choked to death on a ham sandwich, that Keith Richards underwent a blood transfusion to rid himself of a heroin addiction, that Marilyn Manson is Paul Pfeiffer from The Wonder Years, that Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithfull, and a Mars bar were caught in a compromising position, and that Michael Jackson purchased the bones of Joseph Merrick (Elephant Man).
It can be difficult to sort out fact from fiction when dealing with the turbulent history of famous rock stars as the stories are often falsified. This article will discuss ten of the most famous true rock stories. All of the entries are based around events that actually occurred. However, some have still been embellished by certain people.
Dylan, The Beatles, and a Joint
In late August of 1964, The Beatles started their first official U.S. tour. The group began at Cow Palace in San Francisco and finished at the Paramount Theatre in New York. On August 28-29 The Beatles played at Forest Hills Stadium in New York and were befriended by Bob Dylan. The two parties were introduced by the writer Al Aronowitz at New York’s Delmonico Hotel.
After a brief chat with The Beatles, Bob Dylan asked John, Paul, Ringo, George, and Brian Epstein if they wanted to smoke a joint. Epstein looked apprehensive and said that the band hadn’t tried marijuana for years. Dylan was immediately surprised because he had been under the impression that they smoked weed because of the song I Want to Hold Your Hand. He mistook the lyrics “I can’t hide” with “I get high.”
The Beatles were never one to back down from a new experience and agreed. Lennon took the joint and passed it to Ringo whom he called his “royal taster.” Ringo smoked the entire thing, not knowing the tradition of sharing the joint between people. In response, Dylan rolled a joint for each of The Beatles and they smoked. During the event it was reported that Epstein said “I’m so high I’m on the ceiling. I’m up on the ceiling.” McCartney got more philosophical and asked Mal Evans to write down everything he was saying.
Ozzy Osbourne Snorts Ants
Ozzy Osbourne is one of the most controversial figures in the history of music. He has sold over 100 million albums and helped popularize the genre of heavy metal. Ozzy has been addicted to drugs for most of his life and experimented with a wide variety of substances. During his career, Osbourne has been involved with two separate incidents in which he bit the head of an animal. In 1981, after signing his first solo record deal, Osbourne bit the head off a dove. In 1982, he bit the head off a bat that he thought was plastic while performing in Des Moines, Iowa. After decapitating the bat Ozzy had to be treated for rabies.
In 1982, Ozzy Osbourne got drunk and urinated on a cenotaph erected in honor of those who died at the Alamo in Texas. He was arrested for the act and banned from the city of San Antonio for a decade. In 1984, Ozzy joined Mötley Crüe on the road and the tour has been called one of the “craziest drug- and alcohol-fueled tours in the history of rock and roll.” During their time in hotel rooms, Ozzy and Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe underwent a competition to see who could be the most extreme. After Sixx set himself on fire, Osbourne responded by snorting a line of ants off the pavement. After he snorted them up, some of the ants came out his mouth. The event was highlighted in a book written by Sharon Osbourne. Many accounts say that the ants were fire ants, but this is not confirmed.
Bowie and Jagger in Bed
David Bowie is an innovative English musician that has sold over 140 million albums. He is an extremely popular singer and has done a lot of work to help fight important world issues. In 1972, Bowie became one of the first popular singers to reveal to the public that he was bisexual. Bowie gave an interview that was broadcast around the world. Since that time he has bounced back and forth on the issue and remains married to Somali-American model Iman.
In 1970, David Bowie was married to a woman named Angela and the couple divorced in 1980. In 1990, after a ten-year gag order ended, Angela Bowie appeared on The Joan Rivers Show and gave some controversial details about her time with David. She is quoted: “I caught him in bed with men several times. In fact the best time I caught him in bed was with Mick Jagger.” At this point, Howard Stern, who was involved with the interview, asked Angela if Jagger and Bowie had their clothes off. She said: “They certainly did.” The accusation became international news and Jagger released a statement that dismissed the claim.
A week after the interview, Angela Bowie went on television and said that although she had seen Mick Jagger and Bowie naked, it didn’t necessarily mean they weren’t sleeping. She clarified: “I certainly didn’t catch anyone in the act.” Some people have linked the event to the 1973 Rolling Stones hit song Angie. However, David Bowie said it best: “About 15 or 16 years ago, I really got pretty tired of fending off questions about what I used to do with my penis in the early ’70s. My suggestion for people with a prurient interest is to go through the 30 or 40 bios on me and pick out the rumor of their choice.”
Keith Richards Snorts His Dad
Keith Richards is one of the most talented guitarists in history. In 1962, he helped form The Rolling Stones and since that time the band has sold over 200 million records. Interestingly, Keith Richards regards the acoustic guitar as the basis for his playing, once saying that he felt the electric guitar would cause him to “lose that touch.” Richards is also a talented lyricist. The songwriting partnership of Jagger/Richards has been responsible for the majority of the catalog of The Rolling Stones.
In the 1970s, music journalist Nick Kent described the personality of Keith Richards as “mad, bad, and dangerous to know.” In 1994, Keith said that his image was “like a long shadow,” implying that people don’t know much about the real man, but instead focus on the things written in articles. Richards has a long history of drug abuse and has been tried for drug-related charges five times.
In April of 2006, Keith Richards made headlines when he fell out of a tree in Fiji and suffered a bad head injury. The event caused a delay in The Rolling Stones tour, but Richards made a full recovery. The following year Keith made international headlines after he was asked by a journalist what the strangest thing he ever snorted was. Keith responded: “My father. I snorted my father. He was cremated and I couldn’t resist grinding him up with a little bit of blow. My dad wouldn’t have cared. It went down pretty well, and I’m still alive.”
The comment shocked the journalist and the story instantly became a media sensation. Keith’s manager responded with the statement that the anecdote had been a joke, but many feel the story is true. In the same interview Keith was asked about his most life-threatening drug experience and mentioned an event in which “Someone put strychnine (pesticide) in my dope. It was in Switzerland. I was totally comatose, but I was totally awake. I could listen to everyone, and they were like, he’s dead, he’s dead, waving their fingers and pushing me about. I was thinking I’m not dead.” Richards remembers: “I was number one on the Who’s list of people who were likely to die for 10 years. I mean, I was really disappointed when I fell off the list.”
One of the most notorious party animals of the 1980s was Mötley Crüe’s bassist Nikki Sixx. In 1981, Sixx founded Mötley Crüe with drummer Tommy Lee. To date Mötley Crüe has sold over 80 million records. In the 1980s, the band gained a reputation for drugs, loud music, sex, and wild parties. The group was known for backstage antics, groupies, outrageous clothing, extreme high-heeled boots, and heavily applied make-up. All the members of Mötley Crüe suffered from alcoholism and long addictions to drugs, but Sixx was the only one that abused heroin. Nikki Sixx has estimated that he overdosed on heroin “about half a dozen times.”
In 1986, Nikki Sixx overdosed on heroin at a drug dealer’s house in London. The dealer reportedly tried to beat the life back into Sixx with a bat, but was unsuccessful so he dumped the body in a nearby dumpster. Sixx eventually woke up in the trash. The event was the inspiration behind the lyric “Valentine’s in London, found me in the trash” from the Mötley Crüe song Dancing on Glass.
In 1987, Mötley Crüe was part of the Guns N’ Roses Appetite for Destruction Tour. During the tour, Guns N’ Roses was the opening act for a number of poplar bands including Mötley Crüe. On the night of December 23, 1987, Nikki Sixx was doing heroin in guitarist Slash’s hotel room when he suffered a drug overdose. Slash was not in the room at the time, but his girlfriend called the authorities. When the paramedics arrived Sixx was hardly breathing.
During the ride to the hospital Sixx stopped breathing and was declared dead for two minutes. The paramedics continued to apply care to Sixx until he was eventually revived. Nikki claims to have had an out of body experience during the event. When he woke up in the hospital, Sixx ripped the tubes out of his nose and escaped into the parking lot. He hitched a ride to his house wearing just a pair of leather pants. He then continued to shoot up heroin and was found sleeping with the syringe still in his arm. Soon after the story made international news Mötley Crüe entered rehab. In 1989, the band released the hit single Kickstart My Heart, which was inspired by the infamous overdose.
Frank Zappa was an American musician that had a large impact on musical freedom. His father was Francesco Vincente Zappa who was an extremely intelligent chemist and mathematician who worked with the United States defense program. Zappa grew up near the Aberdeen Proving Ground and was regularly sick as child. He suffered from extreme asthma, earaches, and sinus problems caused by mustard gas exposure. Zappa’s upbringing gave him a negative stance on the use of chemical weapons. He often wrote references of germs, germ warfare, and the U.S. defense industry in his lyrics.
Frank Zappa was a great performer and his musical message was important, but deemed bizarre and strange by the media. His band’s debut album featured a song that asked Who Are the Brain Police? and in 1968 Zappa satirized the hippie culture as a motivation for money and profit. He was a charismatic personality and Zappa’s music was extremely popular in some European countries. He was also highly monitored by the U.S. government.
On December 4, 1971, Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention were performing a concert at the Montreux Casino when a member of the audience decided to fire a flare gun into the rattan covered ceiling. The casino quickly caught fire and burned to the ground. All of Zappa’s equipment was lost, but he survived the fire. The event was the inspiration for the song Smoke on the Water by English rock band Deep Purple.
A week after the casino fire, Frank Zappa and The Mothers played at the Rainbow Theatre, London, with rented gear. During the encore of the show, an audience member rushed the stage and pushed Zappa into the concrete-floored orchestra pit. It was a long fall and Zappa was nearly killed. He suffered serious fractures, head trauma, and injuries to his back, legs, and neck. He crushed his larynx, which caused his voice to drop a third after healing. Zappa was lucky to survive the event and was forced to use a wheelchair for an extended period. The assailant was a man named Trevor Howell who told reporters that he believed Zappa was eying his girlfriend.
The two events had an emotional impact on Frank Zappa and he was concerned that someone was trying to murder him. After making a recovery, Zappa went on to have a successful career, but was regularly bashed by the U.S. media for his edgy lyrics. Frank Zappa is quoted: “What do you make of a society that is so primitive that it clings to the belief that certain words in its language are so powerful that they could corrupt you the moment you hear them?”
In 1990, Frank Zappa was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer and the disease killed him in 1993. For some reason he was buried in an unmarked grave in Los Angeles. Many people have wondered why Zappa was not given a gravestone for identification. Some theories suggest a family request or evidence of mustard gas exposure Zappa experienced as a child.
Iggy Pop is one of the most flamboyant performers in the history of music. He has an incredible stage presence and has given credit to Jim Morrison for introducing him to a free attitude and wild stage antics. Iggy Pop is credited with being the first performer to do a stage-dive. Some of his more descriptive exploits include rolling around in broken glass, exposing himself to the crowd, and vomiting on stage. He has been known to spark riots and has the ability to whip the crowd into frenzy.
On February 9, 1974 The Stooges performed at Detroit’s Michigan Palace. It was the band’s last show together before they broke up for three decades. Before the 1974 concert, Pop gave a radio interview in which he challenged a Detroit motorbike gang (the Scorpions) to a fight. He called them all a bunch of cats. In response, the gang attended the show and pelted the band with broken glass, beer jugs, urine, eggs, ice, jelly beans, and shovels. Despite the hostility, Iggy continued to taunt the crowd and said: “You pricks can throw everything in the world… your girlfriend will still love me.”
The Stooges fed off the crowd’s anger and continued to perform. During the show Iggy finally told the bikers: “All right you assholes, want to hear Louie, Louie, we’ll give it to you.” The Stooges continued to play a forty-five-minute version of Louie Louie, which included improvised lyrics by Pop. During the song he continued to yell and verbally assault the gang.
The concert finally ended after Iggy Pop focused his attention on one particular heckler and said: “Listen, asshole, you heckle me one more time and I’m gonna come down there and kick your ass.” The biker told Pop to come over, so Iggy jumped off the stage and confronted him. The biker continued to beat the crap out of Iggy, which ended the event. Luckily, the concert was captured on a reel-to-reel tape machine and recorded live. In 1976, The Stooges released the recording in an album titled Metallic K.O. It is the only rock album where you can hear beer bottles breaking against guitar strings. The album remains a favorite among Iggy Pop fans.
Jim Morrison in Concert
Jim Morrison was one of the most charismatic singers in the history of rock music. He was a smart man and had a genius-level I.Q. of 149. Morrison was a great poet and was known for using spoken word poetry passages during his live performances. Jim would sing and then talk with the crowd. He was a social rebel that suffered from severe drug and alcohol abuse. Morrison had the ability to spark riots and shifted the behavior of a crowd with his intense emotional sound. For this reason, Jim became a target for music censorship and was closely monitored by the U.S. government. He was accompanied by police on stage during many venues.
Jim Morrison was known for making wild and outrageous remarks during shows. One of the most infamous cases occurred on December 9, 1967, while The Doors performed at the New Haven Arena in Connecticut. During the concert Morrison was arrested by local police and became the first rock star to be taken off stage during a live performance. On the day in question, Morrison was discovered kissing a fan in the shower before the concert. A police officer found the couple and told them to separate, so Morrison responded “Eat it.” The policeman warned Morrison with mace saying “Last chance” to which he replied, “Last chance to eat it.” In response, the officer sprayed Jim Morrison in the face with the mace.
The New Haven concert was delayed for an hour so Jim could recover, but the event made him extremely angry. During The Doors first set Morrison suddenly broke into an obscenity-laced tirade to the audience and explained what had happened backstage. He verbally abused the New Haven police, so they arrested him. After Morrison was taken off stage the crowd began to riot. The violence spilled from the gates of the New Haven Arena into the streets.
Over the next couple years the behavior of Jim Morrison became more erratic and unpredictable. On March 1, 1969, The Doors gave their most controversial performance at the Dinner Key Auditorium in Miami. During the show Morrison began to preach messages of peace and hate. He taunted the crowd by screaming “You’re all a bunch of idiots. What are you gonna do about it?” Then he said: “Let’s see a little skin, let’s get naked.” In response, people began to take off their clothing, including Morrison. Jim was later convicted of indecent exposure. He turned down a plea bargain from the Miami police who agreed to drop the charges if The Doors performed a free concert.
The Doors gave there last public performance with Jim Morrison at The Warehouse in New Orleans on December 12, 1970. During the show, Morrison experienced a breakdown on stage and slammed the microphone numerous times into the floor until the platform beneath was destroyed. He then sat down on the ground and refused to perform for the remainder of the show. The event caused The Doors to end their live acts, citing their mutual agreement that Morrison was ready to retire from performing.
Keith Moon Blew Stuff Up
When Keith Moon was 17 years-old he joined The Who and replaced drummer Doug Sandom. He immediately impacted the band’s sound and became known for his innovative drumming style. Along with Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, and John Entwistle, Moon would help The Who become one of the most popular bands of the 1960s and 1970s. The group was known for explosive concerts and destructive behavior. The first such performance occurred in 1964 at the Railway Tavern in Harrow and Wealdstone, London, when Townshend accidentally broke the head of his guitar through the ceiling, so he continued to smash it on stage and the crowd loved it. More people came back the next night wanting the band to smash and break something.
Keith Moon had no problem fitting in with the lifestyle of a rock star. He had an erratic personality and gained the nickname “Moon the Loon.” In one famous performance Moon filled his clear acrylic drums with water and goldfish, and dressed like a cat. He was a jokester and Moon’s ability to make his bandmates laugh around the vocal microphone led to him being banished from the studio when albums were being recorded. In response, Moon would sneak into the studio and join in the singing. He can be heard on several tracks, including Bell Boy, Bucket T, and Barbara Ann. He is the high backing vocals on Pictures of Lily.
Keith Moon was known to demolish hotel rooms and was incredibly destructive. He would often throw furniture from high buildings and set objects on fire. However, his favorite hobby was blowing up toilets with explosives. The blasts would destroy the toilet and often times disrupt plumbing to the hotel. It has been estimated that Moon’s destruction of toilets and plumbing ran as high as UK£300,000 (US$500,000). Moon was banned from several hotel chains including all Holiday Inn, all Sheraton, all Hilton Hotels, and the Waldorf Astoria.
According to Tony Fletcher’s biography, Moon was quoted: “All that porcelain flying through the air was quite unforgettable.” Fletcher wrote: “no toilet in a hotel or changing room was safe,” until Moon had detonated his supply of explosives. In one case, hotel management asked Moon to turn down his cassette player. In response, he asked the manager up to his room and blew up the toilet right in front of him. Moon then turned the cassette player back up and said: “This is The Who.”
In 1967, Keith Moon allegedly drove a Cadillac or Lincoln Continental into a Holiday Inn pool. In 1973, The Who was performing at the Cow Palace in San Francisco and Moon passed out during the show. Townshend noticed that he was sleeping and asked the audience, “Can anyone play the drums? I mean somebody good.” An audience member named Scot Halpin stepped up and finished the concert for Moon.
Ringo Starr once told Keith Moon that his lifestyle would eventually kill him. Moon simply replied “Yeah, I know.” Keith Moon died on September 7, 1978 (age 32) after he ingested 32 tablets of clomethiazole (Heminevrin). The digestion of six pills was sufficient to cause his death. The other 26 were found undissolved in his stomach. This caused some to speculate that Moon’s death might have been on purpose. Officially it was ruled a drug overdose.
The Edgewater is a hotel in Seattle, Washington that is located on a pier over Elliott Bay. It is currently the only hotel in Seattle that sits over-water. In the 1960s the Edgewater became a popular destination for famous rock stars. Some of the bands to visit the hotel include the Beatles in 1964, the Rolling Stones, Frank Zappa, and Led Zeppelin. The Edgewater is unique because in the past it allowed customers to fish from their rooms on the north elevation.
On July 27, 1969, Led Zeppelin performed at the Seattle Pop Festival and stayed at the Edgewater. The band was known to have wild parties and was often joined by groupies. According to Zeppelin’s road manager Richard Cole, during one incident, things between a fish and a sexy red head got a bit intimate. On the day in question, Cole was in his room fishing with drummer John Bonham when they were joined by some women. Cole and Bonham had caught a large collection of sharks, at least two dozen, stuck coat hangers through the gills and then left them in the closet. The hotel room was also scattered with various types of smaller fish.
As parties go, one thing led to another and people began to lose their clothing. One particular woman in the crowd with red hair found herself with Cole. She made a unique request, so he decided to reach for a fish and the shark episode was born. Cole was later quoted: “Let’s see how your red snapper likes this red snapper. It was the nose of the fish and the girl liked it. There was nothing malicious or harmful and Mark Stein of Vanilla Fudge filmed the whole thing. After the story was published by the media a large collection of rumors began to circulate, but many were exaggerated. The band received bad press so they stopped talking about the event.
In 1973, Led Zeppelin returned to the Edgewater and the band was officially banned from the hotel after it was discovered that they had caught some 30 mudsharks and left them under beds, in closets, elevators, hallways, bathtubs, and all over their rooms. They threw stuff out the windows into Elliott Bay, including beds, TVs, mattresses, lamps, drapes, and glassware. Since that time Robert Plant has been welcomed back to the Edgewater. The mudshark incident remains one of the most popular rock stories from the 1960s.
I have a difficult time including Courtney Love in the presence of these rock stars, but I don’t have a problem calling her crazy. Courtney Love is a musician that gained notoriety in the late 1980s with her band Hole. She was married to Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain until he passed away in 1994. Love is known for extreme and erratic behavior. She has been implemented by a private investigator named Tom Grant in the possible murder of Cobain.
In the weeks prior to Kurt Cobain’s suicide Love hired Tom Grant to find her husband. After Kurt was discovered dead, Green said that he found strange activity on Cobain’s credit card. He believed that Kurt’s suicide note was actually a note written that was announcing his desire to end his marriage to Courtney Love. Green also cited Cobain’s unusual bloodstream heroin levels and the fact that no fingerprints were found on the trigger of the shotgun he used to kill himself as clues of foul play.
In 2009, the daughter of Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, Frances Bean Cobain was granted a restraining order against her mother who was harassing her. Frances claimed that Courtney was a violent drug addict and compulsive hoarder. She was freighted for her safety and hoped to have her mother removed from her life.
In April of 2012, Courtney Love took to Twitter and provided a rant of crazy remarks. She attacked her daughter and Dave Grohl, the Foo Fighters frontman and former Nirvana bandmate. Love implied that Grohl had intended to have a sexual relationship with Frances and called him “sexually obsessed” with Kurt Cobain. She even voiced her opinion about the upcoming U.S. presidential election and attacked Mitt Romney with some unprovoked and strange accusations.
Courtney threatened to shoot and kill Grohl on two separate occasions. The rant was unprovoked and completely false. Frances is currently engaged to a man named Isaiah Silva. After the comments, Frances responded and said that the social networking website should ban her mother. Grohl said: “Unfortunately Courtney is on another hateful Twitter rant. These new accusations are upsetting, offensive, and absolutely untrue.”