The rock world is renowned for its outlandishness, excess and general sense of debauchery. But it’s still capable of producing stories which will truly make your jaws drop. From on-stage attacks to bizarre kidnappings, here’s a look at 20 wild true-life tales that sound like the stuff of pure fiction.
20. Iggy Pop was beaten up by a biker crew while performing
Whether it’s drawing blood by cutting himself or generally just acting like a madman, veteran rocker Iggy Pop has built a reputation for pushing the boundaries on stage. But he went one step too far during one particular gig in the 1970s. The singer was given a thorough beating by a gang of bikers after he threw various insults their way. But ever the professional, a bruised and battered Iggy still managed to get up and finish the show.
19. Frank Zappa was thrown off stage
And Iggy Pop isn’t the only legendary rock star to have been brutally attacked while performing. The even more eccentric Frank Zappa was perhaps used to being abused verbally for his unorthodox musical approach. But one concertgoer took things to new extremes when he attacked Zappa physically before throwing him off stage. The cult musician was hospitalized as a result, but thankfully made a full recovery.
18. Zakk Wylde’s alcoholism saved his life
It sounds like a contradiction. But in 2009 Black Label Society guitarist Zakk Wylde’s heavy drinking helped to save his life. The party animal discovered that he had not just one but three separate blood clots in his leg, and the clots had somehow journeyed through both his lungs and heart without killing him. It turns out that Wylde’s blood was so thin from all the alcohol he’d consumed over the years that the clots moved through his vital organs without damaging them.
17. The KLF burned £1m
The KLF once fired automatic weapon blanks over the audience’s heads while performing at the BRIT Awards, having previously planned to throw sheep’s blood over them instead. And that’s not the craziest thing they did. At the height of their success, the anarchic duo traveled to the Outer Hebrides, where they filmed themselves burning a whopping one million pounds, or about $1.3 million. In 2004 member Bill Drummond said, “It’s a hard one to explain to your kids and it doesn’t get any easier.”
16. Elvis asked Nixon for a drug enforcement role
Elvis Presley became renowned for his various substance abuse issues. So he probably wouldn’t have been the ideal candidate to take on a drug enforcement officer position back in the 1970s. Yet The King, perhaps under the influence at the time, still asked President Nixon if he could be assigned the role during a meeting at the White House. Unsurprisingly, Nixon tried to placate him with a DOA badge instead.
15. Charles Manson wrote a song for The Beach Boys
One of the 1960s’ most notorious criminals did in fact contribute to the one of the 1960s’ most iconic bands. Yes, Charles Manson began hanging around with Dennis Wilson in 1967 after being released from jail. Wilson was so impressed with one of Manson’s songs, “Never Learn Not to Love,” that he convinced the rest of The Beach Boys to record it. The track was released in 1969, the same year Manson and his cult members murdered six people.
14. Michael Jackson contributed to the Sonic the Hedgehog 3 OST
And that’s not the only highly unlikely collaboration here. Rumors about Michael Jackson’s involvement in the soundtrack to Sonic the Hedgehog 3 had circulated ever since the video game’s release in 1993. It was an observant fan who sparked all the hearsay after realizing how similar its music was to the King of Pop’s signature sound. Eventually, in 2016 the game’s composers confirmed that M.J. had been heavily involved.
13. Van Halen’s brown M&Ms request
It’s widely regarded as one of the ultimate acts of rock star ridiculousness. But there was method to the madness of Van Halen’s request for a bowl of M&Ms without all the brown ones. The rockers made the outlandish rider demand simply to determine whether their contracts were fully read by the live promoters. If the particular color of confectionery ended up in the dressing room, then the group knew that they hadn’t been taken seriously.
12. Van Morrison recorded 30 songs in one day
Unlike most of the entries here, Van Morrison’s rock star tale is more impressive than objectionable. The Irishman more than lived up to his prolific reputation when he recorded no less than 30 songs in a single day back in 1967. The tracks in question probably weren’t Morrison’s best work. He only banged them out to escape the clutches of a dreadful record contract. But it’s still pretty awe-inspiring all the same.
11. Steven Tyler adopted his one-time teenage girlfriend
This particular rock star relationship was anything but romantic. In 1975 Steven Tyler somehow persuaded his 16-year-old girlfriend’s parents that he was the perfect man to take legal guardianship of their daughter. The Aerosmith frontman, then in his late 20s, and Julia Holcomb then spent the next three years taking copious amounts of drugs. After a house fire, a withdrawn marriage proposal and an abortion, the pair split in 1978.
10. David Bowie and Mick Jagger were caught in bed together
The story of Mick Jagger and David Bowie being caught in bed together naked is indeed true, although it’s a lot less salacious than you might be hoping for. Angie Bowie, the latter’s first wife, once claimed she discovered the bona fide music legends without any clothes on while sharing a bed. But there was nothing sexual about the incident – the pair had simply passed out.
9. Ozzy Osbourne bit the head off a bat
Ozzy Osbourne made himself an enemy of PETA in the early 1980s when he bit the head off a live bat live on stage. In the hellraiser’s defense, he did so accidentally. Indeed, Osbourne believed that the unconscious rodent thrown on to the stage by a fan was a prop and promptly sank his teeth into the animal. As a result the rocker was forced to spend some of his post-show party time getting a rabies shot.
8. Slash once owned a pet mountain lion
PETA no doubt had plenty to say about Slash’s wild choice of pet too. The Guns N’ Roses guitarist was famous for his love of snakes, housing more than 100 in his living room alone. But he took his passion for unusual animals to a new level when he adopted a mountain lion named Curtis. The rocker even headed out on tour with the creature firmly in tow, although inevitably it caused chaos wherever it went.
7. Gram Parsons’ body was stolen
The aftermath of Gram Parsons’ death was so eventful that it was turned into a film. After the cult hero fatally overdosed in the Joshua Tree in 1973, his producer best friend tried to fulfill his wish to be cremated in the same national park. Phil Kaufman subsequently stole the musician’s body on his way to the location but later dumped it after a police chase. Kaufman received a $750 fine for his efforts, while Parsons received a New Orleans burial.
6. Keith Richards once stayed awake for nine days straight
The idea that anyone could stay awake for nine days straight seems far-fetched, until you learn that the someone is notorious hellraiser Keith Richards. In his memoir Life, the Rolling Stone recalled, “I fell asleep standing up, eventually… I was just putting another cassette back on the shelf, and I was feeling great, and I turned ‘round and fell asleep. I fell against the edge of the speaker. Woke up in a pool of blood, wondering, ‘Is that claret?’”
5. Mama Cass and Keith Moon died in the same apartment
How’s this for creepy? In 1974 The Mamas and the Papas’ Mama Cass passed away from heart failure in her sleep at an apartment owned by acclaimed singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson. Cass’ death caused Nilsson to believe the place was cursed and he subsequently tried to deter The Who’s Keith Moon from moving into it. Sadly, the wildman drummer also lost his life in the apartment in 1978 after an accidental drug overdose.
4. Prince once punched Sinéad O’Connor
He may have written her biggest hit, but Prince and Sinéad O’Connor apparently didn’t get along at all. In 2014 the latter claimed the pair got into a physical fight when she visited his Hollywood home. Prince had taken umbrage at O’Connor’s use of bad language in interviews. But the Irish singer was in no mood to listen and told him to “f*** off.” The Purple One then apparently became violent and O’Connor had to flee his home at 5:00 a.m.
3. Prince went door-to-door as a Jehovah’s Witness
Of course, you could fill this entire list with Prince stories. Another insane but true tale concerns the late music icon going door-to-door as a Jehovah’s Witness. In a 2008 interview with The New Yorker, Prince admitted he often turned up at people’s homes to spread the word. He said, “Sometimes people act surprised, but mostly they’re really cool about it.”
2. Tommy Lee and Nikki Sixx didn’t shower for months
This is undoubtedly the grossest tale on the list. In 1980 Motley Crue bandmates Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee made a bet on who could avoid taking a shower or bath the longest. The pair certainly committed to their wager, with each going months without washing. It’s not clear exactly who was the first to crack, although a story far too revolting to mention here suggests it may have been Sixx.
1. Phil Spector once kidnapped The Ramones
Given Phil Spector’s reputation and second-degree murder conviction, this is one wild rock and roll tale that is all too easy to believe. The wild-haired producer once essentially kidnapped punk rockers The Ramones during the recording of hit single “Baby, I Love You.” Spector reportedly waved around his gun before locking the door to the studio with the group inside until the early hours of the morning. And this was after he’d tried a similar stunt with legendary troubadour Leonard Cohen.