11 Biggest Controversies in Classic Rock

11 Biggest Controversies in Classic Rock | Society Of Rock Videos

The world of rock n’ roll is full of surprises, good or bad, but mostly shocking. The lifestyle of a rock star under the limelight is exposed to drugs, alcohol, and sex among other things which inevitably gives rise to many inappropriate behaviors done in under the scrutiny of the media or in front of a wide public audience. At this point it seems like nothing else could surprise us with the outrageous moments that has happened in the world of rock in the past. Some are bad, some are ugly, some are just downright nasty, even fatal! Some of these moments are already forever burned in our memories but lest you forget, let’s take a look back at the most controversial moments in classic rock that’ll make your jaws drop.

  1.  Metallica sues Napster and loses fans

    photo credit: billboard.com

    In April 13, 2000, heavy metal rock band Metallica filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against the file-sharing site Napster after discovering that their entire discography was available for download for free. This started a series of lawsuits filed against Napster by other high-profile music artists. Napster was launched by college dropout Shawn Fanning to initially serve as a peer-to-peer file sharing network. The music industry wasn’t pleased with this new site and acted with the law.

    In 1999, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) sued Napster for “facilitating piracy, and trying to build a business on the backs of artists and copyright owners.” Metallica sought a settlement of  $100,000 per copyright violation. Metallica received severe backlash when they tracked down 335,000 usernames on Napster that illegally downloaded their catalog and commanded Napster to block these users. Fans saw this move from Metallica as a personal attack based on greed for profit. An anti-Metallica short film called “Metalligreed” was even made for Motley Crue. In the end, Napster settled the lawsuit after a long and contentious court battle  and eventually shut down the free file-sharing system in July 2001.

  2. 2) Beatles “Butcher” album cover

    photo credit: lotte.se

    If there’s one characteristic we’re sure about The Beatles, it’s their artistic creativity. Sometimes, however, their art might not bode well with the rest of the world. The original album cover for the band’s 11th album “Yesterday and Today” released in the U.S. in 1966 featured a controversial disturbing conceptual art-inspired photo of the fab four all dressed up in butcher’s smocks, smiling, and covered with bloody raw meat while holding dismembered baby dolls. Allegedly, it was Paul McCartney who came up with the sick idea as a commentary on the ongoing Vietnam War at the time the album was released, and John Lennon stood by this idea. Not everyone agreed with McCartney, especially record stores, complaining of the disturbing image they were about to put on display. Understandably, the album was recalled and most of the 750,000 released copies of the album with the “butcher cover” were destroyed. Today the rare and controversial album cover is now a collector’s item sold at a whopping $39,000.

  3. 3) Ozzy Osbourne bites the head off a bat on stage

    photo credit: feelnumb.com

    Crazy Ozzy Osbourne is known for his quirky stage antics but really, none of it is really scandalously shocking until his concert in January 20, 1982 in Des Montes, Iowa where he literally bit the head off a real bat with his own mouth. During his concert, a fan threw an unconscious bat (from which the fan had hidden in a baggie and gotten inside the concert) onstage. Ozzy, thinking it was a rubber bat, picked it up and bit its head off as a stunt. Not long after, he found out that the bat was alive and that he’d killed it with his own mouth. He could see his wife Sharon backstage screaming in horror and disgust “Dummy! It’s real!”. He later admitted that what he did was “very wrong” and that he didn’t realize it was really alive at that time, and had to go to the hospital to have a rabies shot afterwards because the bat also ended up biting him as well, before it met its death inside Ozzy’s mouth.

  4. 4) Michael Jackson Child molestation scandal

    The event that would forever tarnish Michael Jackson’s image and reputation was caused by a little 13-year old boy Jordan Chandler in the summer of 1993. After tabloid reports surfaced that Jackson befriended a 13-year old boy and his family, Evan Chandler, Jordan’s father, filed a child sexual abuse case against Jackson, believing that the mega pop star allegedly molested his son. Jackson had wanted to take Jordan with him on the Asian leg of his Dangerous World Tour but on the day he was supposed to begin the tour, news of the allegations broke to the public and received media attention across the world. Jackson then cancelled the remainder of the tour due to health problems arising from the scandal. Jackson reached a final financial settlement with the Chandlers costing $22 million dollars to resolve the issue. In September of 1994, the case was closed due to lack of evidence. Some hard core Jackson fans strongly believe that it was this scandal which caused Jackson’s drug addiction to pain killers,of which eventually killed the King of Pop because only five months after Jackson’s death, Evan Chandler shot himself dead in his apartment in Jersey City, New Jersey, paid for by the settlement money he received from Jackson.

  5. 5) Gary Glitter’s child pornography scandal 
    Photo source: Paul Hackett / Reuters

    The former glam rock singer was known for his extreme glam image with his glitter suits, platform boots, and performances that were full of energy. He also infamous for being incarcerated as a sex offender. In November 1997, images of child pornography were discovered on his laptop computer when he took it to the retailer to be repaired. He was later arrested and was convicted with involving in child pornography. He was listed in UK’s sex offender register in 1999. Consequently, his appearance in the Spice Girls’ film “Spice World” ,supposed to be released the same year, was put to the cutting room floor. Further falling from grace, he was also charged with having sex with an underage, child sexual abuse and attempted rape in 2006 and 2015.

  6. 6) Jim Morrison exposes himself at a concert and gets arrested for indecency

    photo credit: jimmorrisonproject.com

    In March 1, 1969, The Doors front man Jim Morrison allegedly exposed himself to thousands of shocked audience members at the Dinner Key Auditorium in Miami, Florida. It was even reported that hundreds of high school aged girls were also present in the audience for whom “…Morrison appeared to masturbate in full view of the audience, screamed obscenities, and exposed himself.”
    Morrison was arrested and was charged with “lewd and lascivious behavior in public by exposing his private parts and by simulating masturbation and oral copulation” and other misdemeanors including counts of public profanity and public drunkenness. The real controversy is questioning whether or not the “exposure” really happened. The Doors band members Robby Krieger, Ray Manzarek, and John Densmore, who were on stage with Morrison when the alleged “event” happened, all claim there was no showing of privates that took place that night. Weirdly, it was Morrison himself who told manager Bill Siddons right as he offstage “Uh-oh—I think I exposed myself.”

  7. 7) Axl Rose attacks a fan then incites a riot


    Everybody knows Axl Rose has a reputation to always spark up a controversy. He’s certainly done one very memorable to all of us when he literally jumped off a stage once to attack a fan and consequently incite a riot. The Riverport Riot also known as the “Rocket Queen Riot” was a riot that happened on July 2, 1991 at the Riverport Amphitheatre in Maryland Heights, Missouri. American hard rock band Guns N’ Roses was playing their 15th song from their set when Axl Rose abruptly stopped mid-performance, spotting a fan taking pictures. During the concert, it was repeatedly announced that cameras aren’t allowed, and Rose was infuriated by the fan who clearly takes after Rose’s “rule-breaker” attitude, still taking pictures after the announcement. Rose called off the fan from the stage, then decided to confiscate the camera himself, saying “I’ll take it, god damn it!” and then jumped into the audience to tackle the fan. When Rose walked out from performing moments after, fans broke out into riot and destroyed Guns N’ Roses’ equipment. Rose was arrested and charged with having incited the riot.

  8. 8) Woodstock 99 riots

    photo credit: Frank Ordonez / The Post Standard

    The 30th anniversary celebration of the great Woodstock ’69 was promptly called Woodstock ’99 turned into violent riots that literally ended in flames. The infamous festival was not even held at the original Woodstock in the town of Bethel, New York. IT was moved to Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, N.Y., miles away from the original location. What was supposed to be an appraisal of great music and a commemoration of legendary artists, as well as rising ones, Woodstock ’99 became a disastrous wreck in the broadest sense. Promoter John Scher was determined not to repeat the fumble that was Woodstock ’94 from which he lost a lot of money. Not only was the venue questionable, ticket prices were sky high, and because the trees on the site had been cleared out for the Air Force’s landing strips, there weren’t any natural shade spots leaving concertgoers coping with sweltering heat in the middle of July. Fed-up crew members, angry concert goers, and even artists inciting dismay over the entire event promoted negative and violent behavior resulting into the looting, 10,000 injured people, 44 arrests, eight reported sexual assaults. The event ended with people torching garbage and burning the fences, all while the Red Hot Chili Peppers‘ was ironically playing a cover of Jimi Hendrix‘s “Fire”.

  9. 9) Rolling Stones’ Altamont Tragedy


    The Altamont Speedway Free Festival was a free rock concert held at the Altamount Speedway in northern California on December 6, 1969. The counterculture event turned tragic when it resulted into considerable violence and incited a riot. The free concert featured artists such as Santana, Jefferson Airplane, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, with the Rolling Stones as the closing act. The motorbike gang Hell’s Angels were hired as security to prevent such violence to occur in exchange for $500 worth of beer. Approximately 300,000 people attended the concert, anticipating that it would be a “Woodstock of the West.”

    When The Rolling Stones were performing “Under My Thumb” with Mick Jagger repeatedly pleading with agitated and intoxicated fans to “…just be cool down in the front there, don’t push around”, 18-year-old concert goer named Meredith Hunter attempted to get onstage but was pushed back by the Hells Angels to which he responded angrily by pulling out a revolver and pointing it at the band onstage. Hells Angel Alan Passaro was quick to put Hunter’s gun aside and stabbed him repeatedly to his death. A total of 4 deaths were reported at the event. All of it was caught on tape.

  10. 10) Keith Moon accidentally runs over his chauffeur

    photo credit: biography.com

    The Who drummer Keith Moon was famous for being very skilled behind the drum kit, but the same could not be said of his skill behind the wheel. hat lack of driving skill turned very tragic when he ran over his own chauffeur, thus killing him by accident on the night of January 4, 1970. It was reported that while attempting to escape a hateful attack from local skinheads rocking Moon’s Bentley and throwing coins at it, the intoxicated drummer took the driver’s seat and attempted to drive away from the frenzy, not realizing that his driver Neil Boland left the car to deal with the skinheads in front of the car’s hood. When Moon drove forward, he hit Boland putting him underneath the car and dragging him down the road, killing him instantly. Controversy surrounded on who really was driving the Bentley when Boland was killed. It was speculated that it wasn’t Moon who was actually driving but his wife Kim. The other passengers of the car, however, confirmed that it was in fact Moon who was behind the wheel. Moon was charged with Boland’s death, along with drunk driving and driving without a license or insurance.

  11. 11) Sid Vicious arrested for girlfriend’s murder

    photo credit: madonnasscrapbook.blogspot.com

    Mystery surrounds the controversy involving Sex Pistol bassist Sid Vicious and the death of his girlfriend Nancy Spungen in 1978. On Oct. 12, 1978, Spungen’s body was found on the bathroom floor of Room 100 at the famous Chelsea Hotel in New York. A stab wound that caused her to bleed to death was found on the 20-year old’s body. John Beverely famously known as Sid Vicious was arrested and charged with her murder on the same day. There numerous speculations surrounding the mystery of Spungen’s death with reports claiming that she was accidentally stabbed by Beverely while others suggesting that she was caught in the middle of a drug deal that went wrong. Three months after his arrest, Sid Vicious was found dead by his mother due to a heroin overdose. His mother, who made writer Alan Parker prove her son’s innocence committed suicide in 1996.

Don’t Miss Out! Sign up for the Latest Updates

Premium Partners

Society of Rock partner World War Wings
Society of Rock partner Daily Rock Box
Society of Rock partner Country Music Nation
Society of Rock partner Country Rebel
Society of Rock partner I Love Classic Rock
Society of Rock partner Rock Pasta

Interested in becoming a partner?

Contact us for more info.