The rock ‘n’ roll business is a dangerous one, filled with the promise of scandal, heartbreak, and physical injury. Marilyn Manson recently joined the company of many flamboyant musicians who’ve suffered for their art, when a stage prop collapsed on top of him mid-show…
It has not been a good past few days for the music scene. Alongside the death of Tom Petty from cardiac arrest, Marilyn Manson has cancelled a number of shows of his US tour after an onstage antic on Saturday night went wrong and landed him in hospital. Manson (48), attempted to scale two giant prop guns onstage, only to have them teeter over and collapse on top of him like a scene from This Is Spinal Tap. While it’s awful news and we hope he recovers soon, I can’t help but wonder, “what on Earth was he thinking?!”
Rock history is alive with stories of musicians doing insane shit onstage, and more often than not paying the price. Yet there are even more stories of them continuing to do the same insane shit! It could be a lack of that little voice that whispers caution, “you’ll hurt yourself” or an addiction to the spectacle, but you’d think at some point someone would step in and be the voice of reason: “Hi Brian. Listen, you’re not 25 anymore, maybe you shouldn’t climb that”.
Manson’s not the first artist this has happened to, and let’s face it: he definitely won’t be the last. Let’s consider Gene Simmons. The tongue-lashing bassist for KISS has an antic in ‘Firehouse’ where he swigs gasoline and then blows onto a lit torch. Surely, nothing could go wrong! You’d think he’d quit after the first time it backfired setting his hair alight, but apparently the spectacle is worth it as long as there’s a fire blanket handy. What about James Hetfield from Metallica? If I’d had a pyrotechnic go off directly under me, subsequently burning my arm and part of my face, I wouldn’t be in the same room with anyone with a lighter – let alone continue to have fireworks as part of my show!
Sure it’s easy to predict disaster in a pyrotechnics-laced metal gig and not be surprised when one, if not all members of the band end up on stretchers, but to be fair, it’s not just the crazy ones that suffer. How many times had Pete Townsend fucked up his hand doing the ‘windmill’ before he got caught on video gashing it open in 1989? What was Nirvana bassist, Krist Novoselic thinking when he threw his guitar in the air at the 1992 MTV Music Awards? “This is going to be awesome”. Clunk! And the band played on while he probably nursed a concussion.
Obviously, the spectacle and being ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ for the fans is a contributing factor. When thousands of people buy tickets to see you, you want to show them a good time even if it involves fireworks, giant props, or dancing energetically. Steven Tyler lost his footing during a concert in 2009 and went arse over tit off the stage, suffering injuries to his head, neck, and shoulders. Meatloaf did something similar and broke his leg, finishing his 1978 tour in a wheelchair. There’s also the fact that a headline about Meatloaf breaking a leg is still a headline. Cancellations might happen as a result of these accidents, but the publicity doesn’t stop and you have to wonder if there’s something in that too.
Or is it us? Is seeing musicians stack it or set themselves on fire something that we subconsciously desire? After all, we like seeing them destroy their instruments, and how many of us snap our heads up at the sound of a siren every day? Is this why we think it’s a good idea to throw tributes onstage? But again, if you’d had an accident once, wouldn’t you take precautions for next time? Steven Tyler got hit in the head by an errant bottle, Roger Waters famously got pelted with a penny, and Frank Zappa suffered a head injury, fractured leg, and broken rib when he was shoved off the stage by a fan.
Even after all these rock horror stories of antics gone wrong, the Marilyn Mansons of the scene are still scaling scenery and having it fall back in their face. I guess, without telepathic ability, we’ll never really know what artists are thinking when they climb stage props or take power tools to their instruments. All we can do is hope they’re asking the same question we are as they lie in recovery: “what was I thinking?”
Have you witnessed any on-stage antics gone awry? Leave us a comment below!