A few things right off the bat. The term “deranged” is used with the utmost affection in this article. It’s true that rock bands ain’t what they used to be these days, and, to prove it, here’s a look at some of the most vile, infamous, deranged frontmen and musicians in the history of rock and/or roll.
In a world where punk and metal, for some, is just a tough look, these showmen and performers took their bodies to the limit most nights they were conscious enough to do so, giving fans and censorship jockeys something to talk about at the water cooler, all in the name of rock and roll.
Keep in mind that this is not a “best frontmen/musicians of all time” list. That would be a completely different list with names like Bowie, Jagger, Cobain, Beiber. Okay, maybe not Beiber (sorry, Biebs!).
The performers highlighted in this list were deliberately trying to make people uncomfortable through subversion. This list is more about those types of lead singers, musicians and performers who pushed the envelope, who engaged in and practiced cultural taboos as a part of experiencing their music in person. It’s also a love letter to these incendiary beings and often troubled souls who gave their blood, sweat, tears, feces, and in some instances, much, much more to the Gods (and demons) of rock and roll.
These are some of the most warped crooners of all time. With some, their stage identities were merely personas; others lived a life of the macabre 24/7. Some of them lived up to these personas in real life, and some were actually very nice fellows when the music stopped.
15. Courtney Love
She’s often the butt of jokes and makes up the tail end of this list for being equal parts Yoko, equal parts Paris Hilton. Unfortunately for her career as a musician, most of her antics and depravity happened off stage. Kurt Cobain’s widow has no shortage of crazy stories, sometimes splashing her messy life all over the cameras at award shows like here.
Yes, this chick is crazy enough to try to upstage Madonna. Love has no shortage of mythology behind her herself, trailing all the way back to age 4 when (her mother claims) Love was given a hit of acid… by her own father. After those syringe-happy good times in Seattle with Kurt came to tragic end, Love has hit some serious lows, most notably (allegedly) shooting up at Charley Sheen’s house.
Bad plastic surgery, being shunned from the music industry, being blamed by Sharon Osbourne for introducing little Jack to drugs, Love still can’t seem to get a break. She only made this list because of Kurt, anyway.
14. Alice Cooper
He’s one of the original rock and roll bad boys, admittedly aiming to become music’s Darth Vader. He saw a need for a dark Elvis in the world of rock and roll and quickly gained support from subversive lounge singer and village idiot Jim Morrison. He’s a pioneer of subversive frontmen, but his tirades haven’t aged well. His biggest claim to fame was a chicken he reportedly threw into a crowd being ripped apart. In a Rolling Stone interview band member Dennis Dunaway reveals it was never intended for things to go that way.
Frank Zappa ran the band’s label at the time and phoned in the next day, asking “Did you kill the chicken onstage?” Dennis told Zappa “no.” Zappa corrected him. “Well, don’t tell anybody. Everybody loves it. You are the most notorious character of all time now.'” That title would last for years until young blood dripped into the mix. His most unexpected move was without a doubt taking up golf. God bless him.
13. Ozzy Osbourne
Biting the head off of a live bat, urinating on the Alamo, having a hand in bringing Kelly and Jack Osbourne into this world, these are just a few of the atrocities Ozzy’s committed both on and off stage. His days with Black Sabbath yielded the music and legendary Iommi-generated riffs which paved the way for bands like Metallica, Kyuss, Alice in Chains, Nirvana, and Black Flag.
Ozzy will go down in history for his offstage antics like snorting ants with Nikki Six. Another crowning achievement in performance mode was biting the head off of a live bat, which he thought was fake at the time. A Mirror article reported that Ozzy said (in his trademark unintelligible way), “Immediately, though, something felt wrong. Very wrong. For a start, my mouth was instantly full of this warm, gloopy liquid, with the worst aftertaste you could ever imagine. I could feel it staining my teeth and running down my chin. Then the head in my mouth twitched.”
12. Marilyn Manson
Marilyn Manson was on track to become probably the most infamous frontman since GG Allin. In recent years Manson has given up being America’s “Antichrist Superstar” and has enjoyed his celebrity status a little more.
It seems like the myth was always bigger than the man, stories like Manson removing his rib so he could give himself some mouth love was on the tips of every high schooler’s tongue in the late 90s. Manson was no stranger to decadence and using Satan as inspiration for live shows. To this day his music videos have some of the most haunting imagery ever shown on late night MTV (back when they used to actually show music videos). However, in recent years, Manson has had his share of embarrassments, one of which being his appearance on Talking Dead where he pretty much got handled by the guy who used to host Singled Out, summarized here in this Loudwire.com article. What a sad day for rock and roll that was. In days of late Manson sounds and acts more like a frat guy, spending his time texting back and forth with Beiber. Really, they should just hang out. Beiber can be the son Manson never wanted and Manson can be the father that Bieber never had.
11. Oderus Urungus
If there’s a such thing as Disneyland deranged, then GWAR’s late lead singer Oderus Urungus (Dave Brockie) would be it. Whether it’s jam-packed shows which involved Oderus Urungus and co. fighting off the occasional rogue T-Rex or having a monstrous adult toy named cuttlefish confiscated by Tipper Gore, GWAR was never trying to please anybody but their devout fan base.
GWAR set out to shock the world, but most of it was smoke and mirrors. Going to a GWAR concert was essentially entering an unsaid agreement that you would be seeing some good old fashioned spectacle and surrender yourself to the show, which was a fine-crafted assault on mainstream American media. GWAR was more about showmanship than anything truly sinister. Brockie died of a heroin overdose in 2014.
10. Mike Patton
Mike Patton is most famous for his days as lead singer of Faith No More, who enjoyed sizeable fame in the 80s and early nineties, so much so that he toured with Guns N’ Roses back in ’91. He’s mostly known for defecating on stage, peeing on himself and the crowd, and the little things, like swallowing his own shoelace inch-by-inch.
He was even bold enough to catch Axel Rose off guard by making a stool in Axel’s orange juice carton, then returning it to his refrigerator, as accounted in Rock Star Babylon, by Jon Holmes. Patton also enjoys long walks on the beach, fans spitting in his mouth, and front-loading excrement inside of hair dryers. Patton probably has the best vocal range out of anyone on this list.
9. Wendy O. Williams
Many of her contemporaries might call Wendy O. Williams a lot of things, but poser is not one of them. The “O” is for oodles of attitude, from her chainsaw wielding rendition of Butcher Baby on late-night TV to blowing up a packed-with-explosives Ford Pinto on Tom Snyder’s talk show Tomorrow in 1981. She’s got some serious street cred; She was also arrested in Milwaukee (and later on in Cleveland) for obscenity involving lewd gestures made with a sledgehammer and a microphone.
The only reason she’s not higher on the list is because she retired from punk rock to rehabilitate animals, later killing herself via gunshot to the head. Neither of those things are very metal. Here she is performing Jailbait with Lemmy for good measure.
8. Sid Vicious & Johnny Rotten
The Sex Pistols have always been synonymous (much to the chagrin of some purists) with punk rock. For the purposes of this list they also come as a package deal. But it’s probably safe to say that Sid Vicious was far more raw than Johnny Rotten. Self-mutilation, dead girlfriend — what sounds like a teenage girl’s bad boy starter pack today was actually shocking back in the 80s when the Pistols were at the height of their power.
Vicious would beat fans with his guitar, even carved the words “gimme a fix” into his chest with a piece of broken glass. Nancy Spungen would be his match; Vicious was charged with her murder after she was found dead under a sink in their hotel room. Sid Vicious kept the train uh rockin’, overdosing on heroin in 1979 after being released from jail, dying in his sleep. Johnny Rotten is still around.
7. Jello Biafra
Even though Jello Biafra sounds like a holiday dish my grandmother would force upon the family, he’s still pretty damn metal. The frontman for The Dead Kennedys has an affinity for coughing up a loogies onto the hands of adoring fans. He’s still a nice enough guy in real life to have a 5 hour one-sided conversation with you, according to this article from The Hard Times.
Jello wins extra points for hating Hitler spawn, but maybe that’s because he knows that only Bowie can get away with embracing Nazism – it was the cocaine, not Bowie, dammit! He claims to have lived in the neighborhood just down the block from JonBenét Ramsey’s house in Boulder, Colorado, which is level five out of seven punk rock.
6. King Diamond
Now we’re starting to get into some of the heavier guys. King Diamond straight up follows Satanism and carries around a mic handle made of one femur and one tibia bone, making a literal cross bone. He’s also used real human skulls as props. King Diamond didn’t pose as a devil worshipper, he actually was one, taking it a few steps further than his predecessor Alice Cooper. His albums speak of demonic ritual, being skinned alive, having your eyeballs taken out, among other easy listening subjects.
5. Per “Dead” Ohlin
Now we’re starting to get into the Norwegian black metal scene, which is truly hard core, perhaps the hardest of cores. Ohlin is credited with being the first black metal musician to don corpse paint. Though he was around for very little of it, many enthusiasts consider Dead to be the most important figure in black metal history and mythology. He was certainly the most pure. He was extremely aloof, bandmates say of Dead, adding that he longed for the comfort of the coffin. He’d bury himself and his clothes underground so that he could achieve a more realistic fragrance of death.
Even though Dead was the most metal, he was still severely depressed, so much so that he took his own life by slicing his wrists and shooting himself in the head with a shotgun for good measure. Last message to bandmate/flatmate, Euronymous: “Excuse all the blood, cheers.”
Euronymous definitely piggy-backed the movement that Dead worked so hard and gave his life to start. So much so that he actually is the one who found Dead… dead in their apartment. Instead of calling authorities like a normal human being, he took pictures, collected bone fragments, and is said to have made a ghoulish goulash out of pieces of Dead’s brain.
Musically, Euronymous was the mastermind behind Mayhem, starting the band four years prior to Dead showing up on the scene. After Dead passed, though, things got a little out of control. During what some believe was a power struggle over money and others believe was oneupmanship, Euronymous was stabbed to death by Varg Vikernes (aka Count Grishnackh). The Count claimed self defense and that Euronymous was actually plotting to torture him when he showed up for a meeting, but ended up being found guilty regardless.
Gaahl is the leader of Gorgoroth, one of black metal’s most heralded bands, right up there with Mayhem. Gaahl and other Gorgoroth members have been arrested for violent crimes, kidnapping, torture, and Gaahl actively vocalizes his support of church burning.
Satanic spectacle, animal heads skewered by stakes, and a women’s fashion line are all synonymous with Gaahl. He also came out of the closet back in 2009; he must have been heavily influenced by Lance Bass’s coming out a few years prior. We’ll all just have to stand by and see what this guy does next.
2. Count Grishnackh
Yet another Norwegian black metal figurehead. Black metal is basically to this list what the Golden State Warriors are to the Western Conference’s All-Star team, making up four of the top five of this list of our most deranged singers and musicians of all time. Born Kristian Larsson Vikernes, he changed his name to Varg Vikernes, then created his black metal alter ego “Count Grishnackh” due to his love of Lord of the Rings.
Whether you dig Varg’s politics and rap sheet or not (he’s a fervent anti-semite, admitted church burner, and convicted murderer), you can’t really say he didn’t walk the walk. He spent 21 years in prison for the murder of Euronymous. Served his time and was released on six months probation and a €8,000 fine (Norway is super liberal with their criminal justice system — 21 years was the maximum penalty for murder at the time). You can learn more about the Count and all of these black metal fellows in the documentary Until the Light Takes Us.
Since release he’s still going strong and shaking up the status quo. He’s been accused of Nazism and openly spews his beliefs on various channels. Little does the Count know, nobody gets in an out of Nazism alive (not even Bowie).
1. GG Allin
GG Allin is the Michael Jordan of deranged rock stars. He’d have to be in order to beat out all of this stiff Norwegian competition — those guys are basically the Iceland team in D2: The Mighty Ducks. GG lived an outlaw life, often having to ditch out on his shows right away in order to duck the law. He spent time in and out of prison for domestic abuse and lewd conduct. He’d defecate on stage and once shoved a banana up his butt at NYU.
GG was without a doubt a legend. Even Kurt Cobain was too chicken to go to a GG Allin show, where many avidly waited for GG to commit suicide onstage, as GG often told fans he would. In true GG Allin fashion, he gave his followers not what they wanted, but what they deserved. His last day on earth culminated in a heroin overdose surrounded by close friends.
He hated everyone equally, which is really refreshing in this day and age. Instead of buying into a system of beliefs created by someone else or some institution, he pretty much made up his own. There will never be anyone like GG. He’s earned his spot as the most deranged frontman and musician of all time. For those about to rock, make sure you give GG Allin a special salute, will ya?
Well, this has been fun, right? Bear in mind that this is not necessarily a comprehensive list. It’s merely a collection of musical oddities worth looking into. You might even have a local act that would give any one of the people mentioned in this list a run for their money — except GG, of course. And, as long as the soul of rock and roll lives on, there will be others.
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