With social media a key component in any musician’s publicity-filled arsenal in the 21st century, a lot of emphasis is placed on ensuring no artist succumbs to the many dangers of the internet. However, publicity stunts have been around for decades, and music has provided a tonne of memorable moments, here are some of them.
1. The Sex Pistols Play on the River Thames
This, the first in a number of exciting, raucous stunts by the punk rockers who shook up the music business in the 70’s, saw the Sex Pistols hire a boat, and sail it down the River Thames, their own unique tribute to celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. They played single ‘God Save the Queen’, right next to the iconic cluster of buildings that is the Houses of Parliament. A short while later, police boarded and arrested the Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, but by then the power of the stunt had been unleashed on the world, and the single managed to make it to Number 2 in the charts. The Pistols legend was alive and well.
2. Ozzy Osbourne Eats a Bat
When the Black Sabbath frontman really was the ‘Prince Of Darkness’ he was known for throwing throwing animal parts, including pig intestines and cow livers into the audience during performances. Soon he got a taste of his own medicine however when a fan threw an unconscious bat onto the stage. Thinking it was a rubber toy Ozzy grabbed the animal and bit its head off. The singer was taken hospital to receive shots for rabies, but the incident has never been forgotten, and is arguably what the Birmingham-born frontman is known for…well that and the trainwreck that was ‘The Osbournes’.
3. Snoop Dogg Loves Star Wars
The rapper also known as Snoop Lion, isn’t afraid to ‘selling out’. He’s sold his voice to Call of Duty amongst other things and has thrown his weight behind no manner of products. During the 90’s, during the rapper’s rehabilitation phase, his record company even sent him out as a hip-hop Santa Claus, delivering presents to hospital-bound youngsters. But one of his more humourous exploits was marching through New York’s Times Square with a gang of stormtroopers and Darth Vader. The reason why? To promote a clothing line he was a part of. Oh Snoop, you do entertain.
4. Bands Playing on Roofs
The Beatles were the first to encourage this frankly risky practice, one of their last ever performances taking place on the roofs of Apple Records’ offices in London in 1969. Of course it didn’t take the police long to shut it down. Then came the turn of heavyweights U2, taking on the mantle in the video for ‘Where the Streets Have No Name’, an LA store being the rooftop venue this time, before the police promptly shut it down, again. Fast forward a couple of decades and this time it was a planned stunt on top of the BBC’s base in London to promote a new album. The irony was not lost on leadman Bono though, who said: ‘We’ve ripped the Beatles off on many occasions.’ There have been a lot of incidents since, but the most notable of which is probably Homer Simpson’s band in a memorable episode of ‘The Simpsons’.
5. John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s ‘Bed Press Conferences’
A second appearance for both a Beatle and the year 1969 in this list, came when John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono, used the event of their wedding to promote world peace, proving that all stunts aren’t just for monetary gain in the music business. The Amsterdam Hilton, where the pair where holed up for a week saw daily press conferences taking place, with signs proclaiming “Hair Peace” and “Bed Peace” behind them. It went down a treat, which inevitably led to a ‘sequel’ in Montreal, just two months later, recording “Give Peace a Chance” with some pals (including Tommy Smothers of the Smothers Brothers). While peace was the official agenda, the unusual form of publicity doubled as an ad campaign for the new collaborative entity “John & Yoko,” though the “& Yoko” part was a tough sell. As for peace, well, the war folks had a pretty savvy street team themselves.
6. Janet Jackson’s ‘Wardrobe Malfunction’
Controversy wasn’t just a Michael hallmark in the Jackson family, no, Janet had some issues of her own. When it comes to the Superbowl, the half-time show can make-or-break that year’s event for millions of the worldwide audience. Well it happened that one year, Justin Timberlake, everyone’s favourite hearthrobe was partnering up for a duet with Janet, with a particularly saucy line from the American leading to a ‘wardrobe malfunction’, and the live broadcast immediately going down. CBS, the broadcaster was fined $500,000 for the violation of broadcasting standards, and the NFL announced that producers of the show, MTV, wouldn’t be coming back for the gig. That being said, neither have Timberlake or Jackson, but who needs unnecessary nudity when nowadays we have a certain ‘Left Shark’.
However, there have been all manners of special musical moments, comment below with your own personal favourites.
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