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5 Most Outrageous Live Rock Performances

In the world of Rock n' Roll, you never know what might happen when bands perform on live television. These following examples show why booking a rock band for a television performance is a roll of the dice...

1. The Who on The Smothers Brother’s Comedy Hour (1967)

Drummer Keith Moon bribed a CBS stagehand to stuff his drum kit with three-times the usual amount of gunpowder for an extra-special finale to their lipsync’d version of “My Generation.” The blast was so great that it rendered the television cameras temporarily blind, and caused guest Bette Davis to faint backstage! Flying shrapnel from the symbols sliced Moon’s arm, and guitarist Pete Townshend‘s hair was badly singed. In later years Townshend blamed the explosion on his severe hearing loss. Even if it’s not true, it definitely deserves to be!

2. The Doors on The Ed Sullivan Show

When Ed Sullivan‘s producers booked the band to play their summer number one “Light My Fire," they forbade lead singer Jim Morrison from uttering the line “Girl, we couldn’t get much higher,” because of its drug connotations. But as the live TV’s rolled, Jim sang the song as written (causing a priceless smirk from guitarist Robby Krieger). Sure it’s not very outrageous now, but it was shocking enough for Ed to ban them from his show for the rest of their all-too-short career. 

3. Iggy Pop on Australia's Countdown

In the words of Rick James, cocaine is a hell of a drug! That’s the only explanation we can think of for Iggy’s whacked out and ultra-jittery behavior on an Australian music show called Countdown. He greets the interviewer by yelling ”Hiya, Darkface!” at him,  before yelping “G’day! G’day!” over and over again. The performance is even crazier, featuring a seriously hopped up Iggy jack-knifing around the stage while (barely) lip-syncing to “I’m Bored.” You definitely won’t be bored watching this.

4. Johnny Rotten Destroys American Bandstand (1980)

Johnny Rotten (A.K.A. John Lydon) struck fear into the hearts of live TV producers during a visit to Dick Clark‘s American Bandstand in 1980. The punk pioneer refused to mime during an appearance with his new band Public Image LTD, and instead he sat on the floor of the studio, threw himself into the assembled audience, and stuck his nose into the camera. At his instigation crowd flooded the stage, and the recording soon descended into chaos. For all of the madness, Dick handled it like a champ, and later voted it his 8th favorite appearance in the show’s history.

5. Fear on Saturday Night Live (1981)

Not ordinarily the kind of band SNL usually books, Fear were a favorite of show alum John Belushi, who promised to make a guest appearance if they were asked to play. The audience was stocked with up-and-coming figures from the punk community (Minor Threat‘s Ian Mackaye, Tesco Vee of the Meatmen, and Cro-Mags‘ John Joseph and Harley Flanagan among them) to give the performance a more authentic flavor, but nothing could prepare execs for the serious moshing to come. The crowd tore up the stage, causing an estimated $20,000 damage to the set.


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