The one messed up thing about these iconic rock bands nobody talks about
We expect our rock gods to play fast and loose in life, doing things that would kill the rest of us ten times over. Maybe it shouldn’t come as a shock when they go a bit too far. When late nights turn into early mornings and rock concerts turn into drug-fueled orgies, the bad choices tend to start flying. Here are just a few of the crazy things these golden gods have done in their darkest moments, and hoped you would forget about.
Led Zeppelin pleasured groupie with a shark
Rock ‘n’ roll history is full of tall tales, but when it comes to shark tales, there’s really only one with teeth. That would be the time John Bonham (ahem) pleasured a groupie with a mudshark. Led Zeppelin fans have debated the accuracy of the story for decades, ever since Frank Zappa recorded the song “The Mud Shark” about the supposed incident. Well, according to legendary drummer Carmine Appice, the story is not only true, but more gruesome than entertaining.
As he laid out in his autobiography, Stick It!, Led Zeppelin was co-headlining a tour with Appice’s band, Vanilla Fudge, back in 1969 when things got fishy. While staying in a hotel that allowed fishing from its windows, a groupie showed up, offering to make a sexy movie with the boys. Bonham and Zeppelin tour manager Richard Cole liked the sound of that, with one important catch, her co-star would have to be the “2-foot-long, dead-eyed, ferocious-looking mud shark” they had in their bathtub.
Before Appice knew what was happening, the girl was on the bed and Cole was whipping her with the shark. As he recalled, “Its teeth ripped her skin and left tiny blood-red scars all over her back.” When the gang got bored with that, they instructed the girl to take it to the bizarre next level, which she somehow accomplished. The hotel manager broke up the sick scene, but not before a rock legend was born.
ZZ Top illegally pretended to be The Zombies before becoming a real band
“It was the ’60s, man.” That’s the excuse ZZ Top bassist Dusty Hill gave Buzzfeed in 2016 to explain his band’s unlikely origin story. And it seems to have worked. Who knew that Hill and fellow ZZ Top-er Frank Beard met not at a facial hair festival, but in a fake band, built to bilk rock ‘n’ roll fans out of their hard-earned cash?
The scheme started in the late ’60s, when a company called Delta Promotions realized English rock group The Zombies had a hit stateside with “Time of the Season” but were completely unaware of it. See, in the ’60s you could be a band in Europe and not know you were famous in America. And, by extension, you could be a band’s fan in the USA and have no idea what your favorite musicians looked like. That’s how Hill and Beard wound up touring the country for Delta, playing in fake Zombies outfits with fake names, fake backstories, and real Zombies songs.
Fans and the press eventually realized that for Englishmen, The Zombies sounded an awful lot like bluegrassy boys from Texas, and the whole thing went belly up. Thankfully, Hill and Beard realized they had something special, starting a band of their own. Maybe you’ve heard of ZZ Top. If you enjoy music about people who know how to use their legs, just be grateful for the ’60s, man.
Co-writer of Eric Clapton hit 'Layla' killed his own mother
If you’ve ever heard Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” or John Lennon’s “Imagine” or The Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds,” you’ve heard the work of drummer Jim Gordon. He even co-wrote “Layla” with Eric Clapton, as members of Derek and the Dominos. He was one of the greatest studio drummers of the ’70s, and he was a deeply troubled man.
The voices in his head began as a child, according to a 1985 Rolling Stonearticle. As he grew older, they grew louder, leading him to abuse drugs and alcohol in a desperate attempt to shut them out. It didn’t work. At one point, he accused his wife of summoning evil spirits before beating her senseless. Another time he choked a girlfriend in her sleep then claimed it was a joke.
By 1977, the work dried up, and the voice of his mother took over his every waking moment. Desperate for help, he checked himself in and out hospitals, once attempting suicide. Even when he secured work, his mother’s voice wouldn’t leave him alone, instructing him to leave. So he quit.
In the end, Gordon gave in to the voices. On June 3, 1983, he showed up at his mother’s apartment with a hammer and a knife, crushing her skull then stabbing her to death. As of 2018 he remains in a psychiatric prison, convinced his mother is still alive.
Eric Clapton was once massively racist
“Stop Britain from becoming a black colony. Get the foreigners out. Get the wogs out. Get the coons out. Keep Britain white. I used to be into dope, now I’m into racism. It’s much heavier, man.” Those were the words spoken by guitar god Eric Clapton at a concert in Birmingham, England, in 1976.
Years later, Clapton claimed he was drunk when he went on the rant, which included him screaming, “England is for white people, man. We are a white country. I don’t want f*cking wogs living next to me with their standards. This is Great Britain, a white country. What is happening to us, for f*ck’s sake?”
In the biographical documentaryEric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars, the rock star said he was drinking a bottle of cognac for lunch those days before snorting cocaine. At a Q&A following the premiere of the doc, he said, “I was so ashamed of who I was, a kind of semi-racist, which didn’t make sense. Half of my friends were black, I dated a black woman, and I championed black music.” Ah, the old “some of my best musical influences are black” excuse.
Mamas & the Papas' John Phillips had an incestuous affair
John Phillips was a legend of the ’60s music scene, serving as the main songwriter behind The Mamas & the Papas, and founder of the Monterey Pop Festival. But, if his daughter, Mackenzie Phillips, is to be believed, there were dark doings happening behind the happy facade of pop stardom.
In her autobiography, High On Arrival, she recounted taking a lot of pills on her wedding night and then waking up from a blackout to find herself in the middle of the act with her father. “Had this happened before?” she wondered. “I didn’t know. All I can say is it was the first time I was aware of it.”
Mackenzie, a sitcom star from the CBS hit One Day At A Time, has claimed that the relationship eventually became consensual, lasting 10 years. She’s even defended him, saying “don’t hate my father.” Still, if Mackenzie’s 2009 appearance on Oprah is any indication, John Phillips was a deeply disturbed man who put his daughter through hell, even injecting her with drugs himself.
“My father shot me up. He would put the needle in my arm and he would push the plunger in and he missed. … The vein and my whole arm went numb. He seemed a little nervous, but at the same time it seemed very commonplace.”
Debbie Harry is convinced she was almost abducted by Ted Bundy
Ask Debbie Harry if she was nearly the first victim of infamous serial killer Ted Bundy’s, back in the early ’70s, and she’ll say absolutely.
As the Blondie frontwoman told The Sun back in 1989, their unlikely meeting happened on the darkened streets of NYC’s Lower East Side, where Harry was catching a cab late at night. A guy in a white car kept offering her a ride until she reluctantly accepted. When she got in, she found the car stripped out — no door handles or window cranks. Nervous, she reached through the window and opened the door from the outside. The driver realized she was trying to escape and sped up around a corner, leaving her flying out of the car and onto the street.
Harry said it was only when Bundy was apprehended that she realized who she had nearly taken a ride with that night. Snopes, however, is a little less convinced. There’s the fact that Ted Bundy was known to be in the Seattle area, and not New York, in the early ’70s. Or the fact that he didn’t abduct his first victim until 1974. And Bundy was never known to drive a kill-mobile on either coast. So why is Harry so certain it was Bundy who tried to snatch her? Perhaps more importantly, who was it? One way or another, we’re gonna find ya’.
The Who's Keith Moon drove over his bodyguard's skull
If anyone lived fast, died young, and left a good-looking corpse, it was Keith Moon. But he left another corpse in his wake. In fact, on January 4, 1970, the legendary drummer was responsible for the death of his driver and bodyguard, Cornelius Boland.
According to Rolling Stone, the night began as most of Moon’s nights did, with drinks. He and his friends hit up a pub, only to run into a pack of skinheads. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, the skinheads weren’t the friendly type, looking to cause trouble with the superstar drummer.
By the end of the evening, the rowdy ruffians had grown tired of the wealth Moon was flaunting by drinking brandy instead of beer. As Moon’s friends piled into his Bentley, the crowd surrounded it and started rocking it back and forth. In the chaos, Boland exited the car, leaving a panicked Moon to take the wheel. Drunk and terrified, he tried to steer the car clear of the crowd, but inadvertently drove over Boland, who had been knocked to the ground.
The car crushed the bodyguard’s skull, killing him instantly. Moon was later cleared of all charges in the matter because he had hired Boland expressly so he could get drunk and would not have taken the wheel had it not been for the chaos of the moment. Must be nice to be a rock star.
Steven Tyler adopted a teen girl so he could date her
Julia Holcomb was 16 when she met Steven Tyler in the fall of 1973, backstage at an Aerosmith concert. As she wrote for Lifesite, she had dressed the part of a groupie that night, hoping to earn entrance to the show’s after party. It was a party she wouldn’t leave for nearly four years.
Tyler was immediately taken with her, insisting she come on the road with him. Unfortunately, it would be illegal for him to travel across state lines with a minor, so Tyler asked Holcomb’s mother sign over legal custody. And, much to the teen’s surprise, she did.
Over the next few years she reveled in the rock star experience. She became pregnant, still a teenager, without ever quitting her drug habit. Tyler, though, developed doubts about becoming a father and pushed her to get an abortion. She relented, recalling, “Steven sat beside me in the hospital until it was over. When the nurse would leave the room he was snorting cocaine on the table beside my bed. He even offered some to me once, but I just turned away, sick inside.”
She left him soon thereafter, returning to the same mother who had signed her over to a rock star. She’s now a born-again Christian and anti-abortion advocate, and he was recently a judge on American Idol, so who knows who came out ahead there?
David Bowie once called Hitler the first rock star
Cocaine is a heck of a drug. Just ask David Bowie, who abused it so recklessly during the making of his album “Station to Station,” staying awake for days on end, it may have accidentally turned him into a Nazi. Oops.
Bowie was performing, and perhaps even living inside his Thin White Duke persona, a character famous for its pro-fascist views, while making the album. At some point lines started to blur, and Bowie started saying some strange things in public. He gushed like a schoolgirl about Hitler to Playboy, saying, “Rock stars are fascists. Adolf Hitler was one of the first rock stars.”
He told a publication in 1974, “Britain is ready for a fascist leader. … I think Britain could benefit from a fascist leader. … People have always responded with greater efficiency under a regimental leadership.”
Years later, Bowie would try to come to terms with his brief, if potent flirtation with Nazism, telling NME in 1993, “My interest in [the Nazis] was the fact they supposedly came to England before the war to find the Holy Grail at Glastonbury,” but that the concentration camps and genocide had “completely evaded my extraordinary f*cked-up nature at that particular time.” Again, cocaine is a heck of a drug.
The Beach Boys stole a song from Charles Manson
Beach Boy Dennis Wilson survived the Manson family murders for one simple reason: He knew people. According to the documentary Truth and Lies: The Family Manson, Charles Manson was still a struggling musician in the late ’60s, more concerned with writing singles than killing them, when he befriended the Beach Boys drummer.
Manson thought he’d finally found his big break, but Wilson had other ideas, stealing his song “Cease to Exist,” and turning it into the Beach Boys B-side “Never Learn Not To Love.” To make matters worse, Wilson changed the lyrics, and took all the credit. Manson was totally cool with the betrayal, and just moved on. Well, except for the bullet he left in Wilson’s bed.
In fact, according to the documentary, the only reason Wilson survived at all was because of his Hollywood connections. Wilson was friends with music super producer Terry Melcher, a veritable hitmaker at the time, and Manson was desperate to cozy up to him. Unfortunately for Manson, and all of his victims, Melcher wanted nothing to do with the wild-eyed hippie.
Burned twice, Manson kicked off “Helter Skelter,” his infamous killing spree. His first stop? 10050 Cielo Drive, the former home of Melcher, now occupied by Sharon Tate. So the next time you pop on a Beach Boys album, just remember that all those good vibrations led to some seriously bad ramifications.
The Rolling Stone's Bill Wyman dated a 13-year-old in his 30s
Here’s a good rule of thumb, if you’ve got a girlfriend so young you’ve got to report dating her to the police, she might not be the one. Just ask Bill Wyman, the legendary bassist for The Rolling Stones, who told Seven Magazine he had to do just that thanks to his relationship with Mandy Smith, whom he began dating when she was just 13 years old.
“I went to the police and I went to the public prosecutor and said, ‘Do you want to talk to me? Do you want to meet up with me, or anything like that?’ and I got a message back, ‘No’.”
“It was very emotional and special at the time,” he recalled of the eight-year relationship. “It wasn’t how it was reported to be and it was the only time it ever happened in my life.” Sadly, he said he doesn’t get to talk about his time with Smith that often, mainly because it upsets his daughters, “who are the age she was.” Guess you can’t always get what you want, Bill.
Guns N' Roses drummer's assistant was kidnapping and raping girls
Steven Adler was the drummer for Guns N’ Roses from 1985 to 1990, and one can only wonder at the debauched things he saw, lived, and snorted. And yet, somehow, the most messed-up decision he ever made was when it came time to hire assistants. Granted, the process probably didn’t involve a lot of resumes and referrals, but when a candidate’s name is “Rocko the pervert,” that would seem like a red flag.
As Adler wrote in his autobiography, My Appetite for Destruction, the police eventually came knocking to search his own house. Rocko, he wrote, “who had tried to videotape unsuspecting people in my bathroom through a hole in the ceiling, had just been arrested for suspicion of murder. … Apparently, he was kidnapping girls, drugging them, and then videotaping the unconscious victims in various positions. … They also found pictures of my ex-girl Analise and my mom Deanna. Rocko had been spying on us and taking pictures the whole time he had been staying with me.”
That’s too insane, even for rock ‘n’ roll, man.
Jimmy Page locked his underage groupie girlfriend in a hotel room to avoid legal issues
When it comes to groupies, few are more famous than Lori Maddox (sometimes spelled Mattix), who cut her way through a laundry list of ’70s rock stars when most kids her age were still studying for the SATs. A member of the infamous “baby groupies,” a crew of underage girls who once ruled the Sunset Strip, Maddox lost her virginity to David Bowie and slept with Mick Jagger, but it was Jimmy Page who would become her first long-term relationship at the ripe age of 14.
But this wasn’t a relationship full of romance and roses. Maddox relayed in the unauthorized biography of Led Zeppelin, Hammer of the Gods, that Page ordered the band’s manager, Richard Cole, to kidnap her as a courting gesture and that he kept her locked in a hotel room for long periods of time, lest he get imprisoned for child sexual abuse.
Somehow, there seem to be no hard feelings. Maddox told Thrillist that she recently met up with the septuagenarian Page for cheeseburgers. “He said to me, ‘Lori, we were both children back then.’ I felt like telling him, ‘At least one of us was.'”