The history of rock is all but defined by shocking moments, from Elvis Presley famously being filmed from the waist up on his first Ed Sullivan Show appearance in 1956 through the storied and sordid tales of debauchery that have followed rock’s biggest stars, including the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and even the Beatles.
With the rapid rise in technology and social networks, what once could have been considered shocking has become old hat. While it’s safe to say there’s nothing new under the sun, our perpetual and often far too intimate access to the lifestyles of the rich and famous has made every discretion front-page news within moments of happening.
2012 was no exception, with a non-stop barrage of sensational headlines and Twitter-igniting controversies, both big (untimely rock star deaths) and small (the inevitable celebrity hook-ups/break-ups). With the wild and wooly year coming to a close, here are rock’s most shocking moments of the year.
The Death of Adam Yauch – The pioneering New York hip-hop trio had built a storied and accomplished career, spanning a series of platinum and gold-selling albums, worldwide concert tours, and successful forays into other pop culture industries from clothing lines to magazines. The band’s legions of fans and the music industry at large was shocked in 2009 when rapper Adam “MCA” Yauch stepped forward to announce his salivary gland cancer diagnosis through a video on the Beastie Boy’s official website, putting all plans on hold, including postponing a tour. He valiantly powered forward, continuing to work as his illness was being treated, with the band eventually releasing Hot Sauce Committee Part Two in 2011. Still, no one was prepared when it was announced on May 4 of this year that Yauch had succumbed to cancer at the age of 47. He did live long enough to see the Beastie Boys inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April, although he was unable to attend the ceremony.
Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day Submits to Rehab – All systems in the Green Day camp were on go at the onset of the year, with the Bay Area power-punk trio laying down enough tracks for three full-length albums, Uno!, Dos! and Tre!, which were originally scheduled to be released over several months. As the band were already knee-deep in a promotional blitz around the launch of Uno! when it all came to a screeching halt on September 28th onstage at a Las Vegas radio show. Band frontman Billie Joe Armstrong let fly with a profane tirade towards the end of their set, berating show organizers and smashing his guitar. While Green Day quickly apologized for the outburst on the band’s website, within two days Armstrong had checked into rehab, with word coming out that the singer was dealing with alcohol issues following a year of sobriety. In the resulting fallout, albums sales for the trilogy have been flat without the band able to go on the road to support it.
Against Me! Singer Tom Gabel Becomes Laura Jane Grace After Coming Out As Transgender – While Against Me! lead singer Tom Gabel had peppered his punk band’s lyrics with oblique references to his sexuality, few were prepared for the singer to come out as a lifelong transgender. After growing Against Me! from a solo project into a full-blown punk powerhouse with Warped Tour credentials and five studio albums shocked the rock world with the news that he was transitioning into a woman named Laura Jane Grace. She performed as Grace for the first time in May of this year when Against Me! opened for the Cult in San Diego after just two weeks of hormone therapy. “I was worried that some people expected me to come out looking like Little Bo Peep or something,” Grace told Rolling Stone of the experience. The band is currently working on their next studio album, Transgender Dysphoria Blues, with bassist Andrew Seward promises will be “killer,” according to a recent interview with MTV.
Baroness Survive Horrific European Tour Bus Crash – This alt-metal band from Georgia by way of Kentucky was riding high on the waves of critical acclaim for their most recent release, the double-album Yellow & Green. Then Baroness had the misfortune of
igniting mainstream headlines this past August after the band’s tour bus plunged over a viaduct near Bath, England, due to heavy rains. The crash left nine people hurt, with two sustaining severe injuries. “This was, without a doubt, as close to death as I will ever come without actually dying,” the band’s singer John Baizley told CBS Local in an exclusive interview afterwards. “Any one of us could have and should have, based on the statistics of the crash, been injured more seriously, and the fact that we weren’t is miraculous.” All of the injured parties have since recovered, and the band is already talking about going back out on the road.
Lamb of God Singer Randy Blythe Charged With Manslaughter in the Czech Republic – Anyone who’s been within shouting distance of a heavy metal mosh pit knows the inherent dangers of stage-crashing and crowd-surfing. Lamb of God frontman Randy Blythe pushed one such fan from the stage during a concert in Prague back in 2010, with the concertgoer sustaining head injuries that resulted in his death from a brain hemorrhage two weeks later. When the band returned to the Czech Republic for a show earlier this year, Blythe was arrested at the airport and charged with manslaughter for the fan’s death and held for over a month. “I had minimal news of the progression of my case cause almost nobody in there spoke English and I couldn’t read a Czech newspaper,” Blythe told CBS Local in an exclusive interview about how fellow prisoners kept him informed of the support he was getting from fans, friends and fellow rockers back home. “I’d come out to our hourly walk and they’d be like, ‘Ozzy Osbourne said something good for you.’” While Blythe is safely back in America, he recently announced that he will be returning to Prague in February to face the manslaughter charges. “I want my name cleared. I have to go around the world and tour, you know? Blythe explained to CBS affiliate WTVR. “That’s what I do. I’m not going to hide here. I’m an innocent man. I’m going to go to court and see what happens.”
– Scott T. Sterling, CBS Local