Feuds, tantrums, threatening to kill the president: If you've been following rock music for the past few decades, you know that dickish behavior comes with the territory when your job involves a stage and adoring fans. Here we've assembled the reprehensible cream that has risen to the top, highlighting the assault of fans, the heckling of your own band and the drunken insults hurled at Elton John that have delighted and horrified us all. Continue on for a rundown of the ten biggest assholes in rock.
10. Liam Gallagher While rock is full of asshole subtlety, throughout the '90s, Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher was proudly proclaiming his band to be the "best band in the world.... Better than The Beatles." There's really a whole grab-bag of assholishness to choose from with this cat. Take his ditching out on a U.S. tour to go house shopping ("I come first, before any fucker," he told paparazzi). Or when he was MIA for his band's MTV unplugged performance, only to materialize halfway through the set in the balcony, heckling big brother Noel, who was taking over vocal duties. "We're all big boys — I was only joking," he half-apologized on Behind The Music.
9. Ryan Adams While marriage and sobriety have somewhat calmed his nerves today, ten years ago, Ryan Adams reportedly kicked a fan out of his own show after the ticketholder childishly requested "Summer of '69!" from the audience. Adams reportedly asked for the houselights to be turned on and refused to play a note until the fan was escorted from the venue.
8. Lily Allen British performers often live for a kind of egomaniacal infamy in their public persona. Charmingly bitchy, like a cartoonish version of the high-school snob, Lily Allen often took aim at ex-boyfriends in her songs, while saving the vitriol she held for other celebrities for face-to-face encounters. In her early years as a MySpace-born, post-Brit-pop sensation, Allen conducted feuds with Amy Winehouse, Kylie Minogue and Bob Geldof, though her most infamous moment of assholery came when she drunkenly berated Elton John while the two co-hosted the GQ awards in 2008, blurting, "I'm forty years younger than you, Elton. I've got my whole life ahead of me."
7. John Lydon (Johnny Rotten) When you're dealing with the star of a youth-rebellion movement who writes anti-abortion songs yet wants to be the Antichrist who stalks and antagonizes the Queen's flotilla, you'd better watch out for an F-5 shitstorm of asshole thunder. It was glorious when Lydon would take pot shots at a media that considered him a joke (such as the infamous Bill Grundy episode), but when the world began to take him seriously, Lydon's sneering rebellion began to feel contrived, like when he would assault interviewers like Tom Snyder and Kurt Loder, who sincerely appreciated him as an artist.
Marijuana Deals Near You
6. Courtney Love We'll never know what really went on between Kurt, Courtney and the rest of Nirvana, but there's no shortage of modern evidence that the widowed Love has not handled her late-husband's legal affairs with very much grace or civility. After years of lawsuits between herself and Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, their feud continues today, most notably with Love's 2011 on-stage meltdown after a fan displayed a picture of Kurt Cobain from the audience, prompting her to accuse someone (most likely Grohl) of "taking food off my kid's table."
5. Morrissey "However nasty Morrissey can be in print about somebody, he's even nastier out of print," said photographer and Morrissey best friend Linder Sterling. At times accused of being arbitrarily controversial, the Mozzer has been involved in endless feuds and controversy throughout his thirty-year career. Whether supposedly kicking his bass player out of the Smiths via a Post-it note on his windshield or comparing meat-eating to child abuse (demanding that no meat be served in the same venue he's playing), Morrissey has no interest in retracting statements or making nice with his Nixonian list of enemies.
4. Anton Newcombe In the documentary film DiG!, Brian Jonestown Massacre frontman Anton Newcombe pretty much destroys any chance he had of creative, personal or professional success through a series of incidents displaying his brazen assholery. On top of that, Newcombe has been a first-class dick to his fans (once kicking a ticketholder in the head), his band (constant firings, more head-kicking) and other bands, most notably the hipper yet ultimately less talented Dandy Warhols (see BJM song "Not If You Were the Last Dandy on Earth").
3. Lars Ulrich In the year 2000, who would've thought that file sharing would go on to dominate the music industry and become the new identity of music fans? Lars Ulrich of Metallica certainly didn't, leading him to become the face of his band's lawsuit against Napster, thereby becoming known as the world's douchiest drummer (move over, Phil Collins). Whoever came up with the idea to cast him as the guy Russell Brand's girlfriend hooks up with in Get Him to the Greek was a genius, because everyone can surely relate to the shaking-with-rage madness you'd feel knowing this guy was sharing a bed with the woman you love.
2. Axl Rose Getting in fights with your own band makes you human. Getting in fights with other bands makes you kind of a dick. But leaping into the crowd to beat up someone who actively paid money to see you — now there's an asshole. Throughout Guns N' Roses' heyday, Rose was picking fights with pretty much everyone around him, slowly turning the world on to the fact that he was a madcap jerk with a fashion identity crisis (you dress gay, but hate gay people?). If he'd stayed in seclusion, Rose may have been forgiven his sins as a youth, but instead he just had to return with cornrows and resume picking fights with random people like Tommy Hilfiger.
1. Ted Nugent Assholery in rock is like corruption in politicians: You expect a little bit. But no one comes close to the kind of calculated antagonism spewed by Ted Nugent, particularly in 2007, when he brandished an assault rifle on stage and said, "Obama's a piece of shit. I told him to suck on my machine gun," and "Hey Hillary, you might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless bitch." All this only weeks after the Nuge said someone should silence and condemn RATM for saying the Bush administration should be tried and hung. Beyond politicians, the Motor City Madman has stirred up trouble with PETA, the gay community, and advocates for good taste the world over.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.