In Honor of Ozzy: The Battiest Stage Stunts In Rock History
All hail bat-icide, gratuitous nudity and 70-foot stage dives
35 years ago today, Ozzy bit the bat.
Decapitated the poor fella mid-show in what was perhaps the most metal moment in rock history.
He also gnawed up two doves, snorted a line of ants, and licked Nikki Sixx’s urine off the ground to prove … well, to prove something.
But he’s not alone.
America’s favorite genre is rife with showmen (and showwomen) of the loose-screwed sort: ledge-jumpers, pyromaniacs and countercultural trailblazers who follow whims wherever they may lead.
For the gnarliest of the gnarly, we turned to rock historian Jim Berkenstadt. His research has aided everything from Martin Scorsese and Ron Howard documentaries to his own biographies on Nirvana and The Beatles.
These are the most audacious stage stunts in rock history.
Jerry Lee Lewis’ Greatly Disputed Ball of Fire
Sometime in 1958
Legend has it (denied, verified and modified) Lewis — peeved to be Chuck Berry’s opener — upstaged the headliner by playing as his piano burned to the ground.
Bob Dylan Stops Giving a Folk
July 25, 1965: Newport Folk Festival
Nobody at the folk fest asked for electric guitars, but Dylan brought them anyway. Instead of knee-slappin’ acoustic ditties, his final set opened with “Maggie’s Farm” — a finger-to-The-Man anthem so hard it sounded like a Rage Against the Machine original when covered three decades later. Thunderous boos convinced Dylan to finish the night acoustic just to avoid a riot.
The U.S. Experiences Jimi Hendrix
June 18, 1967: Monterey Pop Festival
America didn’t care about Hendrix until Monterey, when the man became legend by shredding his guitar in ways never witnessed. He humped amps and played with his teeth, swinging his axe behind his back and thrusting it phallically at his deranged disciples. He then ejaculated lighter fluid and set his instrument — and the country — on fire.
The Who Explodes Onto The Scene
September 17, 1967: Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour
For The Who’s first American TV performance, Keith Moon secretly packed his drum with 10 times its usual gunpowder (yes, Moon’s kick drum had a “usual” amount of gunpowder). The explosion partially deafened Pete Townshend, sent shrapnel into Moon’s arm and made Bette Davis faint backstage.
The Doors Feature “Jimmy” Morrison
March 1, 1969
Lit and sick of his sex-symbol reputation, Morrison called the Miami crowd “a bunch of fucking idiots” to start the show. The finale: a felony charge for unsheathing his member and waggling it at said idiots.
Alice Cooper Learns How Chickens Work
September 13, 1969: Rock ‘N’ Roll Revival Festival
City slicker Alice Cooper learned three lessons after a chicken meandered onstage: 1) Chickens don’t fly. 2) Metal fans dismember chickens on sight. 3) Shock rock fame defies mediocrity.
Ozzy Bites The Bat
March 27, 1981
Allegedly thought it was rubber. The bat bit back. Shortly thereafter: rabies shots, regret.
GG Allin Shows He’s A Regular Guy
July 31, 1985
With Ex-Lax’s help, GG Allin produced an onstage gift for an Illinois Veterans hall. Mortified punk fans fled. Furious Vets attacked the band. Allin smeared himself in yesterday’s lunch as a defense mechanism. Fifty-two arrests later, the act was his trademark.
L7’s Indignant Tampon
August 30, 1992: Reading Festival
After sound distortion prompted L7’s crowd to fling mud onstage, lead vocalist Donita Sparks replied, “Eat my used tampon, fuckers.” Then she fed it to them. The treat was promptly returned to its owner.
Cregg Rondell’s 7-Story Stage Dive
July 15, 2005: K-Rockathon 10
Boy Hits Car’s singer just wanted a better view from atop the 68-foot speakers. Then came vertigo. Calling the fire department isn’t very rock ’n’ roll, so …
The Lord Is Risen
June 11, 2005: Download Festival
Society 1 singer Matt “The Lord” Zane broke his own world record by swinging from four meat hooks embedded in his back for the entirety of a 30-minute set.
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