There is nothing more lame than a rockstar who calls him or her self, ‘dangerous.’ In fact, no truly undomesticated musicians would even concern themselves with rankings like these. Rather than being a sign of modesty, this is most likely a symptom of the fact that real artists-turned-petrified rockers have seen and participated in some harrowing but life affirming, do-not-try-this-at-home antics. The following is a list of bands and/or musicians whose lifestyles pushed the boundary of what the touring human psyche and body can withstand.
Of course, being a party animal is not all that goes into being considered a dangerous (band of) musician(s), and this list includes bands whose live performances were notoriously unsafe for concertgoers or who tended or still tend to attract a wide range of fans including some seedier, predatory elements. There are also those musical acts whose concerts have erupted into riots or induced countywide protests; usually musicians whose music has a political and controversial slant to it. Here are 10 of the most “dangerous” rock & roll acts (outside of the Stones, Zeppelin, Sabbath and Aerosmith) to ever take the stage.
10. Guns & Roses
G’N’R are one of several groups of musicians on the list who were mostly a danger to themselves. All of the hair metal bands of the 1980s Sunset Strip music scene were known for their rampant drug abuse and sexual escapades as well as their dependence on hairspray, but Axl Rose, Slash and the boys put the others to shame. Where select members of Mötley Crüe had torrid affairs with adult actresses, overdoses, and even an involuntary manslaughter charge (earning Tommy Lee‘s band an honorable mention), every core member of G’N’R overdosed, Slash flatlining and returning from the dead on three occasions.
9. Sex Pistols
This band remains many aged-out punkers’ favorite group despite Sex Pistols being a boy band, put together and clothed by entrepreneur/designer Malcolm McLaren. Differences between Sex Pistols and groups like N’Sync include a junky bassist, Sid Vicious, who often played unamplified and high (and who overdosed at 21), songs insulting the Queen of England, and a frontman, Johnny Rotten, who hated everybody including fans.
Runner up: Leftöver Crack continue in the tradition of hopeless junkies making politically venomous music; their name is a play on the fact that addicts leave no crumbs. They take things further though, with some band/crew members being homeless squatters by choice.
These godfathers of melodic thrash metal were, for much of their career, lovingly but warily and openly nicknamed ‘Alcoholica.’ Rhythm guitarist/vocalist James Hetfield went the way of the 12-steps and eventually checked into rehab for alcoholism, while drummer Lars Ulrich and lead guitarist Kirk Hammett are recovered cocaine addicts. In addition, Metallica’s first bassist died in a tragic tour bus accident early in their career and they are one of the few to play politically charged metal behind the Iron Curtain back in Cold War times, and the band is actually subversive despite Ulrich’s crusade against Napster.
7. Dillinger Escape Plan
The Dillinger Escape Plan are a hardcore, metalcore, or mathcore band named for the infamous American gangster and bank robber John Dillinger, who escaped from prison twice; once even after his encrypted but hand written plans were discovered. This band of men, though not known as violent criminals, earned a reputation as violently spastic and unpredictable performers. Guitarists and vocalists, they’ve had multiple, flail about in rhythm with an epileptic drum beat that requires a degree in mathematics to tap along to, their audiences “dancing” along in similar fashion so that nobody is safe from stray limbs or bodily injury.
6. GG Allin
Nobody liked GG Allin and nobody enjoyed his performance art outside of the few lunatics who had just as many screws loose as this “artist.” Loosely linked to the DIY hardcore punk scene that sprung up across the U.S. in the late-80s and early-90s, Allin made a mark on the collective punk rock culture mostly in the form of sh*t stains and words he etched into his chest with broken glass some nights on stage. The man was a walking toxic waste dump and nihilist who valued nothing, ate feces on stage, and died at 36 of an accidental heroin overdose after a show.
This West Coast hardcore (skate) punk outfit takes the cake for most purposely offensive and inflammatory lyricists in the bunch. Front man “Fat Mike” Burkett is outspoken through his music, indie record label Fat Wreck Chords, and onstage antics; he is pro-drug, pro-choice, and a proud sexual deviant, alcoholic, and cocaine user. NOFX shows once were notoriously violent with one stabbing being reported during a Warped Tour show in Florida. As an activist, Burkett organized the Rock Against Bush tour, taking Dead Kennedy’s Jello Biafra along to warm up the crowd with rants against the buffoon ex-president.
4. Marilyn Manson
When the Antichrist Superstar first crept onto the heavy metal scene under cover of a Eurythmics cover, he inspired some insane rumors, and intense fundamentalist backlash in response to these rumors. Throw in known drug abuse, sexual indecency and assault charges, and footage of the frontman abusing bandmates and Marilyn earns his place on the list.
Runner up: When SoCal punkers Bad Religion canceled a now legendary concert, angry fans rioted, causing ~$25,000 in property damage. This band might not frighten Christians but their signature crossed-out cross logo must anger them.
This band is literally dangerous, as in it included convicted felons who saw their music as a vehicle for practicing what some call, “theistic Satanism.” As with many so called black metal bands, Gorgoroth is named for people, places, or things from J.R.R. Tolkien‘s Middle Earth; this particular group is named for a landmark in the evil land Mordor. It would be difficult to take this group of musicians seriously as envoys of the Devil if multiple members had not been convicted of crimes ranging from assault to condoning church burnings, both actionable offenses (in Norway) committed by vocalist, Gaahl.
2. Iggy Pop
It is pretty safe to say that David Bowie‘s Ziggy Stardust was inspired, at least in name, by his collaborator, eventual friend, and literal partner in crime, Iggy Pop. The two punk-era musicians were arrested for possession of marijuana in 1976 and one year later Pop allegedly checked himself into rehab in Germany, most likely to avoid further run-ins with the law; Bowie was his only visitor and allegedly snuck drugs in for his musician friend. Iggy sacrificed body and dignity expressing himself onstage; he is credited with popularizing the stage dive but remembered more for doing things like rolling in broken glass mid-performance.
Mayhem are another black metal group from Norway whose love of all things Satanic and evil went a bit too far. A problem occurs in music subcultures that revolve around worshiping evil where a number of musicians will be troubled. Mayhem’s second vocalist called himself ‘Dead’ and killed himself in 1991; his bandmates made necklaces from bits of his shotgun-blasted skull. In ’94, bass guitarist Varg Vikernes was sentenced to 21 years in prison for setting fire to multiple churches and stabbing the lead guitarist to death; he was released in 2009 and records music under the name, Burzum.