Rock & Roll Drama Queens
This week the music world will celebrate the 35th anniversary of the landmark album Rumours, by Fleetwood Mac. The occasion is marked by the release Tuesday of a super deluxe, three-disc set of the 1977 album that went on to sell more than 40 million copies worldwide.
We’ve all heard the album many times, almost as many times as we have also heard the soap opera that went on as the album was being recorded. Producer Ken Caillat told us a little about the intrigue, but apparently that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Apparently the best rock and roll is created when there’s tension, pressure and drama. Abbey Road, some of the Beatles’ greatest music, came together when the four members of the band could supposedly barely stand to be in the same room with each other. Elvis Presley’s finest hour came during his late 1960s “comeback,” dramatically righting a career that had become a series of horrible movies and bland soundtracks.
Rockers have had their share of hard times and downright tragedy, just like all of our other beloved entertainers. So let’s slap on a vintage vinyl copy of Rumours, and while it’s popping and ticking away, come with us down memory lane:
David Bowie is gay – Forty one years ago this month, David Bowie shocked no one when he announced to Melody Maker: “I’m gay and I always have been.” Well, probably the shocking part was that he had already been married to a woman.
Nevertheless, the announcement gave Bowie’s career new life. His album at the time, Hunky Dory, became a hit, and “Changes” would appear on the U.S. Billboard charts while “Starman” went to the top 10 in England. Later in 1972, Bowie released The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, also a hit and a critics’ favorite to this day. He’d close out the year with the single “John, I’m Only Dancing,” with homosexual overtones that would prevent its release in the United States.
Four years later, Bowie would confess to Playboy that he is really bisexual. At that point, very few people cared about his sexual orientation any more.
YouTube: David Bowie with “Oh You Pretty Things”
Eric Clapton is a heroin addict – Perhaps insecure about his abilities as a guitar player (despite the graffiti “Clapton Is God”) Eric Clapton became a serious drug addict in the late 1960s. Heroin was his drug of choice, and in his autobiography Clapton says when he wrote “Layla” to woo Patti Boyd from her then-husband George Harrison he was spending about $16,000 a week on the stuff.
Patti, in her own autobiography, remembers that when she finally hooked up with Clapton he kicked heroin by becoming an alcoholic. “He began in the morning and drank all day until four o’clock when Roger Forrester, his minder and later his manager, made him stop,” she writes. Clapton also dabbled in cocaine and hallucinogens along the way.
Clapton eventually cleaned himself up, long after he’d left Patti Boyd/Harrison/Clapton. He had some real tragedy in his life in 1991 when his four-year-old son (with another wife) fell out of an open window and was killed. Clapton channeled his grief into the hit song “Tears In Heaven,” which earned three Grammy Awards.
YouTube: Eric Clapton with “Cocaine”
Jerry Lee Lewis marries his cousin – In 1957, piano-pounding wild man Jerry Lee Lewis had already been married twice. He married his second wife before the divorce from his first was final, so it shouldn’t have been a shock if he married his third wife before the second divorce was also final.
Nobody noticed – because the Killer married Myra Brown, his third cousin! Who was only 13 years old! Both husband and wife downplayed it, saying it was pretty common in the part of the country they were from. Well, hardly anyone else saw it their way; it became a huge scandal in the U.S. and Europe and pretty much shut down Jerry Lee’s career.
Lewis would manage a bit of a comeback in the late 1960s-early 1970s as a country music performer. He and Myra would divorce in 1970. Lewis, still alive today at age 77, will always be remembered for his wild, unrepentant attitude and his “cradle robbing.”
For the record, when asked about his fellow Memphis musician’s troubles back then, Elvis Presley reportedly said if the two were truly in love, then getting married was all right with him. Of course, Elvis would later fall in love with a 14-year-old girl … but that’s another story.
YouTube: Jerry Lee Lewis with “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On”
Jim Morrison’s penis – Perhaps the greatest rock and roll drama queen was Jim Morrison, front man of The Doors. He was no stranger to run-ins with the law, but his most (in)famous arrest came in 1969, in Miami.
Visibly intoxicated during the concert, Morrison asked the crowd “You didn’t come here for music, did you?” He continued to rant and finally asked, “You want to see my cock?” Ray Manzarek recalls that Morrison did some little peek-a-boo striptease thing with a bandana or something, and supposedly Mr. Mojo’s Risin’ was indeed seen.
At any rate, he was not charged until three weeks later, only after the incident became a huge media scandal. Morrison was charged with lewd and lascivious behavior (a felony with a maximum three-year sentence), indecent exposure, public drunkenness and such. After a lengthy and much publicized trial in 1970, Morrison was found guilty and sentenced to six months of hard labor on one charge, and 60 days of hard labor on another charge.
But he never went to prison – the sentence was still on appeal when Morrison died in Paris in 1971.
YouTube: Jim Morrison’s arrest coverage from 1969