The road to fame and fortune isn’t always paved in gold. Many of music’s most talented and troubled artists have succumbed to the various pitfalls of fame. Some aren’t destined for old age, and fall victim to the decadent sensibilities that make the fast life so appealing and lethal. Wearing the bad boy badge can burn you. Those who get out half alive are lucky, and those rare individuals who retain their fortune are exceptions to the rule. In an effort to give recognition to some of the greats who have graced us with their chaotic ways and ridiculous behaviors, let’s take a look back on some of the rockers that lived hard on stage and off.
10. Pete Doherty
Doherty may be one of the last rock romantics. He is best known for being the co-front man of the punk band the Libertines. Like Jim Morrison and Dylan, Doherty has been praised for his song writing and its poetic sensibilities. The release of the band’s debut album “Up the Bracket” brought the group critical and commercial success, but unfortunately their unique and novel sound rose in popularity as the artist sank deeper into his already excessive drug use. The musician has been arrested on numerous occasions for drug related offences including a DUI and possession of both crack cocaine and heroin. He spent 2 months in jail after burglarizing his bandmates house in 2003. Doherty’s addictions and legal troubles drove an unfortunate wedge between him and his Libertine bandmates. However, his new group The Babyshambles, have found a more modest degree of success, headlining major venues and recently releasing their third album “Sequel to the Prequel.”
9. Billy Idol
Born William Michael Albert Broad, but better known for his stage name, Billy Idol is a renowned punk rocker that had a series of major hits in the 1980’s. His first mainstream success came in 1980, when his band Generation X released their single “Dancing with Myself.” A solo career followed with four highly successful albums. While these days Billy is known for his charitable activities, his younger years were defined by drugs, alcohol and womanizing. Songs like “Rebel Yell” and “White Wedding” made Idol one of the first stars of MTV when the channel was still in its infancy. By 1989, Idol was becoming known more increasingly for his extracurricular activities than for his artistic growth. A series of drug busts and overdoses nearly ended his career and life, but despite the pitfalls of fame and excess, Billy has retained his fortune, and we shouldn’t count him out for a comeback.
8. Tommy Lee
Lee embodied what it meant to be a bad boy rocker in the 1980’s and has managed to have continued success despite his wild ways. Along with band mates Nikki Sixx, Mick Mars, and front-man, Vince Neil, he formed Motley Crue, which came to be known for their decadent lifestyle, as much as for their hard rock. Lee has been perpetually involved in tabloid scandals throughout his entire career, most notably for his stormy relationships with model/actress Heather Locklear and second wife, Pamela Anderson. A sex tape of the couple was released in 1995 and was heavily covered in the media. Even today, nearly 20 years after the tape emerged, people are still talking about it. While some of the drummer’s shenanigans are laughable, it hasn’t all been fun and games. In the late 1990’s he spent 4 months in prison for kicking his then wife Anderson while she was holding their son Dylan.
7. Liam Gallagher
Born William John Paul Gallagher, the former Oasis front-man is well known for his bushy eyebrows, abrasive attitude, and surly antics, on and off stage . During the 1990’s Liam and his brother Noel were major influences in the second generation Britpop movement and helped create a fresh new rock sound that set them apart from many of the acts of the time. Oasis’s first album “Definitely Maybe” became the fastest selling debut album ever and made the band a household name. Their second album “What’s the Story Morning Glory” brought more success for the band, becoming the third best selling album in British history. Liam’s drunken feuds with his brother and other celebrities made him infamous in the press both in Britain and the States. In March 1998, he drunkenly head butted one of his fans outside an Australian hotel for simply requesting a picture with the singer. While the band received critical and commercial success, Liam’s offensive comments to the press, alleged drug use, drinking and sexual promiscuity made headlines regularly.
6. Keith Moon
The London born musician nicknamed “Moon the Loon,” has one of the most notoriously excessive lifestyles in all of rock history. Through his time with The Who, he was known for his on stage antics, often blowing up his drum set after live performances. It wasn’t all showmanship. Keith’s playful but abusive attitude was both a gift and a curse. His unrivaled and original take on the drums changed how people played. The Loon was known for trashing hotels regularly, often blowing up toilets and setting things on fire. On his twenty-first birthday he allegedly drove his car into a swimming pool. Although he was fiercely hedonistic, he committed his entire professional career to The Who. His rock star mentality, boisterous nature, and commitment to mayhem are surpassed by few. Unfortunately, he eventually was done in by his wild lifestyle and died tragically of a drug overdose in 1978, when he was just 32.
5. Johnny Cash
Although humble in demeanor and attitude, Cash personified badass for a generation. The Man in Black was known for his distinctively baritone voice, and lyrics that spoke of unfortunate circumstance and redemption. He is infamously known for his free prison concerts and predilection for rebel lifestyle. Songs like “Folsom Prison Blues,” and ”I Walk the Line” made him famous and a household name. By the late 1950’s he was on the road 300 days a year and the relentless touring had begun to take a toll on his health and personal life. Drugs and alcohol were constants companions for life on the road. In 1965 after returning from a trip in Juarez, Mexico he was arrested for smuggling amphetamines across the border. That same year, his truck caught fire and he accidently burned down 500 acres of the Los Padres National forest. He never served a prison sentence, but was arrested at least a dozen times. Later in life he renounced his outlaw image, went to rehab, and became a devout christian. In May 2003 his wife June Carter died, leaving Cash heartbroken. He died less than five months later of complications with his diabetes.
4. Frank Sinatra
Sinatra was the original bad boy. A gritty upbringing on the streets of Hoboken, New Jersey molded Frank into the show business genius he came to be. Although by contemporary standards his behavior was mild, some of what Frank did and said goes underneath the radar. He was an infamous narcissist, drinker, and womanizer. There have been numerous accounts of his infidelities and abusive, sometimes violent attitude towards women. Ol’ Blue Eyes has been romantically linked to Marilyn Monroe and has tight ties to organized crime. The star was arrested for both seduction and adultery, but both of the charges are somehow forgotten and eclipsed by his legacy as a musician and actor. His fame and fortune came predominately in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Sinatra had a gift for music and acting. His charismatic personality and intrinsic show business sensibilities are not topped by anyone. Sinatra died of a heart attack on May 14th 1998 , he was 82 years old.
3. Ozzy Osbourne
This innovative British born rocker helped create and shape Heavy Metal music. He earned his stripes in Black Sabbath, a band that shot Osbourne into rock fame and pioneered contemporary heavy metal. In his later years Ozzy became famous in a different way, as a rebel rock legend turned family man in the MTV reality show. “The Osbournes.” became one of the network’s most successful shows and his shaky and rambunctious appearance on the program made him both more rich and iconic to a new generation. His career stretches back decades, and the spectacles of bad boy behaviors are vast. Most famously, a highly intoxicated Osbourne performing in Des Moines, Iowa in 1982, proceeded to bite the head off a living bat. Again in 1982, while wearing his wife Sharon’s dress, he was arrested for urinating on the Alamo cenotaph.
2. Axl Rose
Gun’s N’ Roses are arguably one of the greatest rock bands to hit us since the Stones. Born William Bruce Rose Junior, Axl Rose was the front-man of a band that tested the limits, on stage, and off. He was a reluctant leader perhaps, but his presence was incendiary, and dominated the band. Although Axl has managed to stay out of handcuffs, his charismatic, but often abrasive nature has both helped and hurt the band. In 1990, at a concert in Saint Louis, the singer dove into the crowd to retrieve a fan’s video camera. When back on stage he denounced security, a riot broke out that caused $200,000 in damages, and the band was banned from the city. The singer also famously proposed to his now ex-wife, Erin Everly, by coming to her house with a gun and threatening to kill himself if she didn’t marry him. Despite the fact that the band’s popularity has faded in the last several years, the money keeps rolling in. The Gun’s had 90 million albums sold worldwide, 39 million in the states alone. The 1987 release of “Appetite for Destruction” sold over 30 million copies.
1. Keith Richards
There are few that would argue Keith Richards’ bad boy antics could be topped by any still living music mogul. Richards has come to be one of rock music’s most resilient performers, and many wonder how the Rolling Stone is still alive. While his brushes with the law started with a modest drug possession charge in 1967, the 1970’s saw Richards’ drug problem spiral terribly out of control. With 6 drug busts in 10 years, it seemed as though he was destined to fall victim to the drug afflictions of many of his contemporaries. His final and most famous bust in 1977, found him facing a daunting seven years to life sentence. The Toronto arrest was highly publicized, embarrassing, and took its toll on the guitarist. He was charged with possession of heroin ($4,000 worth of smack,) and alleged intent to traffic the substance. In 2007 the rocker claimed to have snorted his father’s own ashes with a side dish of cocaine. Many of Richards’ bizarre experiences with drugs, alcohol and women are explained in great detail through his memoir “Life.” A very candid recounting of all the legendary and sometimes disturbing times that defined his career with the Stones. One thing is for sure, when it comes to being wild, rich and completely over the top Keith takes the cake.