Controversial stage antics are both a part of Rock n Roll culture and the genres that followed. The iconic moments of controversial stage antics have been documented with Ozzy Osbourne’s infamous 1982 incident where he “bit off the head of a bat” during a performance in Des Moines, Iowa. Since that moment and even before, musicians have pushed the boundaries of their era of reign. Here are five controversial stage performances throughout history that shaped today’s culture of music and art.
Jim Morrison/The Doors
(Jim Morrison and Val Kilmer)
Jim Morrison is the least provocative on our list but for the time-period 1965-1971 he demonstrated the rebellious spirit of Rock n Roll and got in trouble along the way. September 17, 1967, marked The Doors first and only appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. On the night of the performance, producers from the show requested that Jim Morrison change the lyrics of their hit single “Light My Fire” from the lines “Girl, we couldn’t get much higher.” to a censored line “Girl, we couldn’t get much better.” Oliver Stone’s film “The Doors” exaggerates the real encounter but this cemented Jim Morrison as a bad boy of Rock n Roll.
Another incident goes down in Rock n Roll ‘lore as a tale that Jim Morrison exposed himself on stage. The concert took place in Miami, Florida on September 20, 1970. Jim cursed at the crowd and made controversial statements. He was eventually arrested in connection to the case and pleaded to indecent exposure. Jim Morrison died on July 3, 1971, from a heart attack brought on by drugs and alcohol.
(Oderus & Dave Brockie)
GWAR is a hardcore/metal band that combines science fiction elements and dark comedy to illustrate a ‘theatrical’ stage performance. Previously led by Dave Brockie before his death, GWAR became a cult icon as their concerts featured sci-fi sexual violence, alien specimens, synthetic blood, and semen ‘cannons’ that were utilized to spray the crowd during performances. I attended a concert in 2004 and saw first-hand the carnage and tactics used by GWAR; luckily I stayed in the back of the venue with “All The Remains” frontman Philip Labonte and avoided the “semen” cannon.
David Brockie invented the fictional character “Oderus Urungus” for a frontman and leader singer of GWAR. He often made appearances as Oderus on Fox News and other networks. Oderus Urungus’s backstory is 50 billions years old and originated from the planet “Scumdogia”. Brockie overdosed on heroin in 2014.
(GG Allin & fans)
Born Jesus Christ Allin; GG Allin started his career with a fast track of controversy and a trail of literal shit. He is best known for his song “When I Die” and for his notable appearances on the talk shows such as “Geraldo” and “Jerry Springer“. Frequently presented at his concerts were acts of defecation, fist fights, indecent exposure, self-mutilation and much more. This established GG Allin as a public enemy figure and brought back what GG claimed was the “dangerous” element of Rock n Roll.
In the documentary “Hated: GG Allin and the Murder Junkies,” GG’s performances and interviews with his close friends depict a man who performed for a living and maintained a lifestyle he eventually knew would take his life. GG made promises to his fans that he would commit suicide at a concert in 1989 but this never flourished, instead he overdose on a mixture of cocaine and heroin in 1993 after a concert.
(Per Yngve Ohlin as Dead)
Black Metal is not only a form of music; it’s also a way of life for those who have followed the movement that has origins in England, Sweden, and Norway. One of the bands that changed the scene and sound of black metal is Mayhem. Mayhem manifested in 1984 in the heart of Norway (Oslo) and consisted of original members guitarist Øystein Aarseth (Euronymous), bassist Jørn Stubberud (Necrobutcher), and drummer Kjetil Manheim. After a brief hiatus and a few member changes, Per Yngve Ohlin (Dead) joined as lead vocalist, and a new drummer Jan Axel Blomberg (Hellhammer) replaced Kjetil Manheim.
Per Yngve Ohlin would soon resemble his nickname after a short stint as Mayhem’s vocalist from 1988-1991. The image needed to prevail within the black metal scene was an intense and morbid stage play of antics that would consist of dead animals, self-inflicted wounds, and Satanic imagery. Known for his anti-social personality and depression, Dead kept a permanent workforce of writing material but started to contemplate his existence as a human or as anything of this physical world. Maniac depression, illusions, and harrowing childhood experiences became a tipping point for the black metal icon. Dead’s image wasn’t just a personification of his inner-demons; he is credited with the “corpse paint” facial makeup that has become a mainstay in metal culture and is hailed as one of the best vocalists of black metal.
Along with the depression, Dead had sleep apnea and might have suffered from Cotard delusion. Plagued by suicidal thoughts and the on-going feud with Euronymous, Dead cut his throat, his wrists and then blew his head off with a shotgun one evening while alone. Euronymous found the body, and instead of calling the authorities, he went to a store and bought a disposable camera. When he arrived back, he rearranged the crime scene and took several exploitive photos.
Black Metal yet again. Gorgoroth is the definition of Satanic symbology, founded by guitarist Roger Tiegs (Infernus) in 1992. The band performs Satanic rituals on stage and often includes animal sacrifice/blood, self-mutilation, and depictions of violence. In 2004, Gorgoroth played a concert in Poland which was taped for a future DVD-release; the footage was confiscated by Polish authorities as the performance was deemed “blasphemy,” this footage would later be released in 2008.
Infernus claims to have sold his soul to the devil and has made statements about Gorgoroth’s roots in Satanism. The theme of “church burnings” are often at the forefront of Black Metal’s history and a permanent stain on the legacy of the music.
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– Color Pessoa