10 Times Rock Music Was Demonized And Blamed By Mainstream Media
LOS ANGELES - APRIL 1980: Rock and roll legend Ozzy Osbourne poses for a portrait in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Aaron Rapoport/Corbis/Getty Images)
Ever since the birth of rock ‘n roll, it has often been the target of parents, religious organizations, and even the government. The songs were deemed inappropriate and evil, something that might put bad thoughts and ideas into the minds of the youth. Over the years, that has somehow changed a bit but there are still those who think rock is the devil’s music.
Here are ten times rock and rockstars were unfairly treated by the press:
1. The Satanic Panic of the ’80s
There was massive anxiety during the 1980s owing to widespread rumors and baseless accusations about cults and rituals. Media depicted teenagers who listened to songs by Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, and Metallica as being godless and fearless. These teens allegedly committed several crimes including murder.
2. The Columbine High School Massacre
The Columbine High School Killings happened on April 20, 1999. Two senior students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, killed one teacher and several students, and also injured others. They attempted to bomb the school, but the homemade bombs failed to detonate. The pair then committed suicide in the library.
There were several theories about their motive, and one of which was the music they listened to. At the time, Marilyn Manson was at the peak of his commercial success and was already a household name. The media reported that Harris and Klebold were both fans of his and even wore his t-shirts – it was later found out that these were not true. Even so, it didn’t stop the press from putting out sensationalistic headlines such as “Devil-Worshipping Maniac Told Kids To Kill”.
3. The Bad Influence of Emo
In May 2008, Daily Mail UK published an article titled “Why no child is safe from the sinister cult of emo”. Written by Tom Rawstorne, it was about the suicide of 13-year-old Hannah Bond. According to Rawstorne, she was a happy child until she began listening to emo or what he referred to as “a sinister teenage craze that romanticises death.” He even went to name the bands like My Chemical Romance, Good Charlotte and Blink 182.
4. The Night Stalker
Richard Ramirez, also known as the Night Stalker, was a serial killer, serial rapist, kidnapper, child abuser, and burglar. In one of his crime sprees, a survivor provided the police with a portrait of a young man wearing an AC/DC cap. Ramirez’s childhood friend Ray Garcia also told the authorities about the former’s obsession with AC/DC especially their song “Night Prowler”. This led to headlines like “‘AC/DC Music Made Me Kill At 16’, Night Stalker Admits.”
5. The Acid King
Ricky Kasso, also known as The Acid King, murdered his 17-year-old friend Gary Lauwers on June 19, 1984. They argued about drugs, and after a scuffle, Kasso bit Lauwers on the neck and stabbed him in the chest. The latter was stabbed between 17 to 36 times. Kasso also commanded him to “Say you love Satan.” Apparently, Kasso was obsessed with heavy metal, and he was wearing an AC/DC t-shirt during his arrest.
6. The West Memphis Three
The West Memphis Three were three men who murdered three boys in 1993. The prosecution asserted that the kids were killed as part of a Satanic ritual. An article published by The Atlantic, writer Adam Martin’s headline was “Metalheads Rejoice at West Memphis Three Release.” The three men were described as having “long mullets, heavy metal t-shirts” which “became symbols of the alienation and persecution felt by many disaffected teenagers.”
Martin also highlighted a supporter who wore a shirt that read, “Us black-haired, nail-painted, Metallica-lovin people need to stick together.” It didn’t help that artists like Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines, Iggy Pop, and Lemmy Kilmister rallied against the allegations.
7. Charles Manson
When Paul McCartney wrote “Helter Skelter”, he only wanted to outdo The Who’s heavy sound. He had no idea that it would become Charles Manson’s way of justifying his murders.
“[‘Helter Skelter’] means confusion, literally,” Manson said during his trial. “It doesn’t mean any war with anyone. It doesn’t mean that some people are going to kill other people. … Helter Skelter is confusion.”
He even pointed out that it’s from The Beatles’ White Album, “white, so there ain’t no mistakin’ the color.”
8. “Stained Class” Subliminal Message
Judas Priest was investigated in 1990 for influencing two men, James Vance and Raymond Belknap, to make a suicide pact in 1985. The much-publicized “subliminal message trial” involved the song “Better by You, Better than Me”. The case was eventually dismissed.
9. John McCollum Suicide
Nineteen-year-old John McCollum committed suicide in 1985, and his parents put the blame on Ozzy Osbourne. According to them, the teenager was listening to Osbourne’s album which featured the song “Suicide Solution”. They further accused that there were hidden lyrics that urged their son to kill himself. The lawsuit was dismissed in 1988.
10. Elyse Pahler Murder
Elyse Pahler was murdered in 1995 by acquaintances Jacob Delashmutt, Joseph Fiorella, and Royce Casey. The three were members of a heavy metal band called Hatred, and they killed her as a “sacrifice to the devil”. Her parents, David and Lisanne Pahler, sued Slayer and claimed that the songs “Postmortem” and “Dead Skin Mask” gave the murderers detailed instructions on how to “stalk, rape, torture, murder and commit acts of necrophilia”.
The first case was thrown out, but the parents sued for a second time as they claimed Slayer “knowingly distributed harmful material to minors.” This was dismissed again.