Disturbing Behavior (C-D)
The following list continues our multi-part look at instances of outrageous occurrences in the exhibitionist environment of rock. Part two examines disturbing behavior from C to D.
The Charlatans UK
Lumped in with the “Madchester” scene of the early ‘90s, along with Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses, The Charlatans UK were notable for their mod ‘60s-sounding melodies and loose, funky stage presence. Keyboardist Rob Collins gave the band its distinctive sound with his inspired Hammond organ riffs. The band had three number one charting albums in the U.K., but their popularity on Yankee turf was nowhere near as notable. The group’s personnel went through an early shake-up when their guitarist, John Baker, quit the band over “musical differences” following the release of their 1990 debut album “Some Friendly.” When they issued the single, “Me, In Time,” bass player Martin Blunt felt it was not up to snuff, and he went on to suffer a nervous breakdown. After spending some rest and recuperation at the seashore, Blunt was back. But, after The Charlatans toured in support of their second album “Between 10th and 11th,” an instance of true aberrant behavior played its hand with the band. Back home in England on December 3, 1992, keyboardist Collins was having a drink with an old friend one day, when suddenly, he was swept up in high crime. The friend took him to the Northwich license office and proceeded to rob the place with a replica pistol. Collins drove the getaway car, however, after a brief flight, the twosome were soon apprehended. Charged with aiding and abetting in an armed robbery, Collins was sentenced to eight months at the Shrewsbury and Redditch open prisons. He was released after four months time, which allowed him to finish the band’s third album “Up To Our Hips.” Unfortunately, the group would lose their talented organ maestro on July 22, 1996, when his car overturned on the way back from a pub to the band’s Rockfield recording studio. Rob Collins died enroute to a nearby hospital. The Charlatans UK have forged ahead, maintaining their solid fan base and touring tirelessly.
If you only know their two biggest smash singles “Rock The Casbah” and “Should I Stay Or Should I Go?” then you haven’t been formally introduced to The Clash. This British phenomenon brought artistry and awareness to the anarchy of the exploding punk movement erupting from the mid-1970s. From the energetic lava blast of their debut album “The Clash” to the stylistic array of wizardry they mustered for 1979’s “London Calling” to the bonafide boundary-breaking experimentation of 1980’s triple-album set “Sandinista!,” this pack of punch-happy punkers produced a dazzling legacy of sonic treats whose influence on modern music still resonates. Of course, the rigors of being a rock ‘n’ roll rebel can cause one to become, well, rather rebellious. Members of The Clash were certainly no strangers to the inside of a police station. Only guitarist Mick Jones seemed to stay above the fray.
Perhaps for sheer promotional reasons, the band’s lead guitarist/vocalist Joe Strummer and drummer Topper Headon felt the need to get their name out to the public on June 10, 1977 when they spray-painted “The Clash” in big letters on a wall in downtown London. The two graffiti artists were arrested and each fined 5 pounds for their tagging stunt. The next day, the pair continued their reign of misdemeanor mayhem when they were held overnight in a Newcastle prison for failing to appear before a magistrates court. The charge for this offense had been their pilfering of a pillowcase from a Holiday Inn the previous month. The robbery charge eventually yielded them a fine, this time, of 100 pounds each. The penalties increased in March 1978, when Headon and fellow bandmate, bassist Paul Simonon, were surrounded near their rehearsal studio in Camden Town, London. This offense was a bit more ponderous. Taking aim with air rifles from the roof of Chalk Farm Studios, they shot down racing pigeons flying harmlessly by, not realizing they were circling within the gunsights of England’s premier punks. With sirens blaring, four squad cars and a helicopter swooped in to pigeonhole the BB assassins off to another brief stay in the pokey. The fine this time: 800 pounds.
The next pairing of bandmates to feel the clasp of handcuffs were Simonon and Strummer when, on July 8, 1978, the police in Glasgow, Scotland felt that their antics after a show constituted “drunk and disorderly” conduct. The Scots were probably unaware of the running tally of fines levied on the boys by the English, and only slapped these Clashers with a penalty of 75 pounds. Strummer did a solitary stint behind bars when the band played in Hamburg on May 21, 1980. After a rowdy audience jeered and heckled the ire of the band to breaking point, Joe apparently wound up smacking the head of a particularly violent patron with his guitar. The Germans, seemingly more lenient about the peculiar nature of rockers, released Strummer without penalty. Around this period the band suffered temporary representation woes with several managers, and Strummer made the less-than-cordial observation on a renowned British TV show that all band managers should be put in concentration camps. By July 2, 1982, the band’s days together were winding down, and drummer Headon wished to put in yet another appearance before a judge when he was remanded on bail for stealing a bus stop from a busy London road.
As the band split apart by the mid-‘80s, Strummer went on to other musical horizons, Simenon took up painting, and poor Headon wound up driving a taxi after he effectively scuttled his achievements by being arrested for trafficking heroin and serving 15 months in prison in 1986.
Straightjacketed madmen, shocking electric chairs, slaughtered dead babies, six-foot black widow spiders, decapitating guillotines, dancing skeletons, snappy gallows. It’s enough to give anyone nightmares. In his heyday of horror, that’s exactly what performer Alice Cooper was counting on. With a bleached face, a top hat and a boa constrictor, he welcomed audiences around the world into his nightmare. Like any great showman, Cooper, born Vincent Damon Furnier to a Michigan Methodist minister, kept his offstage persona a secret from many of his fans. The disturbing scenes unfolding onstage were designed to give maximum shock effect. Preachers and concerned parents alike protested against his phenomenally-successful act. In 1973, Alice’s entourage stepped off the plane in Shreveport, Louisiana and were met by a local sheriff, who told them, in no uncertain terms, that he would throw them all behind bars if Alice did anything remotely disturbing onstage that night. Cooper believed the man’s word, and kept the show free of thrills. Memphis, Tennessee welcomed him in the same manner. A member of Parliament, Leo Abse, went so far as to try to banish Alice Cooper from stepping foot in England, citing that he was sure that the parents, teachers and welfare officers of Britain could well do without Cooper’s presence.
As choreographed as his life was, Alice was subject to a little unrehearsed disturbing behavior himself. His act oftentimes involved showering the audience with beer and chicken feathers. He liked the power he had over his fans, as they got upset over their nice clothes being ruined. Cooper would then toss dollar bills off the stage, and the miffed members would then become overly greedy. One night, as Cooper chopped up a watermelon onstage, someone handed him a crutch. He smacked the melon with the crutch, turned it into mush, mixed in feathers, then threw it all on the audience. He watched in amazement, not able to fathom why they just sat there taking it all in. Unfortunately, he later learned that the first five rows were filled with disabled fans who couldn’t move.
Alice’s rehearsals sometimes didn’t go much smoother. When he practiced a routine with boa constrictor named Eva Marie Snake, the asp began to squeeze Cooper’s neck so tight that his bodyguard finally had to slice the slithering performer’s head off (the snake’s, not Alice’s). On April 7, 1988, while rigging his famous hangman sequence for a show, a safety rope attached to his back snapped, and the shock rocker was suddenly shocked to find out what it was really like to hang oneself. He dangled for quite a few seconds before an alert road crew member bounded out to cut him loose. The disturbing moment must have choked him with emotions about his act, and before long, with the advent of the ‘90s, Cooper reluctantly left the macabre presentations to up ‘n’ comer Marilyn Manson.
Perhaps not as well known on America’s airwaves, quixotic Cope and his musical endeavors have been considered as one of Britain’s most endearing screwball talents for a number of decades. The Tamworth, England native first made his mark in the hardcore nightclubs of Liverpool in the mid-‘70s. With the punk spirit in full gallop, Julian likened the prevalent “garage rock” of the time as being “garbage rock.” When he formed his band, Teardrop Explodes (named after a DC comic book), the musical agenda of his unit was experimental, psychedelic, anti-rock. Absorbing the lifestyle of late ‘60s flower children, Cope and his bandmates consumed, possibly, more LSD tabs than the entire community of Haight-Asbury in its heyday. The Teardrop Explodes performed high as a kite at many appearances, most notably during a gig for the U.K.’s high-rated “Top Of The Pops” TV show. The lyrics Cope wrote were numbingly obscure and impenetrable, and song titles like “Kolly Kibbor’s Birthday” and “Metranil Vavin” sounded as if they were dreamily jotted onto paper during a heavy acid trip. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t become noteworthy. After issuing an EP titled “Sleeping Gas,” the band’s first album, 1980’s “Kilimanjaro,” was released to critical praise in England, and its single, “Reward,” resoundingly cracked the top ten charts.
David Balfe and Bill Drummond were the managers/producers for the group, and while coaxing a follow-up record, “Wilder,” out of the Teardrop, band members became fed up with Cope’s increasingly megalomaniacal tendencies, and personnel changes occurred swiftly. When Balfe fired all band members except Cope and drummer Gary Dwyer, Cope began writing songs himself and foisting it on the duo. Dwyer went a little nuts over this, and subsequently, drove his jeep around the English countryside, with Cope clinging to the roof. A rumor during this period had Cope also chasing his bandmates around said English countryside with a hunting rifle. The band crumbled in early 1983, and Cope went on to spend almost half a year holed up with his toy collection at his Tamworth estate. Drummond, who later went on to form the anarchic dance group KLF, felt the need to air his opinion of Mr. Cope in 1988, when he released a folk-tinged album called “The Man,” highlighted by the song “Julian Cope Is Dead.” (The opening verses go like this: “Julian Cope is dead, I shot him in the head. If he moves some more, I’ll kill him for sure. Now, Julian Cope is dead.”)
Cope’s mental stability appeared more disturbing when he forged a solo career. In March 1984, while touring in support of his album “World Shut Your Mouth,” he apparently went a little bonkers while singing the song “Reynard the Fox” in front of a sell-out crowd at the Hammersmith Palais. To be specific, he started quoting Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” saying “Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me,” while he repeatedly cut himself in the stomach with a nearby broken microphone stand. The bloody theatrics snared him widespread press, pegging him as a pop star gone completely off his nut. In 1990, he dressed up as an alien character called “Mr. Sqwubbsy” and appeared at an anti-poll tax demonstration, babbling about his desire to assassinate Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Somehow, throughout the 1990s, he was able to steer lucidly clear of his acid-dropping cognizance long enough to write four books, consisting of autobiographical musings, astral transportations, poetry, and a long-term fascination with old English ruins and stone circles.
Perhaps the oddest manifestation of Cope’s behavior was exemplified in his continual harangue of Ireland’s anthem-rock sensations U2. Who knows what discordant synapse Bono managed to trip in Julian’s psyche? But whatever the reason, Cope’s eccentric rants were focused and incessant. In Ultra magazine he said, “I’m just an artist, I can just slam it out, mine’s a holistic trip. You could put me in a coracle and send me off to some rock to make art, but you could do that to any member of U2, and they wouldn’t make art, you know, they’d find a way back to the mainland.” In 1993, he told Details magazine, “The only thing that keeps me from killing Bono is the fact that I would go to jail, and it would martyr him. What U2 are doing is evil. U2 are sick f**ks.” He softened his approach a bit in 1994, when he sat down to talk with Consumable Fanzine. “I find them (U2) less insufferable now. Just because (their work and image) is so completely all over the place, they don’t know anything. At least before, they were these horrible prigs, slugging for Jesus. But now, they’re just slugging for themselves so they’ve been beaten…It doesn’t matter how big he (Bono) gets now, you know somebody is gonna shoot the bastard someday and that’ll be great.” Someone needs to get Julian and Bono in a group hug. Until that time, Cope continues to occasionally perform, and he is currently working on a book examining the pre-Christian history of language and landscape.
Treading the line between eclectic and mainstream, Declan MacManus, otherwise known as Elvis Costello, has always tried to be outspoken in both his music and his interviews. A wannabe tough guy with trademark spectacles, Costello played up the disobedient punk spirit of the mid-‘70s when he appeared on NBC-TV’s “Saturday Night Live” on December 17, 1977. Lorne Michaels, SNL’s producer, had tried unsuccessfully to book the hot anarchic act The Sex Pistols, and subsequently hired Elvis and his back-up band, The Attractions, as a last minute substitution for that night’s performance. Settling on the tunes Costello would play, Michaels and NBC executives adamantly requested Elvis not to play his successful single “Radio Radio” because they felt it was an anti-media song. The track showcased lines like “They say you better listen to the voice of reason, but they don’t give any choice, ‘cause they think that it’s treason, so you had better do as you are told – You better listen to the radio.” The feeling was that even though ‘radio’ was the culprit in the song, it would translate to ‘television’ being the big villain as well. Michaels insisted the band play another hit single, “Less Than Zero,” which captured punk spirit in a ditty concerning breakdown of youth morals. Elvis claimed he and his co-horts were bored and drunk by the time their performance was slotted for the evening. After a few lead-in licks into “Less Than Zero,” Costello waved the band to stop, turned to the mike, and said “I’m sorry ladies and gentlemen. There’s no reason to do this song here.” And then, they promptly launched into “Radio Radio.” Michaels and his NBC cronies seethed as Elvis’ sarcastic voice crooned “…and the radio is in the hands of such a lot of fools, tryin’ to anesthetize the way that you feel.”
Of course, Costello’s behavior on NBC was disturbing only to men in suits. However, in early 1979, when Elvis toured America with his band in support of their top ten album “Armed Forces,” his behavior at a Columbus, Ohio Holiday Inn would mark his persona as disturbing to a great deal of people. Tossing back many drinks with his bandmates at the hotel’s bar, Costello became engaged in a conversation with Stephen Stills, who, touring with his California Blues Band, was also at the bar at the time. The upbeat American folk singer and the scruffy London new waver did not apparently see eye-to-eye on a number of topics, and the conversation suddenly got downright belligerent. At one point, he called Stills, a former cocaine addict, “steel nose.” Costello told Rolling Stone magazine in 1982, “We started what you’d probably call joshing. Gentle jibes between the two camps of the Stills Band and us. It developed as it got drunker and drunker into a nastier and nastier argument…they just seemed in some way to typify a lot of things that I thought were wrong with American music. And that’s probably quite unfair. But at the exact moment, they did.” Ex-Delaney & Bramlett singer, Bonnie Bramlett, who was touring with Still’s outfit as a backup singer, allegedly asserted that African-American artists were a lot “deeper” than any English artist Costello could name. The argument had reached a point where Elvis felt he needed to push it to a logical conclusion, a fight. “What it was about,” Costello continued in the interview, “was that I said the most outrageous thing I could possibly say to them – that I knew, in my drunken logic, would anger them more than anything else.” Basically, he called legendary crooner Ray Charles a “blind, ignorant n***er” and soulman extraordinaire James Brown “another dumb n***er.” Bramlett hauled off and slugged the Elvis twerp in the head. This remark effectively brought, as Costello puts it, “a silly argument to a quick end…and it worked, too.” The two bands got into the action, pummeling and pinning each other around the quaint Holiday Inn setting. When the dust finally settled, Elvis’ remark was widely published, and he was forced to call a press conference to make a public apology. He has since apologized profusely over the years for the inebriated slurs, and for most fans, it is a moot issue. But given the opportunity, wouldn’t you like to see Mr. Charles and Mr. Brown have an opportunity to bust a fist into Costello’s squirrelly face?
Country Joe and The Fish
Even though he was born in the political capitol of the free world, Washington D.C., Joe McDonald and his family soon moved west to one of the most liberal environments ever established, the state of California. Attending college in the multi-cause atmosphere of northern California’s Berkeley campus, Joe focused his desire to be a ‘greek chorus’ on the moral conscience of the nation by starting his own band. Lampooning then-President Lyndon Johnson in his song, “Superbird,” McDonald went on to attack the fruitless action of the Vietnam War machine. His band’s second album contained the ‘60s most oft-chanted anti-war song, “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die Rag.” On the album, the tune begins with a “Fish Cheer,” wherein band members chant, “Gimme a F, gimme an I, gimme a S, gimme a H; what’s that spell? FISH!”
When McDonald and his band played an outdoor concert in New York’s Central Park during the summer of 1968, the group’s drummer, Chicken Hirsh, sensing the bubbling discontentment of youth towards the ‘establishment,’ suggested revamping the ‘Fish Cheer’ to spell another four-letter word that starts with ‘F.’ The crowd of 10,000 or more went berserk, screaming the word aloud and proud. Mingled in with the audience were several CBS network executives. Country Joe and his band had been paid in advance to perform on “The Ed Sullivan Show” later that year. Horrified by the sing-a-long, CBS promptly cancelled their appearance but let them keep the money. In August 1969, Joe and his group led the hundreds of thousands amassed for the Woodstock festival in upstate New York in the dirty version of the cheer. This performance was recorded both for the Woodstock documentary and the festival’s million-selling album. Before long, Country Joe and The Fish had managed to upset just about every parent and authority figure in the United States. The cheer outraged high school principals everywhere, as sneaky students subversively played it over their alma mater intercom systems (as they did in my school), and it disturbed suburban settings, as kids cranked it up on their car 8-track players and backyard gatherings. Of course, notoriety drew harsh consequences, when, on March 18, 1970, Joe was convicted of obscenity and fined $500 for leading an audience on the smutty cheer at a concert in Worcester, Massachusetts. Nevertheless, Joe’s name became synonymous with anti-authority causes, and this popularity carried the band on a prosperous course well into the early 1970s.
The power of Country Joe’s legacy to disturb drifted well into the 1990s when folk singer Pete Seeger suddenly broke into a version of the “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die Rag” while performing for the Library of Congress’ 200th anniversary in Washington, D.C. He cheerily sang the lyrics, “And it’s one, two, three; What are we fighting for?, Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn; Next stop is Vietnam; And it’s five, six, seven, Open up the pearly gates; Well there ain’t no time to wonder why, Whoopee! We’re all gonna die!” The gathered elite, including General Colin Powell, appeared quite disturbed by the seemingly inappropriate rendition and the song’s vivid anti-war sentiments, which still rang true after all these years. You go, Country Joe!
Sure, practically everybody in rock ‘n’ roll has a drug period to relate. Rock musicians who say ‘no’ to drugs are as believable as a virtuous Darva Conger. And, while all of the members of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young have wrestled with their varying addictions over the years (including an incident where Stephen Stills was arrested after crawling in a drugged-out daze down a hotel corridor in 1970), none of them ever matched the disturbing lows David Crosby sank to in the public eye while wrestling with his dependency demons.
Crosby was plagued with a self-esteem problem at an early age. Growing up in a rich family, he had a brother, Chip, who was tall, thin, and handsome, and to whom David could not compare with in his parents’ eyes. Fellow bandmate Graham Nash summed up the dynamics of Crosby’s conflicted family life to Rolling Stone magazine. “David comes home from school one day, and there’s a note from his mom. ‘Chip, your dinner is in the fridge. David, stay out of there, fatty.” Crosby quickly became rebellious and was thrown out of schools. Music was a form of escape, and he soon joined The Byrds. After being fired for personal conflicts, he briefly did a stint with Buffalo Springfield, the band formed by Stephen Stills and Neil Young, and then, with Graham Nash imported from the group The Hollies, the four folk singers formed Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. In 1970, the band topped the U.S. chart with the landmark album “Déjà vu.” Crosby was already in a drug-fueled slide. The year before, he had lost the love of his life, Christine Hinton, in an automobile accident. His despondency was the catalyst to seek narcotic anesthetization.
By the 1980s, his overblown drug habit burst out of the closet for all the media to scrutinize. He snorted so much cocaine that he acquired a hole through the septum of his nose, referring to himself as “Ol’ Crusting and Bleeding.” When he began to freebase his cocaine, Crosby once set himself on fire. After selling his Mercedes to a drug dealer to score an ounce of cocaine, the dealer drove the car to a neighbor’s house and overdosed. Someone drove the car back to Crosby, who, in turn, wound up selling it to another dealer to buy drugs. The authorities finally became aware of his disturbing patterns in 1982.
On March 28th of that year, Crosby was driving his car on a LA freeway, on his way to an anti-nuke rally, when he plowed into the center divider. When officers arrived on the scene, they quickly assessed his foggy state of mind. They wound up arresting him for driving under the influence of cocaine, possessing Quaaludes and “drug paraphernalia,” and carrying a concealed .45 caliber pistol. He stated that he’d purchased the gun in response to the death of John Lennon at the hands of a stalker. The case was plea-bargained down to reckless driving, and Crosby was placed on probation. His life continued to spin out of control. The next month, on April 13th, David was arrested again, this time while he was in Cardi’s nightclub in Dallas, Texas. Officers had found him prepping a fix of cocaine in his dressing room, and a concealed gun was found nearby. He was arrested, booked and given bail. In September, Crosby was slapped with an assault and battery suit brought on by two Culver City, California women who said he’d attacked them with a gun. He told Rolling Stone magazine, “I’m a gentleman. I’ve never hit a girl in my life. Not once. They filed a civil suit to make money. They saw their chance to make big bucks.” Nevertheless, Crosby finally saw his day in court, back in Dallas, on June 4, 1983, when he pleaded guilty to cocaine possession and carrying a gun into a bar (the charges from Cardi’s). Crosby was so narcotized, he fell asleep most of the day in his chair, snoring loudly, and his attorney constantly had to shake him to wake him. On August 5, 1983, Dallas’ Judge McDowell sentenced David to five years for the drug offense and three years for the concealed weapon offense. Crosby was released pending appeals. Bad mistake.
Shortly thereafter, David was pulled by police in his hometown area of Marin County, California while riding his motorcycle. This time, he was found carrying a dagger, heroin, cocaine, pot and codeine. In December 1984, Judge McDowell reversed the Texas charges on grounds of illegal search and seizure, but made Crosby begin a rehab program in lieu of jail time. The next month, at the start of 1985, David entered the Fair Oaks Hospital rehabilitation clinic in Summit, New Jersey. After 7 weeks at the facility, as Crosby related to Rolling Stone magazine, he pleaded with the administrators to let him have a guitar. “I said, ‘Look, you don’t understand. I have to play music. Music is the best thing in my life. The strongest faith I have, the most positive force. It gets me higher than drugs ever will’…They said, ‘We think it will get in the way of the therapy, and besides, it’s against the rules.” Rules, Schmools! Crosby made a break from the clinic in March 1985 and stole away to a friend’s apartment in Greenwich Village, New York. The police came a-knockin’ the next night and threw Crosby in jail. He was then transferred to a cell back in Dallas on March 7, 1985. Judge McDowell was not very pleased, and he reinstated Crosby’s conviction. David made it to freedom once again, on appeal bond, and was able to rejoin his bandmates for an appearance at the Live Aid concert in Philadelphia on July 13, 1985. Around his friends at his Mill Valley home, rumors spread that David had free-fallen back into his $600,000 a year habit freebasing cocaine. Another rumor purported the Hell’s Angels had assumed ownership of his home to cover his massive drug debt. Again to Rolling Stone, Crosby deflected the insinuation by saying, “You have to be kidding. I swear to you on my mother’s grave, the Hell’s Angels do not own my house.”
By November, when he failed to appear at a bond revocation meeting concerning three misdemeanors, the jovial folkie was set for another vanishing act. Arrest warrants were issued, and the authorities combed his property and chatted up his friends. Fleeing to the Bahamas on his yacht, “Mayan,” the fugitive Crosby was apprehended by the FBI 17 days later in south Florida on December 12, 1985. There was nowhere else to run. All of Crosby’s legal stalls had been exhausted. He was transported to the Texas State Penitentiary, to a solitary cell, where he began a six-month sentence. Oh yes, and his requests for a guitar were denied.
Crosby’s troubles with the law finally petered out during this cooling period, and he seemed to kick his addictions successfully. As he told journalist Chet Flippo, “At the time I went to prison, I didn’t think I would come back. I had gotten to the point where I just thought I was gonna die from the dope and that was that…After I had been there six months, I started to wake up and remember who the hell I was. Then I started to think, hey, you might live through this, you might get another chance.” On August 8, 1986, Crosby was released and given that next chance.
He eventually made a second album with the foursome of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in 1988 called “American Dream.” Three years out of prison, he was still clean, and he was even keen on a solid plan he had formulated on how the U.S. could completely win their war on drugs. He told the Miami Herald, “We have the satellite surveillance capacity to tell you where every cocoa bush in the world is…I’d just go down there and rip ‘em out of the ground. Believe me, the Ecuadorian Air Force is not going to attack the United States Marines.” Grab your weedwackers and follow Dave!
Wrestling clear of the criminal ways of his past, Crosby has gone on to form his own band with Jeff Pevar and his own son James Raymond named CPR. Hardcore drug abuse left David with a poor liver, and he required a transplant in the mid-‘90s. On February 10, 1997, rocker Melissa Etheridge’s partner Julie Cypher gave birth to a child in Los Angeles. The proud surrogate papa? None other than the remarkable David Crosby, a true survivor and talented musician, passing his medal of tenacity on to the next generation.
The trade-off to multi-platinum success in the world of rock is oftentimes countermanded by moments of marked tragedy. From the mid-‘80s to the early ‘90s, the power pop anthems of Sheffield, England’s Def Leppard blasted across FM stations and MTV rotations at a dizzyingly steady pace. “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” “Animal,” “Rocket,” “Let’s Get Rocked,” and the number-one-charting “Love Bites” assuredly defined the headbanging, spandex-clad charm these metal showmen wielded during that decade of music. Both their 1984 album “Hysteria” and 1992’s “Adrenalize” topped the U.S. charts for five weeks each. But abuse, arguments, accidents, alcoholism, and overall rocker ‘bad-itude’ helped establish some disturbing patterns throughout the history (or hysteria) of this legendary group.
The first signs of woeful times occurred during the production of their third album “Pyromania” in 1982. The band’s founding guitarist, Pete Willis, was slipping down a deep hole of alcohol abuse. With intoxication came confrontation, and the other members began to feel his contributions were more adversarial than integral. Willis was summarily fired and replaced by guitarist Phil Collen on July 12th. Little did the band know that Collen had just as bad of an addiction to booze as Willis. And he soon co-opted fellow bandmate, guitarist Steve Clark, as his drinking buddy. The twosome became known as the “Terror Twins.”
Meanwhile, Def Leppard was finally gaining recognition worldwide with its “Pyromania” LP and hit the road on a full-blown tour. While hanging in El Paso, Texas for a concert, Joe Elliott, the band’s charismatic vocalist, made the dumb mistake of referring to the city as “the place with all those greasy Mexicans.” The press got wind of this comment, and a firestorm of outrage broke out in the area. Miffed fans took to burning their Def Leppard records in public demonstrations of protest. It’s a wonder the boys made it out of Texas alive. Joe wisely made a point to apologize for his remark. The matter was, however, not forgotten, as they would find out years later.
As most everyone knows by now, something really disturbing happened to Rick Allen on New Years’ Eve 1984, when the drummer lost his temper and felt the need to pass a motorist driving an Alfa Romeo on the A57 route from Sheffield to Derbys, England. The two speedsters began racing each other, but when Allen came upon a sharp bend in the road, he lost control of his Corvette Stingray, sending the car overturning into a nearby field. Rick’s girlfriend, riding in the passenger seat, survived the calamity with little injury. Allen, unfortunately, was thrown from the automobile, his left arm torn off instantly, while he suffered multiple fractures in his right arm. Whisking the Def Leppard drummer to a hospital, doctors sewed the limb back on, however, after three days, it needed to be removed due to the spread of infection. The group was not sure how to go on without their beloved bandmate. With optimistic determination, Allen began to rehabilitate his drumming abilities four months later in April 1985. With the aid of a Fairlight computer to recreate drum sounds and a Simmons electronic drum kit fashioned to fit his limited needs, Allen soon joined Def Leppard in the studio and commenced working on their chart-topping “Hysteria” album.
Once it was released, Def Leppard hit the road again in support of “Hysteria.” When they arrived back in El Paso, Texas on February 15, 1988, over four years since Joe’s insensitive remark about the Latino populace, the locals were waiting for them. Repeated threats to disrupt their performance caused the band to eventually cancel their show and hightail it out of there.
The Terror Twins were living on the edge. While Phil Collen seemed to handle his addiction, Steve Clark was teetering towards disaster. In December 1989, Clark was found comatose, lying in a gutter outside a Minnesota bar. He was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, then, checked himself into rehab. The band put recording on hold and gave Clark a six-month sabbatical to lick his dependency problem. The effort was short-lived. On the night of January 8, 1991, after drinking with a friend, Steve made it back to his London apartment, where he was found dead by his girlfriend. Clark’s demise was a result of his brain stem compressing, causing respiratory failure. The coroner cited the presence of excessive alcohol along with anti-depressive medication and painkillers in his system as the final straw that switched off his life. In honor of Clark’s memory, the band forged on, releasing the last album Clark worked on, “Adrenalize,” which debuted in the number one position on April 11, 1992.
Jumping back on tour, the band was not free of bizarre occurrences. In late September, while they were scheduled to play a few shows in the southwestern United States, the driver of their sound equipment truck decided to use the vehicle for escape in an attempted robbery of a used appliance store in Las Cruces, New Mexico. He was soon nabbed and charged with causing criminal damage, but his weird actions caused two shows to be postponed.
Drummer Rick Allen was imbibing a bit too many alcoholic beverages during this period. Stir in his volatile temper, and sure enough, things were bound to go ballistic. While he and his wife, Stacy, were walking through Los Angeles International Airport on July 5, 1995, something she said or did set him off. In his intoxicated state, he grabbed ahold of her throat, dragged her into a ladies restroom, and maliciously slammed her head repeatedly against the bathroom wall. The cops met up with him, and Rick was arrested. Stacy insisted that he, at the very least, be forced to undergo counseling. He was released on bail, and spent time playing several dates with the Leppard (he was now able to perform on an acoustic drum kit), before his court appearance.
Joe Elliott might’ve come to the same crossroads himself when he started an incident with his girlfriend, Bobbie Tolsma, on May 7, 1996. The way Elliott described it to Q Magazine, it was relatively harmless in his eyes, but it must’ve made quite a disturbance. “Me and my girlfriend got arrested in a Los Angeles hotel for having an argument. An over-officious security guard stuck his nose in so I told him to f**k off. He called the cops. It was soon after the whole O.J. Simpson thing, and they were pretty hot on spousal abuse, and my girlfriend was covered in scratches from horse riding. (huh?) We tried to explain that we’d just been screaming at each other, but they wouldn’t have it. The charges were dropped in the end, but I had to spend a couple of hours in the cage.”
In any event, Rick Allen finally pled guilty to spousal abuse charges in an LA courtroom on August 6, 1996. The judge sentenced him to receive a year’s worth of domestic abuse counseling and thirty days’ service to remove community graffiti. Allen was also required to record public service announcement spots for MTV condemning domestic abuse. He and Stacy were reconciled, and he mellowed after the birth of his baby girl the following year.
Def Leppard continued to tour and release albums into the millenium. Even though El Paso may never want them back, the band offered a little token of favoritism to the state of Texas on June 8, 1999. To celebrate the release of their ninth album, “Euphoria,” the group performed a mini-concert in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart in San Antonio.
“I am interested in anything about revolt, disorder, chaos – especially activity that seems to have no other meaning.” This quote from Jim Morrison seemed to capture his legendary stance long after his brief stint as the mesmerizing Lizard King, as the turbulent haze of the ‘60s faded in relevance. When asked by Rolling Stone magazine if he just made the line up for some newspaper guy, Morrison responded, “Yes, definitely.” Of course, he added, “But it’s true, too.”
The Doors’ two number-one singles, “Light My Fire” and “Hello, I Love You,” with their organ-driven riffs powered by keyboardist Ray Manzarek and their snarled, saturated lyrics commandingly pronounced by leadman Morrison, still convey a distinct period and place in the memories of those who lived the times. Much of The Doors’ music is the living soundtrack of the Summer of Love. Morrison, like any great artist, was a genius and tortured soul, all in one. Poet, writer, filmmaker, husband, lover, and rock god were labels that swirled about his universe during the period from 1967 to 1971. Unfortunately, with temptations galore and a sense of sanctuary in the bottle, Jim exhibited a fair share of eccentricities and inciting tendencies.
Having been the house band for the famous Whisky A-Go-Go in LA for several months and after the release of their debut album called “The Doors,” in 1967, the band played some gigs in northern California. Promoter Bill Graham booked them to perform at his Fillmore West venue in San Francisco on June 9th and 10th, just days after they finished a concert in nearby Sacramento. Everyone in the band showed up except Morrison. No one knew where he had gone to in his drive over from the state’s capital city. Graham was forced to refund a lot of money for the first Fillmore show. The next day, Jim walked into Graham’s office and apologized. Graham, in his autobiography, described the scenario. “(Morrison) told me that as he was leaving Sacramento to drive to San Francisco, he went past this movie house. “Casablanca” was playing. He just couldn’t help it. He went in to see “Casablanca” instead.” Morrison wound up sitting in the theatre all day, watching the movie for three solid showings!
Graham had The Doors back in his Winterland Ballroom in 1968. This time Jim was very drunk during the performance, and he began to swing his microphone in circular fashion, aping the moves Roger Daltrey of The Who trademarked. Morrison’s lassoing technique was infinitely less skilled than Daltrey’s, as evidenced by the swings getting wider and wider. The microphone sailed dangerously over drummer John Densmore’s head and whipped out about 10 rows over the audience. Graham hurried down front to tell Morrison to cut out the Buffalo Bill act, but he was stopped short when the mike whizzed around and nailed him square in the head. Graham toppled over, a huge bump and blood leaking from the wound. Morrison later professed his ignorance of the incident in Graham’s office. However, when The Doors next performed for Bill, Jim presented Graham with a psychedelic pith helmet for protection.
Morrison’s relations with women were oftentimes misogynistic and vulgar. One story in Jim’s legend had him spotting a friend’s sister in a fancy boutique store. He called out, “Whoopee, look at those tits!” An old woman in the store thought he was commenting on her, and she proceeded to chase him around the establishment, hitting him with her purse. Things weren’t quite so playful when he supposedly pulled a carving knife on one girlfriend who refused to sleep with him. A friend sauntered into Jim’s apartment, in the midst of his threat, and Morrison quickly took the weapon away, laughing, “Hey now, what’s this? A knife? Now, where did that come from?” Ray Manzarek, in his book “Light My Fire,” tells of the time when another girlfriend of Morrison’s, Sable Sperling, showed up at the recording studio drunk and stupefied on downers. The band was laying tracks for the song “Five To One,” and during a break, Manzarek noticed a huge bruise on Sable’s leg. He asked her if she had gotten into an accident. “No, nothing like that. Jim just hit me with a f**king board.” As Morrison’s life spun further out to fantasy land, he struck up a relationship with a stunning Scandinavian woman whose husband was away in Portugal on business. According to authors Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugarman in their book “No One Here Gets Out Alive,” her name was Ingrid Thompson, and after several weeks in November 1969 of trysts with the now-cocaine-stricken superstar, she offered up a confession to him. She claimed she sometimes sipped on blood. Morrison didn’t believe her and tauntingly said “Let’s drink some blood now.” She wandered off to the bathroom and came back with a razor blade. Slicing a deep cut in her finger, the whacked-out twosome made love in blood-caked sheets that night.
Morrison’s most noteworthy instances of disturbing behavior were found in his live performances before throngs of adoring fans. On December 9, 1967, The Doors were set to play a gig in New Haven, Connecticut. Backstage, Jim and a young girl found a moment to smooch in a bathroom’s shower stall. A police officer walked in on them and told the pair to leave the area. Morrison apparently mumbled something along the lines of “eat it,” whereupon the cop sprayed the duo with mace. The concert was delayed an hour while the girl and Jim had their eyes cleansed with a saline solution. The show got underway, and suddenly, Morrison began telling the audience about the occurrence backstage. The crowd became incensed, and the police had had enough. The house lights were turned up, and Jim was arrested. Kicked and dragged to a police car, he was charged with breach of the peace and resisting arrest. He spent a couple hours in jail, made bail at $1,500, and eventually, the charges were dropped under the guise of insufficient evidence.
A riot had been avoided in Connecticut, but on May 10, 1968, Morrison agitated the crowd at a Chicago performance enough for them to stampede the stage. The band slipped out a backdoor, as the audience fought with police and stomped the stage and equipment to smithereens. Jim avoided arrest and incited yet a second riot on August 2, 1968 at the Singer Bowl (site of the old World’s Fair) in New York. Again, the kids moved onto the stage. Policemen flung audience members back into the crowd, and the crowd flung folded wooden chairs at the cops.
The coup de grace of concert kookiness occurred on March 1, 1969. The day before, while in Los Angeles, Jim had attended a performance by the Living Theatre, an avant-garde troupe who engaged in “confrontational theatre.” Known for shedding their clothes by the end of their show, the Los Angeles police let it be known that the actors would be busted if any one of them went nude. The actors railed against the injustices of the world throughout the ‘play,’ and at the end, when Morrison had joined them onstage, several members cried out, “I’m not allowed to take my clothes off!” The next day, Morrison and The Doors were on a plane to Miami for a fateful concert.
The gig was to be held in a decommissioned naval seaplane hangar known as the Dinner Key auditorium. The severely-inebriated Morrison stoked the audience midway through the playlist, saying “You’re all a bunch of slaves! Letting everybody push you around.” Then he alternately talked about love and hate. Somewhere in this tirade, he tried to persuade the crowd to “get naked.” Finally, he just said, “Do you want to see my c**k?” The audience roared the affirmative, and Jim teasingly took off his shirt and draped it in front of his trademark leather pants, matador-style. He then proceeded to unzip his trousers and, very quickly, flashed his lizard king to the crowd several times. Ray Manzarek contests that Jim never truly exposed himself. Pandemonium soon broke out as the kids jumped onto the stage. Morrison pushed one security guard off. Another big guard flung Jim out into the audience. The foursome somehow made it out of Miami that night and flew to the tropics for a little rest and relaxation. Meanwhile, the Dade County sheriffs were looking for Jim, having charged him with “lewd and lascivious behavior in public by exposing his private parts and by simulating masturbation and oral copulation” in addition to profanity and public drunkenness. When Jim landed back in LA on April 3, 1969, the FBI, which had gotten involved, believing he had fled across state lines, promptly arrested him. Returning to Miami, Morrison turned himself in to the local authorities and made $50,000 bail in 20 minutes’ time. He told a drinking buddy, “I just wanted to see what it looked like in the spotlight, that’s all.”
The nation was horrified by this unbridled display of exhibitionism. To ease the pain and suffering, Jackie Gleason and Anita Bryant fronted a huge Rally for Decency show at the Orange Bowl in Miami for an estimated crowd of 30,000. The Doors were effectively prohibited from playing in any of the other 20 cities they had booked for that tour.
On November 11, 1969, Morrison was once again arrested, this time on a plane that landed in Phoenix, Arizona. On the flight, originating in Los Angeles, Morrison and pal Tom Baker had pinched the derriere of the first class cabin attendants, and had noisily hurled innuendoes at them. The sloshed pals were charged with “interfering with the flight of an intercontinental aircraft” and public drunkenness. They paid the $500 bail, and later when the incident went to trial in Arizona, the assaulted stewardess was unable to determine which of the two bearded men did what to her. By April 20, 1970, Jim and Tom were acquitted of all charges.
On August 4, 1970, Jim was having drinks at an LA bar called The Experience. The bar’s owner offered to drive Morrison home. One small problem. Jim forgot exactly where he lived. Dropping the rocker off at a house Jim assumed was his, Morrison pounded on the front door loudly, trying to get his girlfriend to open up. It was, of course, the wrong home. The next morning, the 68 year old woman whose house it was, found Jim curled up asleep at her door. She phoned the police, and they arrested Morrison on a public drunkenness charge.
Jim was subsequently convicted of exposing himself in Miami on September 20, 1970, but the public drunkenness charge was dropped. He was freed on appeal, and he was also on his last legs.
In March 1971, he and his wife Pamela moved to Paris, France. For a brief moment in his whirlwind celebrity journey, it looked like he would get his life back in order. But the cumulative effects of hardnosed boozing had played its hand. Jim was found in a bathtub on July 2, 1971, dead from what officials said was a heart attack induced by respiratory problems. His tattered life yielded some peculiar behavior, but it also afforded generations with a treasure trove of rock classics. He once said, “I see myself as a huge fiery comet, a shooting star. They’ll never see anything like it ever again, and they won’t be able to forget me – ever.” You nailed that one right, Jimbo.
He’s the folk rocker that influenced the musical leanings of The Beatles and just about every influential musician that followed. His morality tales, disguised in storytelling ballads, garnered him the mantle of ‘60s Americana poet and renowned, yet unofficial, icon of the protest hordes. Bob Dylan has never really pictured himself in that light. Relating his assessment of the hippie generation, Dylan told the London Times magazine in November 1997, “I know it was a time of great upheaval in the world, but I still don’t care about them. I didn’t grow up in the ‘60s, so Bob Dylan, the protest singer, isn’t really me at all.”
As early as December 1963, champions of the downtrodden were snowed about his self-professed apathy and instead felt he was a supporter of their cause. During that month, the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee presented Bob with an award commending his efforts in the ongoing civil rights battles being fought during the period. According to authors Margaret Moser and Bill Crawford, Dylan was extremely inebriated that night, and when he finally stumbled to the podium before his fellow dinner attendees, he mumbled something about seeing himself as a kind of Lee Harvey Oswald. The nation was still mourning the tragic assassination of their beloved JFK, and his statement was seen as incredibly insensitive. A collective ‘boo’ drove him from the stage. He later apparently apologized in his Dylanesque, enigmatic way, saying, “I don’t even know what politics are, to tell you the truth.”
Bob’s behavior over the years can’t quite be labeled all that disturbing but instead just odd. When ABC television commissioned he and filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker to shoot a one-hour film, primarily documenting Bob’s U.K. tour with his backing group, The Band, in 1966, the edited footage which arrived at the network prompted them to simply throw up their hands and scrap the broadcast. The eclectic, anti-documentary film did not make much sense, and its oddball highpoint was captured when Dylan was filmed trying to buy the girlfriend of a Swedish fan. The short, called “Eat The Document,” was finally projected twice at the Academy of Music in New York in 1971 and then had a brief run at the Whitney Museum. Bob later described the special as “miles and miles of garbage.”
After claiming to have suffered major injuries from a motorcycle accident near his Woodstock, New York home on July 25, 1966 (a friend riding in a van behind him later described the incident as being a minor mishap), Dylan was shaken enough to drop off the tour circuit for a good five years, give or take a few. In the early ‘70s, he formed a tenuous relationship with an obsessive fan named A.J. Weberman, who was much more peculiar than his idol. Mr. Weberman was a self-proclaimed “garbologist,” which basically meant he sifted through poor Bob’s trash outside his MacDougal Street townhouse, pulling away any minute detail he could of the Dylan household’s inner secrets. Weberman was convinced Dylan was hooked on heroin and needed to be ‘liberated.’ In a published transcript of a phone call he had with Bob, A.J. harangued the legend into coming out of hiding to perform a benefit concert at Madison Square Garden. “All you gotta do is show up and plunk your guitar, then a hundred thousand freaks will come,” he encouraged. Dylan demurred, and the conversation got noticeably more tense. Weberman claimed that Bob had once told him he wasn’t going to get into Dylan’s life, and if he did, Bob might gain a soul. As more paranoia spewed, Weberman alleges Bob told him he could have people kill A.J. if he so desired. Dylan responded that he’d like to write a song about Weberman and call it “Pig.” According to authors Moser and Crawford, ol’ Bob decided to give A.J. a more stern message some time later. When Weberman headed to a corner store to get a soda, he was jumped by a stranger, who proceeded to pummel him. After a brief, disorienting moment, he realized it was the object of his affection, Mr. Dylan himself, slugging him in the stomach. Several nearby hippies pulled the incensed Bob away, and Weberman seemed to back off on his stalking in the following years.
By 1975, Bob’s marriage to his wife of nine years, Sara Lowndes, was disintegrating. Although he claims most of the songs from his album of the same year, “Blood on the Tracks,” were inspired by his interest in painting, the record’s engineer, Phil Ramone, said, “(Bob) was going through hell with Sara, his former wife, at the time,” and he intimated that songs like “You’re a Big Girl Now” were definitely about her. While the album charted for 2 weeks at number one in the U.S., Dylan was further alienating his estranged wife and friends by pouring his efforts into a four-hour mess of a film called “Renaldo and Clara.” The self-indulgent movie was barely releasable, and some critics cited his “careless treatment” of the people in the film as one of the factors in ruining his marriage. Perhaps, the crowning blow, if you will, happened when, according to Moser and Crawford, Sara found Bob at the breakfast table one morning, sitting with their five children and a woman named Malka. Bob allegedly hit Sara in the face and told her to leave. She filed for divorce on March 1, 1977 and was eventually awarded custody of the kids after a long, drawn-out battle. Even his heartfelt song “Sara,” which he released in 1976, could not woo her back. Dylan, conjuring up the smoke and mirror part of his personality, told Rolling Stone magazine in 1978 that the song may have been publicly misinterpreted. “When people say “Sara” was written for his wife Sara – it doesn’t necessarily have to be about her just because my wife’s name happened to be Sara. Anyway, was it the real Sara or the Sara in the dream? I still don’t know.” Whatever, Bob.
Unquestionably, Dylan’s music has earned the accolades of admirers because it is rich in truth and easily discernable. Like most geniuses, Dylan, himself, is a bit impenetrable.
More Disturbing Behavior is on its way, from E to Z, in the weeks to come.
© 2000 Ned Truslow