(L) Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images, (R) Marc Piasecki / Getty Images
Rock and roll has its fair share of tall tales that have captivated us for decades. From the hilarious to the downright sinister, white lighters and the 27 club to a government plot to take out John Lennon, let’s take a look at 10+ of the craziest urban legends in rock and roll!
Doors frontman Jim Morrison became a member of the tragic 27 Club when on July 3, 1971 the 27 year old rock icon was found dead in a bathtub at the Paris apartment he shared with his girlfriend, Pamela Courson.
The widely accepted theory is that Morrison fell ill sometime during the night and died from “natural causes,” but in 2007, French born former New York Times journalist Sam Bernett offered up a second version of events that found Jim Morrison in a bathroom stall at Rock’n’Roll Circus, dead from a heroin overdose before being whisked away to his apartment via a back door by two men who put him in a bathtub to try and revive him before ultimately calling paramedics, who pronounced Morrison dead almost immediately.
Guitar prodigy Jimi Hendrix may have met a far more sinister end than a drug overdose. Pronounced dead at 12:45pm on September 18, 1970 after girlfriend Monika Dannemann found him unresponsive in her apartment at the Samarkand Hotel, Hendrix was found to have choked his own vomit and died of asphyxia while intoxicated with barbiturates. However, James “Tappy” Wright, a 65-year-old former road manager who worked for Hendrix’s manager Mike Jeffrey, suggested that Hendrix was killed on Jeffrey’s order by a gang who broke into the room and forced wine and painkillers down his throat until he drowned. Sounds crazy, but an account by registrar John Bannister at St. Mary Abbots Hospital in Kensington actually kind of supports Wright’s allegation:
“The amount of wine that was over him was just extraordinary. Not only was it saturated right through his hair and shirt but his lungs and stomach were absolutely full of wine,” he said.
“I have never seen so much wine. We had a sucker that you put down into his trachea, the entrance to his lungs and to the whole of the back of his throat. We kept sucking him out and it kept surging and surging. He had already vomited up masses of red wine and I would have thought there was half a bottle of wine in his hair. He had really drowned in a massive amount of red wine.”
What do you do when you’re faced with endless questions as to how you kicked a drug habit that would kill mortal men? You do what Keith Richards did – make up an explanation so outrageous, it takes on a life of its own as one of rock’s favorite conspiracy theories. Sick of answering the question as to how he got clean so many times, Richards cheekily revealed that he’d had his blood replaced to kick his heroin habit; clearly, it was so convincing that it’s stuck after all these years!
For the last 37 years, conspiracy theorists have had a field day with the theory that John Lennon’s killer, Mark David Chapman, was programmed by the CIA as part of an elaborate plan to murder the ex-Beatle. While it makes for a great story, it’s not true – Chapman was just a terrible person.
No. No, no, no. More of a cruel, decades-long joke at the expense of a lovely woman than an actual conspiracy theory, we thought we’d settle this once and for all: Mama Cass Elliot’s death was not the result of choking on a ham sandwich. The 32-year-old singer died in the wee hours of July 29th, 1974 after returning from a party at the home of Mick Jagger and was found in bed at a London flat belonging to singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson, the victim of heart failure caused by an undiagnosed heart condition.
If a theory posited in 1994 is true, then Rolling Stones’ founder Brian Jones‘ death on July 3, 1969 was anything but ‘misadventure’. Found dead at the bottom of his swimming pool just one month after being fired from the Rolling Stones, Jones’ death was ruled ‘death by misadventure’ – but in a 1994 book titled Brian Jones: Who Killed Christopher Robin?, the theory is put forth that the Jones didn’t drown accidentally, but was instead murdered by his contractor, Frank Thorogood.
He’s rocking stages all over the world well into his seventies, but if you believe what you hear, Sir Paul McCartney has actually been dead since 1966 as per a decades long conspiracy theory that finds The Beatles replacing the real Macca with a lookalike named Billy Campbell. One of rock’s most amusing – and a little creepy, let’s be real here – theories, the “Paul Is Dead” campaign says that the real Paul McCartney was actually killed in a car crash in 1966, but the Beatles kept it secret, replacing him with Billy Campbell, the winner of a Paul look-alike contest. With hundreds of thousands of “clues” provided by fanatics that supposedly prove this theory true including the famed Abbey Road photograph, it’s no wonder Paul has been mum on the entire thing for the better part of half a century.
Why you’d want to listen to such a gorgeous song backwards is beyond us, but thanks to a conspiracy theory brought forth by televangelist Paul Crouch, Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway To Heaven’ is said to contain backward satanic messages, as if Led Zeppelin sold their souls to the devil in exchange for this rock classic. Crouch claimed in 1982 that when played backward, the “bustle in your hedgerow” segment of “Stairway” says: “Here’s to my sweet Satan/The one whose little path would make me sad, whose power is Satan/He will give those with him 666/There was a little toolshed where he made us suffer, sad Satan.”
Not surprisingly, Led Zeppelin main man Robert Plant calls shenanigans.
“Who on Earth would have ever thought of doing that?” Robert Plant said. “You’ve got to have a lot of time on your hands to even consider that people would do that.”
Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison are all reported to have died with white BIC lighters in their pockets. As cool and fated as this sounds, we respectfully take a page from Robert Plant and call shenanigans: the BIC lighter wasn’t released until 1973, by which time the Jimi, Janis, and Jim were long gone.
One is the most iconic movie in cinematic history; the other, one of the highest grossing albums the world has ever seen. Put ’em together and what do you get? One hell of a surreal experience, if the urban legend is to be believed. We haven’t tried this one ourselves, but the story goes that Pink Floyd’s iconic album Dark Side Of The Moon syncs up perfectly with The Wizard Of Oz, creating a surreal experience that’ll take you to strange new heights. Again, we can’t be sure that this is actually true, but we do know that The Wizard of Oz and Star Wars: The Force Awakens sync up perfectly. It’s a little less dreamy and strange than you’d expect, but still pretty cool!