4 Famous Musicians With Bizarre Obsessions
Musicians are usually known for one thing (you know ... music), but that doesn't mean they can't be very proficient in other areas. And sometimes, those areas are so weird that history does its best to forget them. That's precisely what we're here for, though, so let us tell you about …
Elvis' Forgotten Karate Documentary
If you've ever watched an Elvis concert, you've probably noticed him suddenly breaking into karate moves like he's fighting off ghost attackers. Today, these look like your standard "fake tough guy" moves, but that's largely because of Elvis' influence -- who actually knew what he was doing, it turns out. The dude was an eight-degree black belt, and those who practiced with him agree that he didn't just get that in exchange for giving his instructor a Cadillac (that would be his seventh-degree belt).
Elvis first started practicing karate while serving in the Army in 1958 and remained obsessed with it for the rest of his life, especially after his divorce. Yes, on top of being a hugely influential trailblazer in the area of (white people copying) rock 'n' roll, Elvis was also one of America's earliest Divorced Karate Guys. He was so fixated with karate, in fact, that he and his instructor financed, wrote, and oversaw a whole documentary about it in 1974. They called it The New Gladiators, and Elvis (or "The Tiger" as he called himself while in karate gear) believed it would single-fistedly popularize martial arts in America.
The filmmakers shot some footage of Elvis training but decided not to use it because, well, he wasn't exactly in gladiator shape at the time, and the resulting scenes didn't "look good for the sport." They planned to finish the film once Elvis slimmed down again, but he died before that could happen, so the 50 hours of footage were dumped in the bed of a truck and forgotten for 25 years. The New Gladiators was finally released in 2002 ... minus the Elvis footage, initially, because his estate felt it wasn't too flattering for him. Some of the footage has been restored in subsequent re-editions, and, honestly, belly or no belly, the King still looks like he could whoop our asses. This is certainly more dignified than any "action" footage Steven Seagal has produced this century.
In fact, just two months before his death, Elvis was able to use his karate moves to stop two guys from assaulting a gas station worker (though the fact that a celebrity had just jumped off his limo and assumed a combat stance in front of them might have had something to do with that too).
Mozart Loved Poop Jokes (And Pretending To Be A Cat)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote some of the most beautiful melodies in the history of music. He also wrote these words (translated from German):
The Wikipedia page for Mozart's poop obsession -- yes, there's a whole page just for that -- claims there are "scatological passages" in 39 of the famed composer's letters, mostly directed at his dad, his wife, and his close (perhaps too close) cousin Maria Anna. In one letter, he says goodbye to his dear cuz with a loving, "Oui, by the love of my skin, I sh*t on your nose, so it runs down your skin ..."
His preoccupation with poop even extended to his music. Centuries before Sir Mix-a-Lot, Mozart wrote multiple songs with lyrics revolving around butts, although not all have survived because their lyrics were toned down before publication. For instance, the classic "Leck mir den Arsch fein recht schön sauber" ("Lick my arse right well and clean") was translated as "Nothing pleases me more than wine." Here's a recording of some talented performers solemnly singing the original lyrics since we couldn't embed the version performed by a children's chorus:
Please note that Mozart also wrote a separate tune called simply "Leck mich im Arsch," which implies he didn't want it licked cleanly that one time.
Another unusual Mozart composition is the one partly made out of "meows" of varying lengths:
Which makes sense because Mozart also loved pretending to be a cat. One time, while a student was playing part of his famous Figaro opera, Mozart suddenly became "tired of it, jumped up, and, in the mad mood which so often came over him, he began to leap over tables and chairs, miaow like a cat, and turn somersaults like an unruly boy." Note that he was in his 30s when this happened, though there are also records of him stopping a piano piece to run off and play with a cat when he was a young prodigy.
Wait, romantic poop fixation, imitating cats in defiance of social norms ... was Mozart the first catboy in recorded history? At the very least, he would have had a popular Tumblr that got restricted in 2018.
The Beastie Boys Made A Secret Country Album
When the Beastie Boys released their Sounds of Science compilation in 1999, it included something unusual for a rap album: two country songs, one of them only 35 seconds long, that seemed completely out of place among their iconic exhortations to move one's body and shake one's rump.
But for devoted B-Boys fans, this confirmed the bizarre rumors that the band (or at least one-third of it, Mike D) had recorded a country album. This turned out to be called Country Mike's Greatest Hits, which according to his bandmate MCA on the Sounds of Science liner notes, came about when Mike hit his head, lost his memory, and became convinced he was a country musician, so they had to play along and record a full album in that style at his psychologists' recommendation. In one of the few existing interviews on the subject, MCA seemed to humor Mike by acting like "Country Mike" was a separate entity, so it looks like the psychological issue was never fully resolved.
(Note: The thumbnail above is the actual cover from the album, not a fan Photoshop.)
Country Mike's Greatest Hits is now by far the Beastie Boys' rarest record since only around 300 copies were officially made, and they were apparently all sent to Mike's friends and family on Christmas 1999. Some of those people clearly didn't deserve to be on the list, though, since they ended up selling their copies on eBay for hundreds of dollars. Bootlegs do exist, but even they can fetch elevated prices by now. Poor Mike D is probably besieged by country enthusiasts trying to bonk him on the head all day long, hoping Country Mike will make music again.
Jack White Is A Master Upholsterer
When listing the unusual hobbies of Jack White, frontman of the White Stripes, and 200 other hands, a lot of websites mention his love of taxidermy, which once even led him to purchase a dead elephant head on the show American Pickers.
But let's face it: if you see that guy on the street, the second or third thing you'd think is, "I bet he has a dead elephant head in his house." On the other hand, what most people wouldn't guess is that this rock star is also an accomplished professional upholsterer. White was actually making his living in the upholstery business in the '90s before his music career took off. As a matter of fact, one of his earliest bands was The Upholsterers, made up of himself and his mentor Brian Muldoon.
As the story goes, the two produced 100 copies of a never publicly released single in 2004 and hid them in furniture being reupholstered by Muldoon in the Detroit area. This was considered another wacky urban legend about White until two of those singles surfaced 10 years later, and White confirmed their legitimacy. Even when he became a famous musician, White continued restoring a chair here and a couch there because he just likes working on furniture, dammit.
With the pandemic, White reconnected with his first love, although his Third Man Upholstery Shop only takes special projects that are somewhere between art pieces and furniture that's actually usable. One bench he worked on, for instance, now produces randomized, uncontrollable sounds when you plug in a guitar, for some reason, and another chair "emits a customized scent when a person sits on its cushion" -- which, to be fair, does sound like a practical way to disguise other odors produced in that general area (or, if they are too overpowering, you can simply blame them on the chair).
Top image: Rising Sun Productions, Wikimedia Commons