Sure, you could torpedo your chances for a place in rock’n’roll history with drugs, alcohol and your choice of STD’s, but that is such a cliché. Why not find new and interesting ways to bring that dreaded day job a little too close for comfort.


Milli vanilli .   Sabotaged by: lip synching

The first sign that the group was lip synching happened in late 1989 during a live performance on MTV in Bristol, Connecticut.   As they performed onstage live in front of an audience, the recording of the song “Girl You Know It’s True” jammed and began to skip, repeating the partial line “Girl, you know it’s…” over and over on the speakers. They continued to pretend to sing and dance onstage for a few more moments, then they both did what any self-respecting man would do:  ran offstage.

It was over from then on.  It came out that, not only did they lip synch their shows, it wasn’t even their voices they were synching to.  Live OR on their album. Ouch, and over…



Senead O’Conner.  Sabotaged by:  The Pope

On 3 October 1992, O’Connor appeared on Saturday Night Live as a musical guest. She sang an a cappella version of Bob Marley’s “War”, which she intended as a protest over the sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church, by changing the lyric “racism” to “child abuse.”   She then presented a photo of Pope John Paul ll to the camera while singing the word “evil”, after which she tore the photo into pieces, said “Fight the real enemy”, and threw the pieces towards the camera.

By the way SNL had no knowledge of O’Connor’s plan; during the dress rehearsal she held up a photo of a refugee child.

The audience was completely silent, with no booing or applause.  Producer Lorne Michaels recalled that “the air went out the studio”.

The network received 4,400 protest calls in total.

Two weeks after the Saturday Night Live appearance, she was set to perform “I Believe in You” at the Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary tribute.

She was greeted by a thundering mixture of cheers and mainly jeers. During the booing, Kris Kristofferson told her not to “let the bastards get you down.”

She might not have been down, But she was done.



Rolling Stones.  Sabotaged by:  The Hell’s Angels.

Mick:  Hey Keith, I’ve got a splendid idea!”

Keith:  “Wzz tht Mkkk,? Uhhh.”

Mick:  “What say we give the Hell’s Angels $500 worth of beer to take care of security for our show at Altamont?”

Keith: “Igot lumps of it around the back…wansum?”

Mick:  “I mean, what could go wrong?  It’s not like they would stab anyone to death or anything!  Or beat people with leaded pool cues!”

Kieth:  “zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz”

Mick: “Right!  It’s done then.”

Okay, it didn’t ruin their career at all, but a lesser band….



Jim Morrison.   Sabotaged by: “Little Jim”

Jim Morrison took the stage at Miami’s Dinner Key Auditorium, mumbled his way through a couple of songs and realized that the audience was getting bored and frustrated with his awful performance. To make up for it, he said, “Do you wanna see my c#%*?”

The rest, as they say, is rock & roll history. The incident was hyped up and the Miami D.A. charged Morrison with a felony count of “lewd and lascivious” plus three misdemeanor counts including indecent exposure.

Morrison didn’t regard the incident with any importance, but it effectively was the downward spiral that was the end.  My friend.



George Michael.  Sabotaged by: “A lewd act”

So George Michael and an undercover  police officer go into a public restroom in a park  in Beverly hills…

Insert your own punch line.

Apparently they played the game “You show me yours, and then I’ll show you my jail.”

His career never really was the same afterwards.  He sold some records, but it was all pretty flaccid after that.




Lars Ulrich.  Sabotaged by: Napster

As file sharing made anonymous, consequence-free theft easier and easier, Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich stood up for musicians by refusing to sell Metallica content digitally. Musicians applauded the stand, but the fan base saw Metallica as out of date and hypocritical, since mix tape trading was largely responsible for Metallica’s getting noticed by the major labels. It took five years and group therapy before the band recovered most of its reputation.



John Lennon.  Sabotaged by: Jesus

In a press interview, John Lennon made a cynical off-the-cuff remark that the Beatlemania had made his band “more popular than Jesus now”. The backlash was instantaneous and resulted in mass record burnings and protests. Management quickly scheduled a press conference, and Lennon recanted according to a script we’re all too familiar with these days. (The “I’m sorry if you were offended” defense)

Me? I think Jesus let him off with a warning.



Jerry Lee Lewis.  Sabotaged by: Marriage

Just as his star was burning brightest (“Whole Lotta Shakin Goin’ On and Great Balls of Fire were established hits), Jimmy Swaggart’s cousin Jerry Lee Lewis had the brainstorm that marrying his thirteen-year old first cousin was a really good idea. As you can imagine, it was career suicide, but it’s hard to appreciate how much of an outrage it must have been in the 1950′s.  Jerry Lee never really acted like he understood what the big deal was.



Michael Jackson.  Sabotaged by: Plastic Surgery etc, etc, etc….

Cosmetic surgeries numbered in scientific notation.   Resulting in a bleached, noseless, freakish mask that makes the Phantom of the opera look huggable. And if that doesn’t seal the deal, throw in cash settlements for pedophilia charges and dangle a blindfolded baby out a window.  Oh, and his admitting to “sharing his bed” with kids.  Oh, and…..



Billy Squier.  Sabotaged by:  A Music video.

Boston rocker Billy Squier was the lone hard rocker still charting when synthesizers and drum machines crowded everything else out of 80′s radio. With the excellent “Don’t Say No” and “Emotions in Motion” already under his belt, record executives were salivating over the chance to market his 1984 album “Signs of Life”. For the music video of the leadoff single “Rock Me Tonight”, they convinced him to dance on a bed wearing a pink tank top, and rip it off “flashdance style”.

Squier himself said the video “ruined his career”.  Here’s how the record executives pitch to Billy went:

“Billy baby,You’re a rock and roller, but you have to get on the floor and you’ve got to dance like you’ve never danced before. And I’ve got just the guy to work with you, though — his name is Kenny Ortega.  He choreographed Xanadu!  Xanadu,  Billy!!!!!!  We have sketched out a storyboard for a “Rock Me Tonight” video, and here are some things you’ll be doing:

Wake up naked. The chicks will go NUTS!  Plus, we’ve got you in  satin sheets!   Of course, you’ll put on some clothes — pants first,  then a shirt, but not just any shirt, one with one of those fashionably torn sleeves. I know what you’re thinking, and you shouldn’t worry, you’ll be ripping it off yourself pretty quickly!  And snap your fingers. It’s part of the choreography. But do it in a forceful, manly, rockin’ fashion, so you’ll look like you really mean it.  In fact, your entire routine in the video will likely be built around your finger snapping prowess, so I suggest you start practicing.  Each time you snap your fingers, throw your arms down, like you intend to throw out your elbow sockets. See what I mean? That’s how a rocker snaps his fingers, Billy. We’re even going to have you crawl on the floor on your elbows, so you can keep snappin’.  And, please, please don’t forget to preen….”

If you’ve forgotten:


Know any other music artist that have sabotaged their own career?


3 responses

  1. Verbal

    Don’t know how true this is, but I have heard through the years that Sinatra saw Sinead’s SNL stunt and was livid…. and that he basically called in favors in the record industry and sabotaged her career… don’t doubt that ti’s true.. Love you Frank!!

    July 8, 2011 at 2:55 pm


    In his defense, Myra and Jerry Lee weren’t direct first cousins; she was his cousin once removed and Lewis thought she was not 13, but 15. That makes ALL the difference in the world. And Jerry Lee was only 22; we all know what hormones can do to a man in his early 20s. Great balls of fire!

    July 8, 2011 at 6:50 pm

  3. Tim

    Pearl Jam vs Ticketmaster comes to mind. Wasnt career suicide but reduced the band to playing smaller, low budget venues for a few years.It hurts me to say they caved,but credit them for taking a stand.

    July 9, 2011 at 1:33 pm

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