Top 10 Biggest Scandals In Rock Music History

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Top 10 Biggest Scandals In Rock Music History

VOICE OVER: Ryan Wild WRITTEN BY: Matt Klem
When people think of rock and roll scandals, these are the ones that come to mind. For this list, we'll be looking at the most notable controversies in the history of the genre. Our countdown includes The Beatles Are Bigger Than Jesus, Pamela Anderson & Tommy Lee's Video, Sinead O'Connor On “Saturday Night Live”, and more!
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Top 10 Biggest Scandals In Rock Music History


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Biggest Scandals In Rock Music History

For this list, we’ll be looking at the most notable controversies in the history of the genre.

What’s your favorite rock and roll moment in history? Let us know in the comments.

#10: Elvis’s Hips Don’t Lie

It’s hard to imagine how much the view of rock and roll has changed since the 1950s. One of the biggest challenges to the perception of rock music was that of Elvis Presley. Known at the time as the “King of Rock and Roll”, Elvis commanded the attention of millions of fans. Yet even Presley himself was not free of controversy. Surprisingly, shaking his hips on “The Milton Berle Show” was enough to cause a stir amongst critics and parents of young children who watched it. His dance moves seem utterly tame compared to the likes of most televised music performances today. But it was clearly far too racy for some viewers back then.

#9: The Beatles Are Bigger Than Jesus

During the 1960s, The Beatles dominated the charts and the attention span of virtually everyone across the globe. While they were at the height of their popularity, John Lennon made a comment about how Christianity had begun to wane. He also deemed the band that people might know more about the band than they did about Jesus Christ. When the story was printed, his quote was consistently recontextualized. It triggered a massive backlash that included protests and boycotts of the music on radio. Some angry people destroyed copies of the band’s work. After much ado over the misunderstanding, Lennon later apologized and clarified his position.

#8: Jerry Lee Lewis Marries Close to Home

While Jerry Lee Lewis may have been a famed musician, he certainly drew the ire of others. His marriage to Myra Gale Brown in 1958 was particularly controversial. Not only was she his first cousin once removed, but she was much younger than him. Initially, the explicit details of their union were relatively unknown to the fanbase. But after arriving in London England for a tour, a reporter learned many details about the musician's life. The controversy around the discovery led to his tour being cut short and sent his rock music career into a spiral. Despite that, the two did remain married and had two children before divorcing due to tons of issues in 1970.

#7: Ozzy’s Bat Bite

The story of Ozzy’s famous encounter with a bat is one of the most infamous musical tales of all time. After the musician came up with a gag where he threw raw meat at his audiences, they responded by throwing all kinds of things at him on stage. One fan at a show in Des Moines Iowa threw what Ozzy thought was a rubber bat on the stage. When the musician picked it up, he bit the head clean off. Since it was very real, word of the story spread and he forever became tied to the incident. But this bad bat bite didn’t stop Ozzy from stirring up more trouble. A month later, he got arrested for treating an important landmark near the Alamo like a toilet.

#6: Sinead O'Connor On “Saturday Night Live”

Sinead O’Connor pulled off an incredibly scandalous bait and switch during an “SNL” appearance. During rehearsals for her musical performance, producers didn’t mind that she displayed a photo of a starving child at the end of her set. But after completing her time on the live show, O’Connor instead showed a photo of the Pope. She subsequently tore it to pieces while saying an unforgettable phrase. (Insert broll for fight the real enemy) Both audiences and producers were left stunned at her actions. Although O’Connor intended to bring attention to issues in the Catholic church, her message got lost in the storm of controversy that followed.

#5: Chuck Berry's Invasive Cameras

Although sci-fi heroes like Marty McFly have paid homage to Chuck Berry, the musician had a much darker side to him. While authorities were raiding his house in 1990, they found a collection of questionable adult videos. An investigation revealed that Berry had hidden video cameras in the women’s restroom of the Southern Air restaurant he owned. To make matters worse, there was evidence that they had been edited afterwards by the musician. As a result, he was the subject of a class-action lawsuit filed by many of the women he had taped without their permission.

#4: Woodstock '99 Gets Dangerous

During Woodstock ‘99, Limp Bizkit performed the song “Break Stuff”. Soon after, a wave of violence erupted among the fans. Unfortunately, Limp Bizkit wasn’t the only act that ran into a major issue. During the Red Hot Chili Peppers set, candles meant for a vigil were instead used to set huge fires. Blazes got so out of control that one of the audio pillars caught fire. Both incidents would’ve been enough to make this event infamous. However, the tragic reports of multiple assaults and a fan’s passing made this edition of Woodstock into a sobering memory.

#3: Pamela Anderson & Tommy Lee’s Video

This famous rock and roll couple was constantly scrutinized and analyzed by the public while they were in the spotlight. So, when a tape that depicted intimate activities between the two was acquired by an adult film company, many heads were turned. Initially, the couple sued Internet Entertainment Group about the tape. But they eventually entered into an agreement where they settled for an undisclosed amount so that the home video could be seen by customers online. While they weren’t the only or last celebrities to have a leaked tape, many couldn’t speak of this rock n roll couple without thinking of their intimate video.

#2: Sid Vicious Accused of Taking a Life

While Simon John Ritchie, AKA. Sid Vicious was pushing for punk rock to be more popular, his personal issues constantly affected his public perception. Many people believed Sid Vicious had gone over the edge of no return when his girlfriend Nancy Spungen was found deceased in their hotel room. Authorities were quick to charge the musician for the crime. But before he could stand trial, he died after taking too many substances. The tragic losses of both Spungen and Sid Vicious left the public with many questions about a shocking crime that may never be answered.


#1: The Death of Lana Clarkson

There was once a time where Phil Spector was mostly known for being a trailblazer in the music industry. His tricks and tips were instrumental in many careers. However, Spector’s triumphs were soon overshadowed by a grim crime. In 2003, an actress named Lana Clarkson was shot and died in the musician's house. Although Spector initially claimed she had taken her own life, he was found guilty of taking her life in subsequent trials. It was also revealed that the musician pointed a gun at other women. In the wake of these dark revelations, Spector was sentenced to 19 years in prison. He later passed away while serving his sentence. It’s now impossible to talk about Spector’s career without mentioning the Lana Clarkson tragedy.
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