Top 10 Controversial Figures in Rock History

Script written by Aaron Cameron. Good or bad, one thing’s for sure: these rockers got our attention. For this list, we’re considering those artists who performed actions that were considered controversial at the time. While it may not seem like such a big deal today, these figures made a stir back then and we’ll never forget it. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 controversial figures in rock history. Special thanks to our users Jack Morris, Jacob Martin, wearethefallenmusic, Mrslick1, james13unruh, MichaelMaikeru64, snoboater and Olly Ryan Harrison for submitting the idea on our Suggestions Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script written by Aaron Cameron.

Good or bad, one thing’s for sure: these rockers got our attention. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 controversial figures in rock history.

For this list, we’re considering those artists who performed actions that were considered controversial at the time. While it may not seem like such a big deal today, these figures made a stir back then and we’ll never forget it.

#10: John Lennon

Was he bigger than Jesus? We’re not going there. Lennon sparked waves of controversy when he commented on Christianity vs. The Beatles in 1966. Although the remarks were largely ignored in Britain, they sparked a full on hate-fest, especially in the American South, after a teen magazine printed them out of context in the States. Radio DJs called for boycotts and even the KKK got in on the action – and that’s never good. The bible-backlash is considered one of the many factors that led the Beatles to stop touring.

#9: Axl Rose

Already viewed as racist and homophobic due to the lyrics of “One In A Million,” Axl Rose sunk to a whole new level when he started directly attacking his fans. After diving into the crowd during a 1991 concert in St. Louis when he saw a concertgoer filming the show on a camcorder, Axl left mid-show – sparking a riot that resulted in $200,000 in damages. The next year, he incited another riot with even more in damages during the band’s co-headlining set with Metallica in Montreal. Then there’s the in-band feuding, his domestic abuse cases, so on and so forth.

#8: Elvis Presley

Now as remembered for his untimely death, drug intake, and rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle as he is for his music, the King changed everything when he hit the limelight. Though tame by today’s standards, his hip-shaking gyrations were viewed by many as being hypersexual back in the day. Meanwhile, Elvis Presley’s music was raucous, frightening, and definitely not soft jazz. Because he adapted black music, some in the African-American community labeled him racist. Even church groups warned against his so-called “evil ways.”

#7: Lemmy Kilmister

While his bass playing is polarizing enough in some circles, it’s Lemmy’s offstage life that’s caused the biggest ripples. A noted collector of empty Jack Daniels bottles, the Motorhead bassman also has an extensive collection of German war paraphernalia, particularly from WWII. He’s also got a rep for his hard drinking and drug-taking ways, as well as for bedding over 1,000 women. But it’s the hobby that’s led some to call him a Nazi sympathizer that continues to get people talkin’.

#6: Gary Glitter

Though he was charged with DUI 3 times between the ‘70s-90s, that was nothing compared to his slide to into mega-controversy in 1997. That year, the glam rocker was busted for child porn. Two years later, he was convicted and sentenced to jail time. In a bid to escape public and media backlash, he traveled to South East Asia where he was deported, arrested and then imprisoned for the alleged molestation of minors. 2012 saw the aging has-been face arrest again after being caught up in the Jimmy Savile sexual abuse scandal.

#5: Ozzy Osbourne

Sure, he peed on a historical Alamo monument and bit the head off a dove... and a bat, but that’s not Ozzy’s biggest claim to shame. In the mid-‘80s, the vocalist was sued by the parents of a teenager who killed himself while listening to “Suicide Solution.” A few years later, the parents of another teen also alleged their son was motivated by the hidden messages in the song, but both cases were eventually dismissed.

#4: Marilyn Manson

Naming himself after a serial killer and building a career on shock value, it’s not surprising Marilyn Manson has incited controversy throughout the years. Aside from brushes with the law for mocking sex acts and dressing as a Cardinal on stage, the singer was also twice sued by security guards for his conduct towards them during his concerts. Because of his graphic lyrics and persona, Manson is often the target of the media and conservative organizations that believe he encourages bad behaviour in his fans.

#3: GG Allin

Born Jesus Christ Allin, GG didn’t quite follow the same path as his namesake. During his 30-plus years on Earth, the American punk rocker became infamous for his concert antics. For instance, it wasn’t uncommon for a jock strap-wearing Allin to indulge in self-abuse that included cutting and slashing his own body, and then bleeding on this band mates – if they were lucky. Meanwhile, audiences could find themselves being urinated on – again, if they were lucky. Before concerts, he was also known to load up on laxatives and well... let’s just say, the results were... explosive.

#2: Sid Vicious

A punk at a time when punk really was punk, the Sex Pistols bassist quickly became a notorious figure due to his drug use and attitude. Then, when his girlfriend Nancy Spungen was found stabbed to death in 1978 under mysterious circumstances, Vicious was the leading and sole suspect. After a suicide attempt and assault charges following an altercation at a Skafish concert, Sid served 55 days in Rikers Island jail. The artist then died of a heroin overdose the day after making bail.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honourable mentions.
- Pete Townshend
- Jerry Lee Lewis
- Tommy Lee
- Ted Nugent
- Jim Morrison

#1: Varg Vikernes

Musician, author, psychopath. Although Varg Vikernes also made a name for himself on the Norwegian metal scene, that’s hardly what put him on the map to notoriety. In 1994, the musician was jailed for allegedly murdering Mayhem guitarist Euronymous and for his part in several church burnings. Meanwhile, the musician continued to release music and some of his writings expressed increasingly neo-Nazi views. After being released in 2009, Vikernes was arrested again in 2013, charged with inciting racial hatred.

Do you agree with our list? Who’s your favorite controversial rock star? For more shocking Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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