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.
2. Krist Novoselic, Nirvana
MTV executives were ruining their pants in the hours leading up to Nirvana’s performance at the 1992 Video Music Awards. Kurt Cobain had wanted to play the new song “Rape Me,” but MTV vetoed it on the grounds that it was too offensive. The moody frontman agreed to play the single “Lithium” instead, but still began the performance with a few bars of “Rape Me” just to give MTV execs a heart attack before switching into “Lithium.”
During the performance, bassist Krist Novoselic pulled a familiar stunt that involved him throwing his bass high into the air and catching it. This particular time, things went awry and Novoselic’s bass landed on his head. He fell to the ground in front of the entire MTV audience and all the kids watching at home, and had to be taken to the hospital for observation afterward. That didn’t stop bandmates Cobain and Dave Grohl from taking the time to destroy their equipment and taunt Axl Rose before leaving the stage.
3. Bono, U2
Bono may now be famous for his charity work and schmoozing with celebrities and billionaires, but the man was once considered to be one of the best singers and charismatic frontmen in rock and roll. During the opening show of their 2001 tour, the U2 frontman fell off the stage and into the pit while trying to walk backwards, clearly not paying attention to the right ‘edge.’ He was helped up by a security guard and was able to continue the performance.
4. Eddie Vedder, Pearl Jam
Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder is undeniably one of rock and roll’s greatest singers, but like many musicians, he can be easy to make fun of for taking himself too seriously (perfectly exemplified by Weird Al).
The Internet took the opportunity to laugh at his expense after Vedder took a tumble across the stage during Pearl Jam’s 2006 tour of Europe. Vedder ran across the stage, fell flat on his face, then dropped the microphone while attempting to play off the spill. The moment was captured on video, then posted the YouTube for our enjoyment with the good parts slowed down.
5. Keith Moon, The Who
The Who drummer Keith Moon is responsible for one of the most famous on-stage fails in rock and roll and television history. During a 1967 appearance on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour TV show, the band participated in some of their signature instrument-smashing after a performance of “My Generation.” Moon had filled his drum kit with explosives to end the mayhem, but accidentally added too many and caused a larger explosion than intended. According to rock and roll legend, that explosion was responsible for guitarist Pete Townshend’s later hearing problems. Drums weren’t the only thing that Moon liked to blow up — as the erratic drummer also had an expensive habit of exploding toilets in hotel rooms.
6. Patti Smith
The Patti Smith Group was touring in support of Bob Seger when the poetess fell off the stage and broke her neck at a 1977 performance in Tampa, Florida. Obviously, this occurred before the time of YouTube, but it’s one of rock and roll’s most well-known falls due to the severity of injuries suffered. Smith fell 15 feet into a concrete orchestra pit and broke several vertebrae in her neck. Smith survived and was able to return to work after physical therapy. “Actually I felt like an asshole, but my doctor told me not to worry, it happens to everybody,” she told Circus magazine after the incident.
7. Iggy Pop, The Stooges
Iggy Pop is one of the most unpredictable, influential, and awesome frontmen in rock and roll history. Iggy’s bizarre stage antics — including rolling in broken glass, taking his clothes off, and a famous incident where he smeared himself in peanut butter that someone handed to him from the audience — was a huge influence on later punk rockers like Johnny Rotten.
At The Stooges’ last gig before breaking up (only to reunite 30 years later) held in the band’s hometown of Detroit, Iggy got beaten senseless by members of a motorcycle gang that he’d challenged during a radio interview before the gig. The band was pelted with items including beer bottles, eggs, and containers full of urine as Iggy continued to taunt the audience throughout the performance, which ended when Iggy confronted a biker in the audience and got his ass kicked. The concert was caught on tape and released as an album titled Metallic K.O.
8. Kurt Cobain, Nirvana
Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic wasn’t the only member of the band whose on-stage antics went haywire. Kurt Cobain was fond of stage diving during performances, and the practice proved to be a dangerous one even early in Nirvana’s career. In this video, Cobain jumps into the audience during “Love Buzz,” only to be dragged back onstage by a burly security guard. The security guard got smacked by Cobain’s guitar in the process, and according to Internet commentators, was angry with Cobain for breaking a monitor earlier in the show. The guard attacks Cobain, punching him in the face before bandmates Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl intervene.
9. Steven Tyler, Aerosmith
No list of stage falls would be complete without Steven Tyler, who famously suffered injuries from falling offstage while performing the song “Love in an Elevator” — twice. The first incident occurred on August 6, 2009 when Tyler danced off stage, suffering head, neck, and shoulder injuries. The second incident happened only a little over a year later, when Tyler was performing the same song at a performance on August 17, 2010. After giving a playful shove to guitarist Joe Perry, Perry shoved him back a little too hard and sent Tyler flying off the stage.
10. Dimebag Darrell, Pantera
Perhaps the only rock star ever to die onstage (tell me if I’m wrong in the comments), Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell was shot by a deranged fan during a performance of his latest project, Damageplan, on December 8, 2004 at a nightclub in Columbus, Ohio. The murderer, 25-year-old Nathan Gale, was shot and killed by police shortly after the incident. Gale also shot and killed a fan in the audience, a crew member, and a nightclub employee before the mayhem was over.
The creepy video report below shows footage from the incident, including Gale walking on-stage during Damageplan’s first song and pulling a gun, then the police offer who shot him. Later, a man consoles the officer, saying “You had to do it.”
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