It takes a certain kind of person to reach rock-legend status, and you could maybe describe that type as “extra.” The hard-partying, hotel-trashing rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle may sound exhausting to some of us, but for many, it’s the ultimate goal. Even if you’ve never picked up a guitar, these facts will give you a taste of the excitement, struggles, and excess that go into being a rock god. Here are scandalous and tragic facts about legendary rock gods.
1. Her Majesty
John Lennon once claimed that the Beatles shared a joint in the bathroom of Buckingham Palace, while they were waiting to meet the Queen. He later went back on the claim, and Paul McCartney has said that they actually just smoked “sly ciggie” to calm their nerves, so we’re just left to wonder just how sly that ciggie was.
2. The Day the Music Will Die
A year before Buddy Holly’s tragic death in a plane crash, producer Joe Meek predicted that the rock ‘n’ roll legend would die in February. Sure enough, Holly’s plane went down on February 3, 1959.
3. Final Resting Place
No one is entirely sure what happened to Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious’s ashes, but Malcolm McLaren, the manager of the band, claimed that Sid’s mother spilled her son’s ashes in the arrivals lounge at Heathrow Airport.
4. Think of the Children!
A Pink Floyd song had the first swear word to receive regular radio play. Though other songs with curses had made it to the radio, the offending words were always bleeped out. Roger Waters’ line “Don’t give me that no good, goody-good bull****” from Dark Side of the Moon’s “Money” somehow made it to the airwaves uncensored.
5. Foxy Lady
Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham, later of Fleetwood Mac, got their start opening for legendary acts like Buffalo Springfield, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix. During one concert, Hendrix pointed to Nicks, who was standing just offstage and dedicated a song to her.
Before the band settled on their iconic Rumors-era lineup, Fleetwood Mac had a virtuosic guitarist named Peter Green. Green left the group to become a farmer. Rock on, Peter! Clearly, Peter Green didn’t fit in with the rest of Fleetwood Mac. One of his reasons for leaving was because the rest of the group rejected his idea to donate all of their profits to charity.
Man, a rock star that wanted to give away all his money and left the ‘biz to grow food for people? They sure don’t make ’em like that anymore.
7. Ahead of His Time
These days it seems like all of our music is online, but where did it all begin? Well, like many things, it was with Prince: In 1997, he became the first artist to release an entire album (Crystal Ball) exclusively online.
8. Mercurial Origins
Freddie Mercury’s birth name was Farrokh Bulsara. He and his family were Parsis who practiced Zoroastrianism, and Mercury’s funeral was presided over by a Zoroastrian priest.
9. Don’t Fret
Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi worked as a welder before hitting the big time. On his last day of work, Iommi lost the tips of two of his fingers on his fretting hand. In order to keep playing the guitar, he had to convert to lighter gauge strings and use a lower tuning, which is a large part of Sabbath’s signature dark sound.
If you look closely, you’ll notice that to this day Iommi plays with what are essentially plastic thimbles on his right middle and ring fingers.
10. Not Bad for an Afterthought
Legendary Black Sabbath hit “Paranoid,” perhaps one of the greatest hard rock songs of all time, was written in 20 minutes to fill space on an album.
11. Wolves at the Door
Pink Floyd made a ton of money from Dark Side of the Moon, which they invested in such harebrained schemes as a floating restaurant and a skateboard company, all of which were failures. Fleeing the taxman, Pink Floyd wound up in France, where they recorded The Wall to even more acclaim.
On December 8, 1980, Annie Leibovitz took a now-iconic photo of John Lennon and Yoko Ono for Rolling Stone Magazine, with a naked Lennon wrapped lovingly around his wife. He was assassinated later that same day.
13. Tell It Like It Is
The iconic Guns N’ Roses hit “Sweet Child o’ Mine” ends with the epic repeating line “Where do we go now?” This line came about because, after they decided to put a breakdown in the song, they didn’t know where to go with it. Makes sense to me! Then there’s the memorable riff of the song, which began as a string skipping exercise that Slash did for practice.
Axl Rose heard it and insisted that they make a song out of it, even though Slash thought the idea was stupid—he’s resented the song, despite its wild success, ever since.
14. Parental Approval
Janis Joplin felt a desperate need to please her parents throughout her short career. After she had left home to pursue fame and fortune in San Francisco, she wrote to them, “Weak as it is, I apologize for being just so plain bad in the family,” which is just plain heartbreaking.
15. Drawing Up a Budget
In 1986, EMI gave the Red Hot Chili Peppers a budget of $5,000 to record a demo tape. Of that, the band set aside $2,000 for illegal substances.
16. Hearing What He Wants to Hear
It’s widely known that Bob Dylan introduced the Beatles to pot, but to his credit, he wasn’t trying to be a pusher—he thought they already smoked. He had heard their song “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and thought that they were saying “I get high” when they’re actually saying “I can’t hide.”
17. Credit Where Credit’s Due
Elvis Presley didn’t write a single one of the 600 songs he recorded.
18. Picky Eaters
Van Halen famously had a strict rule that no brown M&Ms were allowed in their dressing room before concerts. It’s become a famous example of ridiculous rider requirements, but there was actually an ingenious reason behind the request. The band had extensive safety rules, and they hid the M&M clause deep in their contract’s guidelines.
Therefore, if the band found any brown M&Ms, they would know that the venue hadn’t read their contract closely.
19. Where Do You Get Your Ideas?
The Mötley Crüe lyric “Valentine’s in London, found me in the trash” has an unbelievable origin: Band member Nikki Sixx overdosed at a dealer’s house in London, and after trying to beat him back to life with a baseball bat, the dealer left Sixx’s passed-out body in a dumpster, where the rock star woke up a few hours later.
20. Never Settle
Pat Benatar was a bank teller and housewife (she married her high school sweetheart) in the early 70s, when she went to see Liza Minnelli perform live. Inspired, Benatar quit her job and formed a band.
21. Troubled Genius
Jim Morrison, the lead singer of the Doors, had an IQ of 149. That puts him in the “highly gifted” category, just a few points shy of genius level.
22. Showing Some Skin
Morrison had a knack for getting crowds worked up. One audience rioted after Morrison taunted local police, who then arrested the singer on-stage. At another concert, Morrison told the crowd “Let’s see a little skin, let’s get naked.” He and the audience then stripped down, causing Morrison to receive a conviction of indecent exposure.
23. Bathroom Explosions
The drummer of the Who, Keith Moon, was fixated on blowing up toilets in hotel rooms. The estimated cost of the damage he caused to plumbing is as high as $500,000, and Moon was banned from all Holiday Inn, Sheraton, and Hilton hotels, plus the Waldorf Astoria. Cus sometimes, you just need to blow up toilets.
24. The Cursed Flat
In 1978, Keith Moon rented an apartment from singer Harry Nilsson. Nilsson was reluctant to rent the flat to Moon because Mama Cass had died there four years earlier, and Nilsson believed the place was cursed. Moon died there just a few months later.
25. Off to a Bad Start
Bruce Springsteen, the Boss himself, got kicked out of his first band because his guitar was too cheap.
26. Totally Haunted
In 1992, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails began renting the very same Beverly Hills home in which the Manson Family had murdered Sharon Tate and four others. He recorded The Downward Spiral there, but eventually, he moved out of the place because, as he put it, “there was too much history in that house for [him] to handle.”
He did, however, take the house’s front door and install it at his next recording house, Nothing Studios.
27. Record-Setting Accolades
Only one person has been nominated for a Grammy, a Golden Globe, an Oscar, and a Nobel Peace Prize: U2’s Bono. That’s impressive and all, but remember that he also gave us “Discotheque.”
28. Friends in High Places
The film Monty Python and the Holy Grail was made on a shoestring budget—they couldn’t even afford horses, so they banged coconuts together and made a joke of it. The film’s main investors were a coalition of rock stars including Led Zeppelin, Elton John, Jethro Tull, and Pink Floyd. Rock stars, they just keep on giving.
29. I’ll Do It Myself
23 record labels rejected Joan Jett before she founded Blackhearts Records herself in 1980. It was the first independent record company run by a female artist.
30. Devilish Fun
During the recording of Station to Station in 1975, David Bowie was so out of his mind on illegal substances that he later couldn’t remember any of it. The recording session was also marked by experiments in witchcraft, and Bowie apparently held an exorcism that burned a silhouette of Satan on the bottom of a swimming pool.
In 1974, shortly before his band the Stooges were going to play a show in Detroit, Iggy Pop went on the radio and challenged a local motorcycle gang to a fight. The gang came to the Stooges’ show and pelted the band with glass, urine, eggs, and even shovels. In response, the Stooges played an improvised, 45-minute long version of “Louie, Louie.”
The concert finally ended when Pop focused in on one particular heckler and threatened him. Pop jumped down into crowd, and proceeded to get the tar beaten out of him by the angry biker.
32. Not Without My Pudding
Ah, the heady life of a rock star. A Newcastle audience nearly rioted once when Guns ‘n’ Roses were late for a concert. They probably weren’t impressed with the band’s excuse: Axl Rose wanted a full roast dinner, and he was waiting for his Yorkshire puddings to rise.
33. Sleeping It Off
Eric Clapton had a tough time in the 70s, a period when, “To be on stage, you were almost expected to be drunk.” In addition to just wandering off stage from time to time, Clapton remembers performing one concert lying down, with the mic propped up next to him—”and nobody batted an eyelid.”
34. Something in the Way She Moves
British model Pattie Boyd has been married to two of the greatest rock stars of all time, George Harrison and Eric Clapton. Her marriage with Harrison disintegrated when he had an affair with Ringo Starr’s wife. Boyd then went on to marry Harrison’s close friend Eric Clapton. She inspired some of the greatest love songs of all time, including Harrison’s “Something,” as well as Clapton’s “Layla,” and “Wonderful Tonight.”
35. Friendly Rivalry
In 1984, Ozzy Osbourne went on a tour with Mötley Crüe that has been described as one of the “craziest drug- and alcohol-fuelled tours in the history of rock and roll.” Trying to outdo each other’s extreme antics, Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe set himself on fire, then Osbourne snorted ants off the sidewalk. I’m not sure who won that contest, but it sounds like both of them lost.
36. Gaining Custody
In the 1970s, Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler fell in love with a 16-year-old fan, Julia Holcomb. Since it was illegal for them to be together, Tyler somehow convinced the girl’s parents to sign over custody so that he could live with her. They broke up when Holcomb was 18.
37. Friends With Benefits
David Bowie’s wife Angela left him in 1980, but couldn’t speak publicly about the reasons behind their split for several years afterward. Finally, in an interview that took place ten years after their divorce, Angela revealed that she had found David naked in bed with men several times—including Mick Jagger! Jagger has denied these allegations.
Later, Angela admitted that she just because she said she found the men in bed together, she didn’t necessarily see anything explicit occurring.
38. Everybody Hurts
Kurt Cobain’s body was found three days after his death with the stereo still on. He had been listening to R.E.M.
39. Hell of a Ride
Few bands can claim to match the tragic bad luck of the legendary American folk-rock group The Allman Brothers. In 1971, one of the brothers, Duane, was killed in a motorcycle accident in their hometown of Macon, Georgia. The accident led to a long series of unfortunate events and deaths within the band, which currently only has one surviving original member left.
40. Getting the Band Back Together
After the Martin Scorsese-directed concert film The Last Waltz cemented the legacy of American folk group The Band, things took a turn for the tragic. They split shortly after the film. When the group did get back together in 1983, not everything went according to plan. Three years into their reunion, pianist Richard Manuel hung himself in his motel room the night after a show and his replacement, Stan Szelest, died only 5 years later due to a heart attack.
41. Born to Run for Elvis
In 1976, Bruce Springsteen performed a concert in Memphis, then proceeded to go to Graceland at three in the morning. He managed to get over the wall and up to the front door when security grabbed him. Unfortunately for the singer, Elvis Presley wasn’t home at the time. We’re going to guess there was some alcohol influencing his choices that night.
42. Up in the Air
There’s just something about musicians and airplanes that spell tragedy. Lynyrd Skynyrd was on a chartered plane that crashed in 1977, taking the lives of band members Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines, along with several members of their entourage. The plane had run out of fuel and attempted an emergency landing.
Eerily, the album that was planned to come out three days after the crash was named Street Survivors and the cover photo featured the band engulfed in flames. Out of respect for the families of the deceased, the photo was changed on subsequent pressings of the record.
43. Puff, Puff, Pass
This one might fall more under “fun fact” than “tragic” depending on your opinion of the song: Paul McCartney admitted the “you” in the song “Got to Get You Into My Life” was weed.
44. Exclusive Membership
Everyone’s heard of the “27 Club,” the phenomenon of young musicians dying in their prime at the age of 27. Amy Winehouse was one of the more recent members to join the club, but it got its name from a fateful two year stretch between 1969 and 1971. During this period, Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison of the Doors all died at the age of 27.
When Kurt Cobain died in 1994, also at the age of 27, the “27 Club” became a well-known phenomenon in popular culture.
45. Love Sick
In 1978, Nancy Spungen was found stabbed to death in her New York City bathroom. The young woman was girlfriend to Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious, who was immediately suspected of her murder. The couple had made unseemly headlines for their substance abuse and domestic violence, for which the papers titled her “Nauseous Nancy.” The scandalous death would put a sour (or “salacious”) spin on the history of punk rock.
46. Bummer Ending
Sid Vicious would never be formally tried for the murder of Nancy Spungen. At the age of just 21, the singer overdosed in his apartment. Ironically, Vicious and his friends had been celebrating his release on bail just the night before.
47. Lightning Strikes Twice
The Allman Brothers really did have the worst luck. After Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident in 1971, things didn’t seem like they could get worse for the band. That is, until a year later, when the band’s bassist, Berry Oakley, was killed in eerily similar circumstances. Oakley also died in a motorcycle accident in Macon.
In fact, the accident was only a few blocks away from the site of Duane’s death. Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.
48. No Such Thing As Bad Press for Punks
In 1989, a wild, hard-partying Billy Idol racked up 149,000 dollars worth of damage in a Thai hotel room. Management attempted to kick him out, but the punk rocker refused…so things escalated insanely, until the point that the Thai army got involved. They attempted to negotiate, but Idol, in the throes of an absolute binge, was having none of it. In the end, he was physically dragged from the room by representatives of the Thai military—after they shot him in the chest with a tranquilizer dart.
49. Living The Lifestyle
John Bonham, the drummer for Led Zeppelin, drank 40 shots of vodka the night of his death.
50. Rippling Consequences
In a tragic example of parallel lives, the leading men of both Soundgarden and Nirvana struggled with depression throughout their lives, and each of them ended up taking their own lives. Kurt Cobain shot himself on April 5, 1994, at the age of 27. Chris Cornell’s death, meanwhile, was ruled to have been suicide by hanging, on May 18, 2017.
On that same day 37 years before, Ian Curtis of the British band Joy Division (whom Cornell had admired) had also taken his own life by hanging himself. Two months after Cornell’s death, his close friend Chester Bennington of Linkin Park followed Cornell in suicide on what would have been Cornell’s 53rd birthday.
51. Going Off the Rails on a Crazy Train
Randy Rhoads was a talented young guitarist who formed the band Quiet Riot and played with Ozzy Osbourne after his departure from Black Sabbath. Far from the typical rock star stereotype, Rhoads was a student of the guitar and deeply dedicated to his craft. He was even considering quitting the music biz in 1981 to study classical guitar at UCLA.
And compared to his bandmate Osbourne—or anyone he was on tour with, for that matter—he was a teetotaler, only enjoying the occasional drink. Osbourne actually recalls that in his last conversation with Rhoads, the guitarist had told him to slow down with his drinking or he’d kill himself. One night while on tour, the air conditioning on the tour bus broke, so it stopped in Florida. What happened next has gone down in rock history.
52. Prank Gone Wrong
The driver of the bus was also a licensed pilot, and they were near an airfield, so he started up an unattended plane. He took a few of the band and crew members on short joyrides before Rhoads and the band’s makeup artist got on. They decided to “prank” those who were sleeping in the bus by flying low over it to scare them.
On their third pass over, the plane wing touched the roof of the bus and broke up, sending Rhoads and the makeup artist through the windshield, and causing the plane to spiral before crashing nearby. Both Osbourne and his then-fiancee Sharon woke up, thinking that the bus had either crashed or exploded, and ran outside to find the horrific wreckage. Rhoads was just 25 years old.
53. It’s a Fight!
While the Seattle scene was very tight-knit, a rivalry emerged between Nirvana and Pearl Jam during the early 1990s. Kurt Cobain despised their debut album, and he openly referred to Pearl Jam as sellouts! His reason for this was the plentiful guitar solos on their songs, which he said disqualified them from truly being indie rock.
Despite this stance, Cobain would make his peace with the band, and even became close friends with Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder.
54. The Day the Music Died
Sometimes tragedies strike more than one musician at a time. That was the case on February 3, 1959, when a four-seater airplane took off from Clear Lake, Iowa, carrying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J.P. Richardson (AKA The Big Bopper), and a pilot named Roger Peterson. Soon after takeoff, the plane ran into mechanical issues and crashed in a cornfield, killing three of the biggest new names in rock n’ roll.
55. Silver Linings
Sometimes the tragedy that befalls musicians spur their contemporaries to make great things in their honor. One of the great American rock n’ roll songs, after all, was written as a tribute to Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. Richardson. Don McLean’s 1971 hit song “American Pie” memorialized “the day the music died.”
McLean’s song sat atop the US charts for four consecutive weeks and has often been cited as one of America’s greatest ever songs.
56. Broken Hearts
As if the tragedy of a sudden death weren’t hard enough, Buddy Holly’s story gets even sadder when you remember that his wife, Maria Elena Holly, was pregnant with the couple’s first child at the time of the plane crash. Torn up with grief, Maria miscarried the child only a few days after she learned that her husband had died when the plane went down.
57. Never Again
One of Pearl Jam’s most controversial songs would have to be the 1992 hit song “Jeremy.” In true keeping with grunge music’s favoring dark topics, this song was based on a tragic true story of an American student who took his own life by gunshot while standing at the front of his class. The music video which Pearl Jam produced for the song intended to replicate this action, but MTV forbade them depicting the actor pointing the gun at himself on camera.
In a sad irony, the ambiguous shots of blood and screaming classmates caused some people to believe that Jeremy had begun shooting his classmates instead of himself.
58. We’re Done With MTV!
The misunderstanding and controversy over the music video for “Jeremy” ultimately caused Pearl Jam to stop making music videos for their songs. The studio wanted to make a music video for their song “Black,” but they hotly refused to do it. As Pearl Jam explained, they didn’t want their fans to lose sight of the songs themselves rather than have them overshadowed by the accompanying music videos.
59. Society Is a Drag
In interviews after the suicide of Kurt Cobain in 1994, friends and his Nirvana bandmates intimated that they knew he wasn’t going to live a long life. Cobain was infamously misanthropic, detailing frequently how much he disliked other people. A lot of those feelings stemmed from his childhood and teenage years, where he was bullied often, especially when he became close friends with a gay student at his high school.
He often advocated for LGBTQ rights and gave interviews for magazines such as The Advocate and Out.
60. Hells Bells
Australian rock gods AC/DC have long been poster boys of the hard-partying rock n’ roll lifestyle—a lifestyle that often takes its toll. Bon Scott, the raucous first singer for the band, epitomized both the highs and lows of the partying life. In 1980, just as the band was beginning to record what would become their monumental hit album Back in Black, Scott was left to sleep in his friend’s car after a night of hard drinking at a London club.
When his bandmate Alistair Kinnear tried to wake Scott the next day, he was already dead. The official cause of death was “acute alcohol poisoning” and asphyxiation: he had choked on his own vomit. Nonetheless, one of his biographers, Jesse Fink, argues that Scott’s pulmonary aspiration with vomit suggests that he may have died from a overdose of a harder drug.
61. High Priest of Pop
Prince frequently created controversy with his music due to his risque use of sensual and religious themes in his music, but he cemented his superstar status with hit singles like “When Doves Cry.” On April 21, 2016, Prince was found dead at his compound in Minnesota from an accidental overdose of the synthetic opiate fentanyl.
On the night of his death, thousands of mourners sang to “Purple Rain” in downtown Minneapolis.
62. Final Moments
After keeping her silence for over a month, Chris Cornell’s wife Vicky finally spoke about her troubles after her husband’s tragic death. In a heartbreaking interview with Rolling Stone, she admitted that she blamed his death on the specific anti-anxiety medication that he was taking, which was known to cause suicidal thoughts as a side-effect.
She strongly believes he didn’t want to die—but has confessed the harrowing details of their last phone call together. She could tell that something was “off,” and she said that he started acting cruelly toward her when she asked what drugs he took. The call ended, and Cornell was found dead shortly after midnight that same evening.
63. Dark Days
It’s well-known that Scott Weiland of the Stone Temple Pilots struggled with his painful addiction for decades—what people don’t know about was the series of heartbreaking events that preceded his tragic death. In less than a year, Weiland watched his close friend die and bandmate Jeremy Brown die, found out that his mother and father both had cancer, was estranged from his children, and found himself in crippling financial trouble.
These events, coupled with his history of mental illness and addiction, all factored into the grunge star’s death by accidental overdose at just 48 years old.
64. The Last Minute
Through the late 80s, fans and the press had been gossiping and hypothesizing that Freddie Mercury was not well. When Mercury finally confirmed speculations that he was suffering from AIDS, it was one of the last things that he did. Freddie Mercury died from complications only one day after making his illness public.
The last song that Freddie Mercury ever recorded was called “Mother Love,” which touched on his illness and failing health. After recording much of the song, Mercury told bandmate Brian May that he needed to take a break. When he left the studio that day, he would never return—he died six months later.
Metallica met with tragic misfortune in 1986 when their bassist, Cliff Burton, died in a an utterly horrific tour bus accident. Burton was thrown out of the bus’s window when the vehicle began to careen from side to side. The bus then landed on Burton, and an attempt to save him with a crane only led to the bus crashing onto him again.
The bus driver said he hit a patch of black ice, but frontman James Hetfield said he walked up and down the street afterward and didn’t encounter any. Hetfield speculates the driver might have been drunk or asleep at the wheel, but a subsequent investigation cleared the driver of any wrongdoing.
66. The Last Days
Due to the high-profile nature of the case and the rampant conspiracy theories perpetuated by fans, Seattle Police decided to revisit the case of Kurt Cobain’s suicide in 2014. Detectives claimed an undeveloped roll of film with photographs of the scene that had sat in an evidence locker for years. These photos provided a clearer image of Cobain’s final moments than the Polaroids that had been previously used.
Upon re-evaluation of the scene, the detective only confirmed the finding that Cobain had killed himself, but they initially refused to release these new photos to the public, saying “What are people going to gain from seeing pictures of Kurt Cobain laying on the ground with his hair blown back, with blood coming out of his nose and trauma to his eyes from a penetrating shotgun wound. How’s that going to benefit anybody?”
However, some of the photos, including one tragically showing the hospital bracelet he still had on his arm from the detox program that he had escaped from just days before his death, were later made publicly available.
67. Profound Coincidence
One day during the recording of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” a tribute to their former member Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd were visited by an overweight, bald man with shaved eyebrows. He behaved strangely, even brushing his teeth during the session. After a while, the band made a stunning realization: the strange man was none other than Barrett himself.
Roger Waters was reportedly so overcome by Barrett’s physical transformation and sudden appearance that he began to cry. For his part, Rick Wright found it “disturbing” that Barrett had picked that day of all days to come to visit his old band. Barrett, meanwhile, seems to have thought little of it; he quietly left later that day when the band was preoccupied with a celebration for David Gilmour’s wedding.
It was one of the last times they ever saw him before his death in 2006.
68. This is the End
To this day, Freddie Mercury’s final resting place is unknown. After his death on November 24, 1991, his body was cremated, and his ashes were kept in an urn by his lifelong friend, Mary Austin. Two years later, Austin quietly left her house with the urn, fulfilling Mercury’s wishes to be covertly laid to rest without risk of disturbance.
Not even his parents were told, and Austin has kept the secret of where the star’s final resting is to this day.
69. Kubrick Again?
A lesser-known Pink Floyd conspiracy theory is the idea that their album Meddle syncs up perfectly with the final scene of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Some people have too much time on their hands—about 46 minutes, to be exact.
70. That was Real??!
The cover of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here famously portrays two businessmen shaking hands while one of them is on fire—which makes us wonder what the other guy must be thinking. Incredibly, the image of the businessman on fire wasn’t faked! A stuntman, wearing a fire-retardant suit under his business suit, actually got lit on fire for the photo shoot.
71. Why Should I Hire You?
Rock bands and the white stuff seem to go together like milk and cereal. So maybe it’s no surprise that Plant actually hired a “coke lady” during the band’s 1973 tour. Yes, he hired someone whose sole purpose was to provide the bandmates with a pick-me-up and a sip of Dom Perignon champagne when required. I wonder what the job interview was like.
72. Who Breaks a Butterfly on a Wheel?
In 1967, both Keith Richards and Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones were arrested for separate drug-related offenses, facing up to a year in prison. Their arrests caused an outcry in the rock community, and even the stodgy Times, a London newspaper, accused the police of persecution in the curiously titled editorial, “Who Breaks a Butterfly on a Wheel?”
The quote actually comes from 18th-century poet Alexander Pope and alludes to a form of torture being used as punishment, implying a sort of overkill. Richards and Jagger were released.
73. Not a Good Start…
When he first joined the Beatles, Ringo Starr struggled to impress their producer, George Martin. During his first recording session, Starr was “trying to play the percussion and the drums at the same time.” When that didn’t succeed, Martin demoted him. During their second session, Martin even brought in another drummer, while poor Starr was stuck playing the tambourine!
Then things got even worse…
74. Doctor, Doctor, Tell Me the News
Starr’s propensity for falling ill didn’t stop when he became an adult. In 1964, just before the Beatles were set to make a global music tour, Starr got sick and had to stay in the hospital. While he spent several days recuperating, he was temporarily replaced on the tour by drummer Jimmie Nicol. This had a devastating effect on Starr.
At the time, Starr later admitted, he was terrified that Nicol was going to replace him permanently. Luckily, Starr made a full recovery and rejoined his bandmates in Melbourne.
75. The Gift of Song
Bono once missed his wife’s birthday, so, naturally, he wrote her a song. When U2’s “The Sweetest Thing” was re-recorded, his wife received all of the profits of its sales. She didn’t keep that money for herself, though. She donated all of it to a charity for Chernobyl victims.
76. Grandma’s Boy
When Eric Clapton was still a boy, his family hid a dark secret. He assumed his parents were Rose and Jack Clapp and that he had an older sister named Patricia, but this wasn’t even close to the truth. Patricia was actually his mother. At the tender age of 16, Patricia had an affair with a married man and found herself pregnant with Eric.
Scared and far too young, Patricia instead let him be raised by his grandparents, Rose and Jack, and instead acted merely as a sibling. For most of his childhood, Clapton believed the ruse.
77. There Are Worse Nicknames Out There… Right?
Over time, Aerosmith became as known for their substance abuse as much as their music. In fact, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry’s legendary partying led them to being referred to as the “Toxic Twins.”
78. See Ya
Metallica’s original lead guitarist, Dave Mustaine, was kicked out of the band on April 11, 1983. Apparently, he had a nasty habit of getting “aggressive and confrontational” when drunk, so his bandmates gave him the boot. They woke Mustaine up around 9am and told their hungover guitarist he was out of the band. They also gave him a bus ticket back to California.
79. One of My Turns Coming On
In 1977, Pink Floyd was on tour when an especially rowdy crowd in Montreal at the Olympic Stadium infuriated Roger Waters so much that he spat at a fan in the crowd in disgust. From there, he began to conceive of an idea which focused around a jaded rock star isolating himself from his fans and even his family. This idea eventually became The Wall.
80. Syd the Troll
According to Roger Waters, Barrett’s last practice session with Pink Floyd involved him trying to introduce them to a new composition that he’d done. He called it “Have You Got It Yet?” and seemed simple enough for the band when he first played it. However, they spent the practice session being unable to play along with Barrett.
Finally, they realized that Barrett was changing the song every time they began playing it again, all while singing “Have you got it yet?” To Rogers’ credit, he acknowledged Barrett’s prank as “a real act of mad genius.”
81. It’s a Prank Bro
Step aside Ashton Kutcher—Led Zeppelin were pranking celebrities before it was cool. Led Zeppelin had a lot of women’s clothing lying around on account of their groupies, and decided to put it to use for a 1974 dinner with George Harrison and Stevie Wonder. Stevie Wonder worried the group chose their attire to mock his blindness, but that wasn’t the case.
The inner sleeve of Physical Graffiti actually features a picture from the dinner.
82. To Coin A Phrase…
The Rolling Stones were positioned as a darker, more dangerous alternative to the Beatles throughout the 60s, and the band did their best to live up to the hype, engaging in all sorts of devious, hedonistic behavior. According to popular legend, Bill Wyman literally invented the term “groupie” while on tour in Australia in 1965.
83. Rumors of His Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated
Paul McCartney has been at the center of a bizarre conspiracy theory claiming that he actually passed on in 1966 and was replaced by a look-alike. This rumor continued to grow when college students started publishing articles about supposedly finding subtle hints to McCartney’s untimely death in the lyrics of Beatles songs.
McCartney himself has made some amusing references to the “Paul is Dead” conspiracy theory, even titling a 1993 live album Paul Is Live.
84. Let’s Get Political, Political
During the 1980s, U2’s music got political, and let’s just say it wasn’t well-received by all. Especially in Ireland, where the IRA was involved. After a bombing in 1987, which Bono had then condemned during a live performance, Provisional IRA paramilitaries actually threatened to kidnap the band’s frontman, and supporters of the IRA once attacked a vehicle the band was traveling in.
85. Too Slow for Comfort
Eric Clapton’s famous nickname is “Slowhand,” which comes from the days when he often accidentally broke guitar strings during performances. This usually resulted in him pausing to fix the instrument, as the impatient audience slowly clapped to keep themselves entertained while waiting. And thus, a legend was born.
86. Turning Embarrassment Into a Hit Song
At one point, Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler found himself hanging out in a bar. That in itself wasn’t unique for Tyler, nor was the moment when he found himself checking out a beautiful woman who was sitting with her back to him. The surprise was that when the “woman” turned around, Tyler found himself looking at Vince Neil, the lead singer of Motley Crue!
Aside from being a goof on Tyler’s part, this moment would go on to inspire Aerosmith’s song “Dude (Looks Like a Lady).”
Metallica bassist Cliff Burton’s death was due to a bus accident, but ex-Pentagram member Joe Hasselvander believes something else was at play. According to Hasselvander, Burton died because he possessed tarot cards covered with human blood that dated back to the Salem Witch Trials. That would certainly have been a little more metal.
88. Go Big or Go Home
We consider a trip a pretty good one if we’ve got a semi-decent hotel room to go back to at night. Led Zeppelin upped the ante by renting six floors of the Continental Hyatt House in LA, now known as the Andaz. If that wasn’t enough, drummer John Bonham and tour manager Richard Cole would drive a motorcycle down the hallways.
There is a reason the hotel was known as the “Riot House” during the 1970s.
In 1969, The Rolling Stones headlined a free concert in Altamont. The concert ended in tragedy when security killed a young man named Meredith Hunter. Hunter was stabbed and collapsed while the band played “Under My Thumb.” Seeing the attack from the stage, but not realizing someone had been killed, they stopped playing and started the song from the top.
Some have called Altamont “the end of the hippie era.”
90. Street Fighting Men
In an inexplicable move, the Hell’s Angels had been hired to work security for the show. Hunter, who was high on methamphetamines, had been pushed back from rushing the stage once and was preparing to do it again, this time with a pistol drawn, when Hells Angels member Alan Passaro saw the pistol, and went to wrestle it away from him while armed with a knife.
Passaro was charged with murder but acquitted when the jury agreed that he had acted in self-defense.
91. Well, That Escalated Quickly….
Although it sounds like a pleasant tune, most people don’t realize that “Norwegian Wood” has a dark secret. If you listen carefully to the lyrics, it’s actually about a man who gets invited into a woman’s house. She won’t let him sleep in her bed, and instead forces him to lie in the bathtub. When she gets up for work in the morning, he burns her house down as revenge.
92. Tough Crowd
When The Runaways were still together, manager Kim Fowley would often invite men into the rehearsal space to shout and throw things at the band while they practiced. Though it sounds unpleasant, Joan Jett says these “heckling drills” really helped her get over her shyness and stage fright.
93. Some Things Can’t Be Replaced
Did Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks take being a godmother too seriously? In 1982, Nicks mourned her best friend Robin Anderson, who died of cancer shortly after giving birth to a son. Stricken with grief, Nicks was convinced Anderson would want her to take care of the baby…so she married Anderson’s widower, Kim Robinson. The marriage lasted only three months.
Nicks would go on to describe her initial decision as “completely deranged.”
94. Look at Him Go
Rush drummer Neil Peart was infamous for his—let’s be honest—totally insane drum kit. Deadline once described it as “a sprawling kit that held dozens of drums, cymbals, chimes, bells, a gong and more.” Even better, at every live show Peart made sure to use every single one of those doo-dads in a single song, complete with a synchronized video.
95. One Person’s Loss is Another Person’s Gain
Perhaps ironically, Patti Smith’s most famous and successful song was not a punk song. That honor goes to the iconic track “Because the Night.” Released in 1978, “Because the Night” was a hit song in several countries over multiple continents. While it’s indelibly associated with her career, the song wasn’t actually Smith’s.
In 1977, after four months of several recordings, Bruce Springsteen was fed up with the song not working out. Producer Jimmy Iovine persuaded Springsteen to give the song to Smith instead, who contributed to the writing and provided her own vocals. The rest is history. The pair even once performed the song together in 1977 at CBGB.
That’s right, the Boss himself performing at punk’s most famous club at its height!
96. Sad Songs
When recording “Gimme Shelter,” producer Jack Nitzsche decided the song needed a woman’s voice, so he called up session singer Merry Clayton. Clayton was in bed, heavily pregnant, but came down to do the session. As evidenced by the song itself, and the many isolated versions of her vocal track floating around the internet, she truly gave it her all and turned in an iconic performance—but she paid a devastating price.
Exhausted by the session, Clayton returned home and suffered a miscarriage.
97. Family Man Until the End
John Lennon was just in the archway of his apartment when Mark David Chapman approached him and opened fire. His last words were utterly heartbreaking. Ono had asked him if they should go out for dinner, but Lennon was only thinking of his young son, Sean. He said, “No, let’s go home because I want to see Sean before he goes to sleep.”
98. Seeing You in Heaven
Just days before Eric Clapton’s four-year-old son Conor passed away in a tragic accident, the young boy was excited about having just learned to write his first few words. Wanting to show off his new skill, his mother helped him write a letter to Clapton saying “I Love You.” They then innocently dropped the letter in the mailbox and forgot about it—until it made a chilling re-appearance.
Eerily, the letter arrived at the house to greet a shocked Clapton immediately after the boy’s funeral.
99. I Smell Trouble
By the 1980s, Stevie Nick’s addiction became almost deadly. Before the tour, Nicks asked a plastic surgeon, “What do you think about my nose?” He replied, “Well, I think that next time you do a bump […] you could drop dead.”
100. Art Imitates Life
Motley Crue’s “Knock ‘Em Dead, Kid” is a rip-roaring song about getting into a bar fight. Unsurprisingly, Nikki Sixx based the song on, you guessed it, getting into a bar fight. The brawl broke out at a biker club when Sixx tried to take on a number of bikers. It probably wasn’t the smartest move to begin with, but things soon went from bad to worse.
He discovered that these “bikers” were actually undercover cops—and they ended up doing quite the number on him!
101. The Songs Are Mine
Paul McCartney had a pretty rocky relationship with the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. They initially seemed to be kindred spirits and collaborated on many tracks, most notably “The Girl is Mine” and “Say Say Say.” However, things soured once Jackson acquired the publishing rights to the vast majority of The Beatles catalog, before selling a portion of it to Sony Music.
McCartney was completely blindsided by the move, and the two would never work together again.
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