Rock ‘n’ Roll Myths That Are Not True, at All

Gene Simmons of Kiss

Gene Simmons of KISS | Kristian Dowling/Getty Images

Rock music became an iconic cultural movement in the latter half of the 20th century in part because it created a mythology, centered around hard-partying rock stars devoting their lives to sex, drugs, and of course, rock ‘n’ roll. It’s no surprise that a genre founded upon such a mythos spawned plenty of urban legends, but you might be surprised by how outlandish, yet enduring these legends are. Let’s take a trip through rock history and dispel some of those crazy myths believed by so many people.

1. Gene Simmons’ cow tongue

Gene Simmons is the most outlandish member of a band founded upon outsized spectacle. The KISS bass guitarist is known to brandish his unusually long tongue in concert. His tongue is so long, in fact, many speculated no human’s tongue could naturally be so long. Rumors declared that Simmons had a cow’s tongue grafted onto his own to complement his demonic persona in KISS.

There’s plenty wrong with this theory, beginning with the fact that a cow’s tongue looks entirely different from a human tongue and that medical technology in the ’70s was nowhere near equipped to handle an interspecies tongue-grafting procedure. Gene Simmons’ tongue is the genuine article.

On a related note, the members of KISS did shed their own blood to be mixed with the red ink used to produce Marvel’s first KISS comic book. And that is no myth.

2. Robert Johnson sells his soul

This story predates the invention of rock music by a couple decades, but we’re including it, since famed but mysterious blues-man Robert Johnson was inarguably a major influence on rock ‘n’ roll. Little is known about the Depression-era picker, except that he had an amazing talent for guitar playing. There’s an old legend that Johnson sold his soul to the devil at a crossroads in exchange for his enormous talent. Believers note that Johnson was a poor guitar player when he was young, but in fact, he simply studied under blues-man Ike Zimmerman to learn how to play the guitar.

3. Marilyn Manson has his ribs removed for … reasons

Makeup-clad goth rocker Marilyn Manson has evidently done some hard work to establish his own creepy persona, going so far as to become a card-carrying member of the Church of Satan. One vile rumor insists that Manson had his bottom row of ribs removed so he could perform the unthinkable — autofellatio, or oral sex on oneself. That’s nonsense. Manson did not do it, and in fact, no one has ever had their ribs removed for this purpose. Rib removal surgeries are only performed in the case of a fractured rib somehow threatening a vital organ.

4. The obscenities of ‘Louie, Louie’

You remember this innocuous early-‘6os rock hit, don’t you? The pop hit has endured in part thanks to appearances in films like Animal House. Modern generations might be surprised to note that the song was the subject of major controversy upon release, as parents claimed the lyrics, which are mostly indecipherable, were obscene and could be clearly heard by playing the record at a slower RPM.

The FBI even became involved in investigating the claims, eventually concluding that they were unable to interpret the lyrics. The controversy was the first of many similar incidents, in which parents and authority figures became convinced rockers were inserting obscene or Satanic messages in their records that could only be heard by playing the records backwards or slowed-down.

5. Paul is dead

Few rock music myths have such devout believers as the “Paul is dead” theory. This conspiracy posits that the real Paul McCartney died in an auto accident in 1966, but was replaced by a look and sound alike without anyone noticing. The Beatles, however, scattered hints of McCartney’s death and replacement in their songs, album covers, and sleeve artwork for particularly astute listeners to notice. Paul himself had to address the rumors in a 1969 interview, wherein he paraphrased Mark Twain and said, “Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated. However, if I was dead, I’m sure I’d be the last to know.” The conspiracy theorists still exist, however, congregating in obscure corners of the internet.

6. Jim Morrison is still alive

If Paul is dead (which he isn’t), Jim Morrison is still alive (which he isn’t). Morrison, the charismatic and disturbed frontman for The Doors, died of a heart attack in 1971, though many believe his death was drug-related. Far fewer believe that Morrison is still alive, occasionally spotted at unassuming locations around the world. They believe another person’s body is buried in his grave at a Paris cemetery.

7. Marilyn Manson played Paul Pfeiffer on The Wonder Years

The Wonder Years

The Wonder Years | New World Television

This is one of those rumors that could easily be fact-checked, but it still happened! The rock star was rumored to be the young, nerdy Paul on the sitcom, The Wonder Years. However, the character was played by Josh Saviano. “I think actually it was one of the very first Internet rumors,” Saviano said in an interview, “because it was 1994. The Internet was just sort of becoming mainstream, particularly on college campuses. It was just perfect timing and the perfect storm.”

8. Jack and Meg White are brother and sister

Michael Buckner/Getty Images

The White Stripes | Michael Buckner/Getty Images

This rumor was started by Jack White himself! The White Stripes is a band that included Meg and Jack White. Many tried to figure out what their relationship was so Jack said they were brother and sister. But eventually their marriage certificate was released which made things even more confusing. Jack was still sticking with the lie until he eventually gave up. “When they’re brother and sister, you go, ‘Oh, that’s interesting.’ You care more about the music, not the relationship,” he explained according to Contact Music.

9. Debbie Harry met Ted Bundy

Debbie Harry

Debbie Harry | Hulton Archive/Getty Images

This rumor started from a story in The Sun where the singer said she accepted a ride from the serial killer, Ted Bundy. She reportedly claimed to have sensed something was wrong so she escaped from the car. However, this rumor has been debunked since the timing coincides with a time when Ted Bundy was across the country. He also didn’t ever make it to New York City.

10. Courtney Love was involved in Kurt Cobain’s death

Courtney Love

Courtney Love | Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

This is a pretty terrible rumor, but sadly, many music fans support it. Kurt Cobain’s death was ruled a suicide through “contact perforating shotgun wound to the head.” The rock star was struggling with bipolar disorder and addiction. However, many fans haven’t accepted this and believe that Courtney Love, the mother of his child is somehow behind his death. A big source of the fuel to this myth is private investigator Tom Grant who claims he was hired by Courtney Love. He also said he believes Cobain’s death should be ruled “undetermined.”

Additional reporting by Nicole Weaver.

Follow Jeff Rindskopf on Twitter @jrindskopf

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