Rock's greatest missteps and malfunctions

Music : In concert, CDs

February 24, 2005|By Chris Macias | Chris Macias,New York Times News Service

Wardrobe malfunctions, on-stage accidents, even digestive troubles. Slip-ups are a workplace hazard in pop music, and few stars are immune from stumbling in the spotlight.

Ashlee Simpson, who's currently touring (and stopping at Washington's Constitution Hall next month), provides the most recent high-profile example. Unless your TV set's been on the fritz for six months, you know she was caught lip-synching on Saturday Night Live. She cited a bout of acid reflux.

But Simpson's in good company. Here are some of pop music's most famous boo-boos, gaffs and unscripted moments:

Wardrobe malfunctions

Jim Morrison drops trou (1969): Morrison exposes his private parts after a concert in Miami and is charged with drunkenness, lewd and lascivious behavior and other eyebrow-raising offenses. He's slapped with eight months of hard labor, a $500 fine and a bad tribute film starring Val Kilmer.

Courtney Love flashes David Letterman (2004): Perhaps overwhelmed by the pressures of pending drug charges, Love exposes herself repeatedly to Letterman while on the air. While performing later that night, Love clocks a concertgoer with her microphone stand.

Janet Jackson overexposed (2004): Middle America, meet Janet Jackson's breast. That was the theme of Jackson's Super Bowl halftime performance, where the pop star flashed more than prime-time TV could handle. Justin Timberlake, Jackson's onstage partner-in-crime, said a "wardrobe malfunction" was to blame. A doe-eyed Jackson later apologized for the incident in a G-rated video statement.

Musicians vs. crowd (or themselves)

Guns 'N Roses incites a riot (1991): Mr. Anger Management himself, Axl Rose, throws a tantrum after a fan takes pictures during a Guns 'N Roses gig. When security doesn't act quickly enough, Rose jumps into the crowd to grab the camera himself. A resulting riot causes $200,000 in damages to the Riverport Amphitheatre in Maryland Heights, Mo. Too bad Rose couldn't heed his lyrics and "have a little patience."

KRS-ONE vs. P.M. Dawn (1991). Round 1: Prince Be from the rap group P.M. Dawn disses rapper KRS-ONE in a magazine interview. Round 2: KRS-ONE, known for his anti-violence raps, retaliates by attacking Prince Be during a P.M. Dawn concert in New York City. The scorecard: Rap music suffers another publicity defeat.

Sebastian Bach throws a fit (and a bottle) (1989): After being struck by a wayward bottle, the singer for Skid Row throws the offending bottle back in the crowd. It smashes in the face of a female fan, and Bach was later sentenced to three years' probation.

Stage fright

Keith Richards shocks Sacramento (1965): It's perhaps the most infamous rock 'n' roll story in the River City. Rolling Stones guitarist Richards is knocked unconscious during a concert at the Memorial Auditorium when his guitar brushes an ungrounded microphone. But the Stones soldier on.

Frank Zappa falls hard (1971): The jealous boyfriend of a Zappa fan pushes the man himself from a London stage. Zappa spends the next nine months in a wheelchair while recovering from a badly broken leg and ankle.

Other rock stars taking unexpected stage dives include Patti Smith (broken neck) and Ryan Adams (broken wrist).

Michael Jackson gets burned (1984): The King of Pop suffers second-degree burns on his noggin while filming a Pepsi commercial. A mistimed flare explosion is to blame. President Reagan sends his condolences to Jackson, and Jackson finds comfort in his pet chimp, Bubbles.

Wayward pyromania also injures Metallica's James Hetfield during a 1992 concert. The band stops its set while Hetfield is rushed to the hospital with third-degree burns.

Too loaded to play

The Who asks "Is there a drummer in the house?" (1971): A dose of horse tranquilizers gets the best of The Who's drummer, Keith Moon, as he collapses during a show at San Francisco's Cow Palace. Scott Halpin, a member of the crowd, is recruited to fill in for the last three songs.

Jefferson Starship crashes (1978): An inebriated Grace Slick taunts a West German audience about World War II. Not a good move. The audience fights back -- by turning its back and filing out. Slick immediately quits the band.

"Live from ..."

Sex Pistols banned from the BBC (1976): After taunting an interviewer and uttering curse words on live TV, the band is branded as the scourge of England. So much for backlash. Its debut album, Never Mind the Bollocks -- Here's the Sex Pistols later enters the U.K. charts at No. 1.

Elvis Costello defies Saturday Night Live (1977): Costello is told not to play "Radio Radio," his rant against commercial radio, and gets ornery. Midway through "Less Than Zero," he stops the band and announces "I'm sorry, ladies and gentlemen, there's no reason to play this song" and launches into "Radio Radio."

Sinead O'Connor (1992): The Irish singer caps a Saturday Night Live performance of Bob Marley's "War" by ripping a picture of the pope. The general public is not amused. Nor are SNL executives, who ban O'Connor for life.

Nirvana (1992): Nirvana is told not to play "Rape Me" at MTV's Video Music Awards. Producers freak when the band starts playing the song's introduction, but Nirvana quickly switches gears and performs "Lithium." The song finishes with Krist Novoselic accidentally bonking himself on the head with his bass guitar.

Music Notes

Pop music critic Rashod D. Ollison is on vacation. His column will return next week.

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