IN this Flashback, we look at State Disasters. The show doesn’t always go on
Beyoncé’s bad hair day had a happy ending – she extricated herself from the fan (mechanical, rather than maniacal in this case).
And at least she had the good humour to see the funny side afterwards – other victims of onstage disasters certainly didn’t. And one didn’t even live to tell the tale…
Early signs of the Pink Floyd front-man’s mental disintegration were apparent in 1967. That year he appeared on stage with an entire tube of Brylcreem in his hair into which – according to some accounts – he had crushed a handful of Mandrax tablets. Mandies or not, the lotion melted under the lights, leaving him looking like ‘a guttered candle’. The song Vegetable Man (unreleased) reflected Syd’s self-loathing at the time…
Arthur’s bad hair was in a league of its own, thanks to his famous flaming helmet, worn in honour of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown’s solitary hit, Fire. Its precursor – a colander soaked in methanol – was less successful. The fuel soaked into his scalp and set his head alight at the Windsor Festival in 1967. The fire was put out with beer.
The pioneering British rocker is remembered for two things: his classic single Brand new Cadillac and the mental problems, exacerbated by LSD and booze, which led to incidents such as declaring himself the apostle Matthew at one of his London concerts.
David Bowie was a friend of Taylor’s, and recalls encountering Taylor lying on the pavement in Caring Cross Road, studying a map of Europe and pointing out where UFOs would be landing. He later based the character of Ziggy Stardust on Taylor.
So many to choose from, not least the time he overdosed and fell unconscious twice during a 1973 Who concert in California. After the second incident, Pete Townshend asked if there was a drummer in the audience, and the volunteer played the rest of the set.
Possibly the most spectacular mishap occurred when Moon detonated some powerful fireworks in his drum kit after the band’s 1967 appearance on the Smothers Brothers show. The explosion (7.20 onwards in the clip below) genuinely stunned the hosts, and is blamed by Townshend for his subsequent hearing problems.
December 1971 was a bad month for the Mothers of Invention. First their equipment was set on fire by a flare fired from the audience during an appearance at the Casio de Montreux. The casino was razed to the ground, and, as a final indignity, the fire inspired Deep Purple to write Smoke on the Water.
Later that month a fan pushed Zappa off the stage at London’s Rainbow Theatre. He fell into the concrete orchestra pit, sustaining serious injuries to his head, neck, back and legs, and crushing his larynx. He was wheelchair-bound for a long period afterwards and his voice deepened significantly.
The rock poet ‘did a Zappa’ in 1977, with a 15 foot fall into an orchestra pit in Tampa. She broke several vertebrae.
One Direction’s young shaver was hit squarely in the other kind of ‘orchestra stalls’ by a shoe hurled from the audience during a performance in Glasgow earlier this year.
The Welsh rockers suffered a less dramatic shock in 2004 when Kelly Jones and Richard Jones were electrocuted at the Bataclan in Paris. Sparks flew but the band played on.
The Nirvana bassist failed to catch his instrument after throwing it in the air during the 1992 Music Video Awards. Apparently he still has a dent in his head.
In 201o, Iggy Pop dived at the New York crowd; and missed.
“When I landed it hurt and I made a mental note that Carnegie Hall would be a good place for my last stagedive. The audience were just like, ‘What are you doing?'”
The mother of all stage accidents occurred the following year during a Stone The Crows gig the Top Rank Suite in Swansea. Les Harvey (brother of The Sensational Alex) touched an unearthed microphone with wet hands and was killed on the spot.
Our favourite. Life imitates art as the Irish megastars suffer a Spinal Tap moment – trapped inside a 40ft mechanical lemon. When the fruit malfunctioned the band were forced to clamber out of the back during their PopMart tour in Oslo.