The ten most noteworthy music publicity stunts
Sometimes flawless technique, inspired lyrics and a devoted fan base aren't enough. Sometimes you've gotta do something outlandish to step up your game and grab the world's attention. Some would say that getting on a stage and saying, "Hey! Watch what I'm doing!" might be considered attention-seeking behavior, but certain musicians take it to a whole new level. Whether for the sake of art, to go down in history or to sell as many records as possible, they devise feats of daring that most of us wouldn't dream.
10. Fall Out Boy almost play Antarctica
In an attempt to get into the Guinness Book of World Records for being the only band to play on all seven continents in less than nine months, Fall Out Boy scheduled a gig in the gymnasium of an Antarctic science station. Alas, the show had to be canceled at the last minute due to inclement weather.
9. Prince changes his name to something
Prince is known for essentially being the Wizard of Oz -- living in a magical city somewhere in Minnesota, dressing in royal finery and commanding various minions to turn his slightest whim into gorgeous reality. In 1993, he attempted to emancipate himself from the bonds of mortal life -- and a contract with Warner Bros. -- by changing his name to an icon known only as the Love Symbol. The fact that the symbol had no verbal equivalent didn't seem to matter to He Who Can't Be Named. Egomania is a universal language.
8. Gang of Four sell their blood
To raise money for the production of their 2011 album Content, post-punk godfathers Gang of Four offered vials of their own blood to those willing to donate. Presumably, they hoped that amateur scientists would use their genetic material to engineer a race of acutely political supermen to guide our troubled world into a new age of social enlightenment. Other rewards included drawings of world history by the band, and a scratch-n-sniff book. Apparently, they hoped to test the market for their upcoming children's publication My First Manifesto.
7. Imperial Stars stop traffic
The video for Orange County band Imperial Stars' song "Traffic Jam 101" looks like it could've been directed by the same auteurs that brought us Rebecca Black's "Friday," and the lyrics are about as good. Maybe that's why the band thought they needed an extra push in the publicity department. They set up their gear on a truck in the middle of the 101 freeway, and blocked traffic for hours as they played their hearts out. They were no doubt equally passionate as they later pleaded no contest to a felony count of conspiracy and three misdemeanors. They were sentenced to three years probation and 35 days of community service, which, hopefully, did not involve playing any of their music for people.
6. The Beatles play on a rooftop
The 1970 documentary Let It Be captured the Beatles rehearsing, recording, fighting with each other and playing an unannounced show on the roof of the Apple building in London. After discussing multiple possible locations worldwide for the surprise live set, the Fab Four agreed that walking upstairs together was about as much time as they felt like spending with each other. The performance stopped traffic, summoned the police and ended with John Lennon uttering the immortal line, "I'd like to say 'thank you' on behalf of the group and ourselves, and I hope we passed the audition!"
5. U2 play on a rooftop
John Lennon once caused a stir by claiming that the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus." U2 frontman Bono -- often mistaken for Jesus -- wasn't about to let the opportunity go by to prove his band's similarly divine place in history. In reference to the Beatles' Let It Be rooftop stunt, U2 played an impromptu set on the roof of a liquor store in downtown Los Angeles. The performance was documented in the music video, "Where the Streets Have No Name," and shows the band almost getting arrested by police. U2's manager Paul McGuinness later admitted that the police were actually quite cooperative with the project, and that the conflict was played up for dramatic effect.
4. Super Furry Animals buy (and sell) a tank
Psychedelic Welsh weirdos Super Furry Animals once purchased an army tank, painted it blue, attached speakers and drove it through festivals blaring electronic music. It's unclear what this particular stunt aimed to accomplish, aside from the obvious message: "WE HAVE A TECHNO TANK." At the end of the tour, the band claims to have sold the tank to Don Henley, saying, "He has five or six of them." Didn't we always somehow suspect this? When Don Henley talks about the End of the Innocence, he's not fucking around.
3. Pussy Riot protest the Church
When the Russian feminist punk-rock collective known as Pussy Riot staged a guerrilla protest in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior, their intention was to draw attention to the Church's support for President Vladimir Putin's election campaign. Two of the group's members -- Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina -- ended up being sentenced to two years in prison for "hooliganism" as a result of the performance. Internationally, musicians from all genres spoke out against the sentencing, including two of the three pop stars who sang the Three Musketeers ballad "All for Love" -- Sting and Bryan Adams. Rod Stewart has remained curiously silent.
2. Michael Jackson becomes a god
Sony Music spent $30 million to promote Michael Jackson's HIStory. The campaign included constructing nine 32-foot-tall statues of HIM, one of which subsequently made its way down the Thames River on a barge. This sight -- probably not seen since the days of the Pharaohs -- surely cemented Jackson's identity in many a peasant's mind as some kind of celestial being bent on world domination. As with the reign of certain other gods, Jackson's also unfortunately came with allegations of child sexual abuse.
1. The K Foundation burn a million quid
Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty of the hugely successful English pop group the KLF established the K Foundation in part to support struggling artists. However, they soon "realized that struggling artists are meant to struggle; that's the whole point." After devising an art installation that involved nailing one million pound-notes to a wooden frame, they came up with the even more daring and satirical idea of burning the money outright -- which they did on camera. Julian Cope of the Teardrop Explodes was not amused by this artistic statement, claiming that Drummond still owed him money at the time.
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