As Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl demonstrated last year, sometimes the old show business expression “break a leg” can take on an unfortunately literal meaning. During a show in Sweden, the singer-guitarist fell off the stage and fractured his leg. Although Grohl managed to return and finish that show after receiving medical attention, the Foo Fighters announced that the rest of the band’s summer dates in the U.K. and Europe will be canceled due to Grohl’s injury. Of course, Grohl is hardly the first rock and roll artist to injure themselves during a show.
This list is composed of the most famous, funniest, and painful on-stage accidents in rock and roll history. Some of the funnier ones, caught on film and posted to YouTube for our enjoyment, were found here. Some of the more legendary ones involving iconic performances before the time of YouTube came from here and here. No one seemed to mention Patti Smith breaking her damned neck falling offstage, which is an injury awful enough to land the poetess on any list of stage falls.
1. Frank Zappa
Two incidents that occurred a week apart during a Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention tour in 1971 led Zappa to believe that someone was trying to kill him. The first occurred at a gig in Switzerland on December 4, 1971. During the show, someone from the audience fired a flare gun at the ceiling and the Montreux Casino where the performance was held burned to the ground. Zappa’s equipment was lost, but he escaped the blaze safely.
Then, a week later, the band was performing in London when a fan rushed onto the stage and pushed Zappa into the concrete orchestra pit. The fall nearly killed him. Zappa sustained a crushed larynx, fractures, head trauma, and injuries covering his entire body. The man who attacked him said he thought Zappa was eyeing his girlfriend, and the incidents led Zappa to fear that he would be murdered. The entire Montreux performance can be heard below, all the way up to the sounds of the crowd panicking at the end.