Front Row Seats to Infamous Concerts
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And, maybe, they’d be happy for a while
“American Pie” by Don McLean
Inclement weather, an untimely arrest or just a weird moment makes the world’s most infamous concert moments unique. We give you a front row seat to find out what singer was the first performer to get arrested onstage, which guitarist was saved from onstage electrocution by his shoes and which performer thrilled ticket holders at a rock concert by rolling in raw meat. These infamous concert moments took audience members- and often performers- by complete surprise.
Anthony Pierpont of St. Paul Minnesota tells Took My Chevy to the Levee about some of the most dangerous and deadly concerts, Jeff Lindsay of Portland, Oregon talks about musicians who had brushes with the law and undercover bands and Mike West of Bozeman, Montana gives us front row seats for some of the funniest, strangest and wildest moments in music concert history.
Dangerous, Deadly and Accidental Mishaps at Infamous Concerts by Anthony Pierpont of St. Paul, Minnesota
Some of the world’s most memorable concerts ended at the hospital. Freak accidents and lack of planning are just two contributors to famous shows that went awry. Learn how some infamous rock shows turned dangerous for performers and for the fans who bought tickets to see the concerts, too.
The Clumsy Antics of Our Favorite Performers Really Stole the Show
At a London concert on May 25, 1965, audience members with front row seats saw the Kinks’ Dave Davies fell into Mick Avory’s cymbals and was knocked unconscious. The band had to cancel the rest of its tour while Davies healed.
At a 1965 Rolling Stones concert in Sacramento, California, Keith Richards, the guitarist for The Rolling Stones, considered to be the most popular touring band, accidentally connected his guitar with the underground microphone, electrocuting the guitar player. Medics stated it was rubber soles on Richards’ Hush Puppies shoes that saved his life.
Tragedy Strikes: When Concerts Turned Dangerous- Or Deadly
A lighting structure fell on Curtis Mayfield on August 13, 1990 just before a concert in Brooklyn, New York. As a result of the accident, Mayfield was paralyzed from the waist down.
On December 6, 1969, four people were killed during a concert at Altamont Speedway outside San Francisco, California. The Rolling Stones had asked the Hell’s Angel motorcycle gang members to help with security for the concert. The gang became violent as the day progressed, striking out at audience members and performers. During the scuffle, many fans were injured, four fans died, and even Marty Balin of Jefferson Airplane, one of the bands performing, was punched by one of the Hell’s Angels before the day was over.
On December 3, 1979, eleven people who bought concert tickets for The Who were trampled to death at a concert in Cincinnati, Ohio. The concert venue used festival-style seating, or first come first serve style seating, and the stampede was caused by a panic to find good seats when the doors opened before the show. Cincinnati, along with many other cities, banned festival seating after the tragedy.
A Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons concert on July 4, 1980 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was cut short when high winds knocked several dozen spotlights into the bandstand. Two members of the band and four fans had to be treated for injuries.
Jailed, Undercover or Crossing the Atlantic to Play a Show: More Unusual Concert Moments by Jeff Lindsay of Portland, Oregon
You never really know what to expect when you buy tickets for a concert. Even VIP concert tickets won’t help you if your favorite singer walks off stage. And we all hope to someday be surprised by discovering a famous band playing under a pseudonym. An overview of some surprising concerts, including musicians sent to jail and bands that played undercover.
Fans Who Bought Concert Tickets Out of Luck When Singers Go to Jail
Jim Morrison of The Doors was arrested onstage on December 9, 1967 during a show in New Haven, Connecticut for attempting to start a riot. Earlier in the evening a police officer had maced Morrison backstage by mistake, and Morrison felt the need to retaliate. This was the first time an American musician was arrested during a performance.
That wasn’t the only time Morrison faced charges stemming from a rock concert. Audience members sitting in front row seats got more than their share of a show when Morrison exposed himself and simulated a sex act during a 1969 concert in Miami, Florida. Morrison was convicted of indecent exposure and profanity.
Paul McCartney was arrested at the Tokyo International Airport on January 16, 1980 for possession of a half-pound of marijuana. Fans who had bought concert tickets lost out as the concert tour was cancelled while McCartney cooled his heels in jail for more than a week and then was deported.
On July 2, 1991 Guns N’ Roses’ singer Axl Rose refused to finish a show in St. Louis, Missouri after spying a fan videotaping the concert. The audience charged the stage, damaging the band’s equipment and the venue. Rose was charged with assault and property damage, given two years’ probation and paid $50,000 in fines.
Faking It: Our Favorite Bands Go Undercover
Danish aristocrat Eva Von Zeppelin threatened to sue Led Zeppelin if they toured using their band’s name in Denmark. They performed their February 21, 1970 Copenhagen show under the name “The Nobs.” Von Zeppelin, related to Ferdinand Von Zeppelin, the founder of the Zeppelin airship company, was quoted as saying “They may be world famous, but a couple of shrieking monkeys are not going to use a privileged family name without permission.”
REM performed some concerts under the pseudonym Hornets Attack Victor Mature in the mid-80’s in a number of U.S. clubs. Just for fun.
Randomly Weird: Our Favorite VIP Concerts Left Ticket Holders in Awe by Mike West of Bozeman, Montana
You might know who bit the head off of a bat in concert, but do you know who killed a chicken? Our favorite infamous concerts include peanut butter, fireworks and singers who don’t know how to sing.
Buying Concert Tickets Admits Fans to More than Just a Show: Weirdest Onstage Behavior
When you buy a concert ticket, you may end up with more than you bargained for. In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, Iggy Pop often flashed his audience, rolled his bare chest in raw meat or peanut butter and deliberately cut himself with broken bottles. Now that’s rock ‘n’ roll!
Alice Cooper threw a live chicken into the audience during a September 1969 concert, thinking the bird could fly, and the chicken was ripped apart by fans. The story somehow morphed into a weirder version where Cooper bit the head off of the chicken, making the performer’s concerts even more legendary.
Rock concert fans got more than they bargained for when they bought tickets to see Ozzy Osbourne in the early 80’s. While touring to support 1981’s “Diary of A Madman,” Ozzy Osbourne was playing a concert in Des Moines, Iowa when a fan threw a live bat onstage. Thinking it was a toy, Ozzy bit into the bat’s neck- and had to be rushed to the hospital to get a rabies test. Ozzy also once bit the head off of a dove while in a meeting with a record company. That one wasn’t an accident.
Freak Happenings End Shows Early in an Unexpected Way
In February 1999, Michael Jackson was burned by fireworks let off during a concert in Munich, Germany. Jackson was quickly released form the hospital after being treated for minor burns. Jackson was also burned by a smoke bomb while filming a Pepsi commercial in 1984.
The record Milli Vanilli was using to lip sync to got stuck at a July 1989 concert, playing the same line over and over again on the sound system. Shortly thereafter the “performers” were exposed as fraudulent, stripped of their music awards and publicly humiliated.
We thank our contributors:
- Anthony Pierpont St. Paul, Minnesota
- Jeff Lindsay of Portland, Oregon
- Mike West of Bozeman, Montana