Shock Rock

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Here’s something that will scare and disgust you more than a new Lady Gaga single. This month The Knowledge peeks into the ludicrous world of Shock Rock.

Shock n Roll, Baby
Shock Rock was not born yesterday. It’s been around ever since Elvis Presley’s gyrating hips got him banned from national television and gained him the nickname “Elvis The Pelvis”. Shock tactics are invaluable. The element of surprise whether in music, lyrics or stage performance can boost any artist’s album sales and send fans into devoted frenzy.

Though the-powers-that-be might disagree (for a while, one could only see Elvis from the waist up on TV), any publicity is good publicity. The more outlandish the act, the bigger the pay-off, although it’s becoming harder to shock people these days as our jaded society has seen it all. In a bid to educate you on the power of the absurd, here are some of the great Rock N Roll Sickos. Read on with caution (and puke bucket) beside you.

Screamin’ Jay Hawkins


Often-cited as the first Shock Rocker, RnB vocalist and pianist Screamin’ Jay Hawkins surprised audiences by dressing up as a voodoo witch doctor, emerging onstage from a coffin and singing to a skull named Henry. Pretty tame by today’s standard, but keep in mind this was during the 50’s. His biggest hits were ‘I Put A Spell On You’ and ‘Constipation Blues’. Originally trained as an opera singer, by the time of his death at age 70 he had left behind over 70 offspring with various groupies. Whoah!

The Sex Pistols


Punk was a major culture-shock to the public and The Sex Pistols, though not the first became the definitive Punk Rock band. Safety pins though the nose and ears, bondage fashion, spitting at/from audiences, swearing on live television, controversial (yet thought-provoking) lyrics and Nazi paraphernalia worn by bassist Sid Vicious (who allegedly-murdered his girlfriend before OD-ing himself) were reasons enough for them being banned in the UK. The Pistols even had to play in a steel cage to protect themselves from patriotic rednecks who hurled glass bottles at them when they toured the States.

GG Allin


Born as Jesus Christ Allin, GG used to take a dump on stage and eat it while wearing nothing but combat boots. Imprisoned numerous times, it wasn’t all violence with GG as he invited fans (both male and female) to perform oral sex on stage with him. His mission was to kill himself onstage but he OD’d on heroin before he had the chance. Not just a Punk Rocker, GG also recorded Country and Western songs and Spoken Word pieces.

Iggy Pop

[youtube][/youtube]The Godfather of Punk was Detroit’s original madman. Something about Iggy commanded the attention of the audience during chaotic performances with his band The Stooges. Maybe is was because Iggy broke beer bottles on stage, smeared himself in peanut butter and rolled on it like a human dough. Apart from self-mutilation, Iggy would verbally and physically abuse members of the audience, expose himself and leap off the stage (it is believed that he was the first rocker to stage-dive). Now at age 62, Iggy enjoys the quieter life – occasionally acting in art films and playing golf.

Alice Cooper

Alice Cooper claimed to be a reincarnation of a 17th century witch of the same name, though it was later revealed as a publicity stunt. Guillotines, electric chairs, fake blood, boa constrictors and baby dolls were regulars at his lavish stage shows. During a show in ’69, a live chicken somehow made its way onstage. Alice, not having any experience around farm animals, presumed that since the chicken had wings, it would be able to fly. He threw it into the crowd, who then proceeded to rip it apart. The next day, the press reported that Alice bit the head off the chicken onstage and drank its blood. True story.


Combining humour with sci-fi/horror, critics said that Gwar was a novelty band that wouldn’t last. But lo and behold, they’re still around today performing their own brand of obscene heavy metal and were even nominated for two Grammys! And all of this happened long before Slipknot and Lordi started putting on masks.

Long before Gene Simmons got his own MTV reality show, Kiss were critised by conservative parents for causing their children to rebel. Although Kiss shows were more fireworks and fake blood than anything supernatural, rumours circulated that the band’s name was an acronym for “Knights In Satan’s Service”. Oh yeah, and then there’s Gene’s freaky tongue.

Ozzy Osbourne
The ex-Black Sabbath lead singer and current MTV celebrity once bit the head off a live bat, which also managed to bite him back in the process, resulting in Ozzy having to take rabies shots. Another highlight of Oz’s was when he peed on the Alamo while wearing future wife Sharon’s dress causing him to be banned from the city of San Antonio for a decade.

Lou Reed

As the frontman of the one of the most influential bands in history, The Velvet Underground, Lou used to wear black and sunglasses all the time, even at night. A master storyteller, Lou’s lyrics went beyond any Eminem verse, touching on drug abuse and sexual perversion openly. His claim to shock fame came as he shot up heroin on stage and then passed the syringe to an audience member.


Frontman Blackie Lawless used to wear a codpiece that had a saw blade and shot out flames. Blackie was known to tie semi-naked models to a torture rack and to also hurl raw meat into the audience. Their debut single says it all, ‘Animal (F**k Like A Beast)’.

Butthole Surfers

Texas is a strange place to be if you’re a wandering Psychedelic Punk Rock band fueled by LSD. However, those curious enough would probably have gone to a Butthole Surfers show, in which strobe lights, smoke, burning cymbals and a naked dancer are the norm. The band also used to project a variety of films behind them as they played including images of gory accidents, nuclear explosions, meat processing, spiders and scorpions stalking prey and penis reconstruction surgery. Not all of the movies were horrific – some included nature, wildlife and aquatic footage as well as a colour negative of a Charlie’s Angels episode.

Other Notable Shock Rockers

The Misfits Pioneers of Horror Punk. Vocalist Danzig is a self-confessed Satanist, although his solo album was released under a label affiliated with Disney.

Rob Zombie The frontman of White Zombie combined killer riffs and beats with supernatural imagery and has directed more than his share of gory flicks.

Madonna Used sex as her theme during the 80s and managed to offend Catholics with her use of the crucifix, burning or just plainly hanging between her dirty pillows. Didn’t she kiss Britney Spears as well?

Marilyn Manson The Anti-Christ Superstar who made being bad good again in the 90s.

Mayhem With impaled pig and sheep heads on stakes displayed in front of the stage, you know you just can’t go wrong…


The New York Dolls The first band to perform in drag – a tradition carried on by bands such as Aerosmith and Nirvana.


Local Shock Rockers
Onani Cross-dressing nightgown-donning Grindcore outfit made up of 5 guys who are known to cover Avril Lavigne’s ‘I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend’.

Ciplak No Wave Noisecore 3-piece who dress in Puteri Islam outfits. They have a fire-breathing drummer.


Shock Rock Math
Industrial + Flame Throwers + German Sausages = Rammstein
Livestock + Alice Cooper + Ozzy Osbourne = Rock N Roll Buffet

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