5 True Stories That Shatter Your Image of Famous Rock Icons
Music history is littered with rebellious figures who courted controversy at every turn in their career. Some of the more troubled of these souls succumbed to their respective demons and left us while their badassery was still in its relative prime and, as such, are remembered accordingly.
Even the poetry spouting hippies.
That didn't always happen, though. Like anyone else, the rock music rebel who doesn't die before he gets old has to grow up some time. When they do, the results can often be the exact opposite of rocking.
Here are five total pussy moves by former music badasses ...
Slash Invents His Own Emoticon
Are you looking for an easy-to-type symbol that perfectly represents the moment when you realized rock was dead? Sure thing, here you go:
Did the Planters guy start smoking?
What in the name of Lemmy Kilmister is that, you ask? Why it's the totes adorbz emoticon that steel-livered rock legend Slash signs off on his tweets with.
Someone's social media team was paid a lot of cocaine for this tweet.
If you're confused, it's a guy in a top hat with a cigarette in his mouth. He's also winking, because the emoticon version of Slash wants to be your boyfriend.
I once saw an interview where the weirdo from Jane's Addiction (you know the one) says something about how thinking for too long about the events surrounding the death of Kurt Cobain won't put you in a great mood. I'd make the same argument about letting your mind obsess over how Slash came to have his own stupid emoticon.
I mean, what's the good answer there? Is it that Slash came up with this dumb shit on his own? Is that how you want to picture Slash in his late 40s? Sitting around expending the same amount of energy that went into the "Sweet Child O' Mine" guitar solo figuring out what combination of punctuation marks most resembles a man in a top hat desperately clinging to relevance?
That's not a pretty picture, is it? So what's the alternative? That Slash has a social media team now? This was a move suggested by some 22-year-old dude named Ian, and Slash considered it and was like, "Yep, that's what I should be doing these days"? Also a pretty harrowing option for anyone hoping to still hold Slash in any kind of regard as a badass.
The only way that emoticon-sealed tweet isn't the third saddest moment in the history of Guns N' Roses (behind the Chinese Democracy album and a surprise coming later) is if it was actually composed and sent from the bed of a sleazy motel room by the barely 18-year-old chick Slash woke up next to that afternoon.
Pictured: the most embarrassing Super Bowl halftime show since whatever happened the year before this.
But I suspect it's been a long time since that would have been the case.
Iggy Pop's Chrysler 300 Commercial (John Varvatos Edition)
Remember when Iggy Pop used to pull crazy stunts like rolling around in shards of glass onstage and taking publicity photos of his gigantic wang and all that fun stuff? Well that was a long goddamn time ago, and if you need proof of that, look no further than the final moments of this otherwise innocuous Chrysler 300 commercial:
In case you didn't have time to watch it, what you missed was Iggy Pop, the former most dangerous man in rock, getting all moist in the pants over a Chrysler 300.
Not just any Chrysler 300, though. Oh no, this is a Chrysler 300 John Varvatos Edition. And who is John Varvatos? Well, he's some fucking guy who owns a fashion line or something. He used to work for Ralph Lauren back in the '80s. Does he have any specific ties to all of that raucous Iggy Pop lore that might make this seemingly unlikely pairing make sense? Nope. John Varvatos just teamed up with Chrysler to make a car, and someone asked Iggy Pop to do the commercial and the money was right so he said yes. It could have just as easily been Charlie Wilson from the Gap Band waiting for that ride on the Varvatos wagon.
Don't get me wrong, a lot of aging rockers make commercials that make no sense. Iggy Pop shouldn't have to be excluded from that gold rush just because Raw Power was an especially important album or whatever. That said, if you're going to start using your persona to sell cars, you don't get to use it for shit like this also:
That's the cover of the new Iggy and The Stooges album. Strap that dynamite to Chris Brown and we'd be debating that cover art for months, especially when you take into account that the album comes out April 30, just a few short weeks after the Boston Marathon bombing. There has been no such controversy surrounding this new Iggy and The Stooges record though, because when you start making Chrysler commercials with John Varvatos, the rest of us get to stop pretending you're scary. When that "bomb vest" goes off, don't be surprised if it just shoots 25 Best Buy T-shirts promoting this stupid album into the air.
Even that album title can kiss my ass. Iggy Pop is like 75 years old. Everyone is ready to die by that age. Most people just aren't so deluded about their badassery that they still think it's a bold stance that late in life.
James Hetfield Lets Lars Ulrich Scream in His Face Without Consequence
No matter what your feelings about Metallica and the general direction of their career after "The Black Album" (I know that's not the real name, shut up) may be, there's one thing all of us can agree on: Lars Ulrich is a huge bag of douche. If you're looking for a second and third thing we can all agree on, it's that Kirk Hammett is probably gay and James Hetfield has no time for your shit.
As seen in this photo.
Every one of those assumptions was rocked to the core when the behind-the-scenes documentary Some Kind of Monster hit movie theaters. Except for the one about Lars Ulrich being a huge douche, that was still very apparent. It's the other two who changed in the eyes of anyone who'd had preconceived notions of what the inner workings of a Metallica studio session must be like.
If you've never seen the movie, it basically tells the story of a band on the verge of breaking up. Attempts to record a new album have stalled, everyone hates each other ... real "Behind the Music" type stuff. What's shocking about the movie, though, is how the band decides to deal with all that turmoil. In-studio boxing ring? Laser tag? A trip to a shooting range? Nope, they bring in a Cosby sweater-wearing therapist who helps the band talk through their feelings. Of course, it was Lars Ulrich's stupid idea, and that's what made it all so sad. Check out this scene from the movie, for example:
Within the first five seconds of the video, James Hetfield asks if they can fire the therapist. Lars shoots back with something about how important the therapy is to the record they're working on, and James Hetfield's only response is to look as bummed as anyone has ever looked about anything.
"I didn't write 'Hit the Lights' for this shit."
Tellingly, the next shot is of the band launching into what sounds like the mopiest Metallica song of all time.
For his part, Kirk Hammett was mostly of the "Hey, how about we just play some music?" opinion throughout most of the movie. That's certainly an admirable stance to take. He was rewarded for it when the shitburger of an album that resulted from this fiasco featured a total of zero guitar solos.
The real revelation here was James Hetfield, though. For as long as Metallica has been a band, he's been the one you just knew you didn't want to cross. He looks like he's about 7 feet tall, he's got that crazy chin beard for crazy people ... he's just intimidating as fuck. Or at least he was up until this point. In Some Kind of Monster he eventually morphs into the one spearheading the "recovery" process, imposing strict daytime work hours on the band and just generally wussying up the entire Metallica brand with lyrics that sounded like they should be on the back of an AA pamphlet. And then this happened:
That's Lars Ulrich ranting at and ultimately screaming in James Hetfield's face. Here, I had our team of twentysomethings make it into a GIF for you, I know how the Internet loves this sort of thing:
The fact that Lars Ulrich pulled a stunt like that and survived without a fractured eye socket is a testament to the sad truth we all had to accept after watching Metallica destroy their good name in Some Kind of Monster. It's not clear exactly when it happened, but at some point, James Hetfield became the "pussy" in the band.
Maybe getting set on fire just does that to a man.
Chris Cornell Makes an Album with Timbaland
In case you don't recognize the name, Chris Cornell is the former (and once again current) lead singer of '90s alt-rock legends Soundgarden. Along with Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Alice In Chains, Soundgarden made de-tuned guitars and lyrics about how depressing it is to live in Washington state the thing to do in rock music for most of the '90s before disbanding near the end of the decade.
The post-Soundgarden years, unfortunately, haven't always been kind to Chris Cornell. His first solo album, Euphoria Morning, was pretty well liked by critics and fans, but it also came out at the height of the teen pop craze of the late '90s, so it mostly went unnoticed by the general public.
Here's what it looks like, in case you want to continue not buying it.
That was followed by a few years of marital strife and chemical dependency issues intercut with the occasional release of a new Audioslave album. That's the band he formed with the non-speaking parts of Rage Against the Machine, and it kept him fairly relevant in the years after the turn of the millennium.
All good things come to an end though, and so did Audioslave. Chris Cornell left in 2007 and, unbeknownst to me until just now, released another solo album that same year. That "unbeknownst to me" part isn't a joke. I did not know this album even existed until I started researching this article. That's what I mean when I say those post-Soundgarden years haven't been kind to Chris Cornell. When this guy isn't in a band, people just do not give a shit what he's up to.
He tried to change all that with his next solo album though. It was called Scream. If that title sounds badass, keep in mind that it's also the name of a very popular Michael Jackson song. See, the album was produced, entirely, by pop music impresario Timbaland. You know, the guy behind "rocking" hits by the likes of Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado?
Seen here opening for Sabbath in 1973.
Right, for some reason, it was decided he should be the guy to bring Chris Cornell howling back into the spotlight. But on what grounds, though? Did Timbaland even have any experience with "rock" music prior to this moment? Sure, check this out:
That's "Apologize" by One Republic. They went on to be a pretty huge band in their own right, so people often forget the song that propelled them to glory is from a Timbaland solo album. The people in charge of Chris Cornell's career knew it though, and somewhere along the way, it was decided that this was the sound he needed. And that's exactly what he got.
You don't have to watch it if you don't want to, just know that it's terrible. Unsurprisingly, fans of Chris Cornell were not impressed.
This story doesn't come without a silver lining, though. An album like Scream is the music equivalent of an alcoholic hitting rock bottom. Once you realize you're there, up is the only other place you can go. For Chris Cornell, "up" came in the form of burying the hatchet with his ex-bandmates and finally releasing another Soundgarden record.
It didn't do much to change the fact that it's been a long time since anyone cared about Chris Cornell, but still, it's a step in the right direction.
Axl Rose Gets Beat Up by Tommy Hilfiger
Axl Rose and Tommy Hilfiger walk into a bar. It already sounds like the setup for a joke. That's why we've already covered the now-legendary fight that resulted from that improbable premise once before here on Cracked. If you read that article (which was published before I started writing here, so I understand if you didn't), you already know the lurid details. For the rest of you, here's a quick refresher:
At a nightclub called The Plumm in NYC, during a birthday celebration for actress Rosario Dawson ...
... a fight broke out between former hard rock badass Axl Rose and fashion designer to the mid-90s rap stars Tommy Hilfiger.
On the right, I think.
The dispute happened after Rose had the audacity to move a drink belonging to Hilfiger's girlfriend. I know, I was surprised too. That's not the point, though. The point is, Axl Rose didn't start this fight, he was just trying to keep some chick's drink from falling off the table. You can bet your ass he ended that fight, though.
Unfortunately for his place in rock and roll badass lore, he ended it by getting crushed in the face by a dude who makes polo shirts for a living. It's documented in the public record that he didn't even fight back. When he got punched. By Tommy Hilfiger. For most people, the only consequence of that will be the added stress that comes with figuring out how best to invest your out of court settlement money. For Axl Rose, though, it's a veritable public relations nightmare.
Much like every picture he's taken since 1994.
At least it would have been if it happened at a time when Axl Rose still had a public in need of being related to. This was 2006, though, a few years before the long delayed Chinese Democracy was finally released. You could argue that it was a good thing that nobody cared what Axl Rose was up to when this happened. By 2006, he was already firmly established as the laughing stock that he is today, so there wasn't much credibility to lose, even after an incident so terribly unrocking as this one.
And that, ultimately, is the saddest thing about the Tommy Hilfiger incident. It proved that Axl Rose was so far removed from his days as an icon of rock debauchery that we weren't even surprised when he got beat up by a fashion designer.