Excuse me, Myth?
Right or wrong, Rock and roll has a longstanding association with sex, drugs and general depravity, so it’s a natural breeding ground for myths and legends surrounding some of its more famous and colorful legends.
But surprisingly enough, some of rock’s most outlandish myths are still circulating, and thought of as true stories.
Let the debunking begin:
– Paul McCartney, Lou Reed and Ginger Baker are dead
McCartney died in an auto accident in 1966 and was replaced by an impersonator. Reed and Baker died of drug overdoses.
Facts: The McCartney and Reed myths started with what looked like legitimate wire service reports being fed to radio stations. The fact that it took McCartney a while to deny the rumor added fuel to it. The Beatles were breaking up at the time, and he was basically in seclusion at his Scottish farm and couldn’t be bothered with what he considered something so absurd. The Reed hoax came shortly after the death of fellow punk rocker Joey Ramone, which gave it an additional touch of plausibility.
Baker was addicted to heroin throughout most of the ’60s and ’70s. After Cream disbanded in 1968, he dropped out of public view, leading some to believe that he had died a drug-related death. He kicked the habit in the early ’80s and is quite alive, as are McCartney and Reed.
-Elvis Presley and Jim Morrison are alive
Elvis didn’t die in 1977 but used that as a cover to go into seclusion and get out of the public spotlight. Jim Morrison is alive and someone else’s body is in his grave.
Facts: In spite of extensive and largely irrefutable evidence to the contrary, there are still those who believe that Elvis is alive and is periodically spotted in convenience stores, restaurants and trailer parks all over the world.
Some people still don’t believe that Morrison’s body is the one buried in his grave in a Paris cemetery. The official cause of Morrison’s was listed as a heart attack — believed by many to have been drug related. One enterprising gentleman has even produced a video (for $24.95 plus shipping) that he claims is Morrison living the life of a cowboy in the Pacific Northwest. People who have seen the video say the man in it bears no resemblance whatsoever to Morrison, and other than the fact that many of his song lyrics had mystical themes, there is no evidence to suggest that his death was faked.
Mama Cass Elliot choked to death on a ham sandwich
Mama Cass died when she choked on the sandwich she was eating, the uneaten remains of which were found near her body.
Fact: There may have been a partially eaten sandwich somewhere in the vicinity, but she died of heart failure brought on by the effects of obesity and crash dieting. The coroner found no evidence of anything, ham sandwich or otherwise, blocking her windpipe.
-Grace Slick named her daughter god
Shortly after her baby was born, Slick told a hospital attendant that the baby would be named god, with a small “g” out of respect for the religious significance.
Fact: Slick admits that she made the remark to a nurse who was wearing a crucifix, but says she meant it as a joke. Given her well-known drug use and her prominent role in the pioneering Psychedelic Rock group Jefferson Airplane, it wasn’t hard to believe that she was serious. Slick’s daughter’s name is and always has been China Kantner (her father being Jefferson Airplane guitarist/vocalist Paul Kantner.)
-Mr. Greenjeans was Frank Zappa’s father
The gentle, kindly character on the children’s TV show, Captain Kangaroo was the father of Frank Zappa, who specialized in absurd humor and not-so-gentle social satire in his many song lyrics.
Fact: Zappa was the son of a Sicilian immigrant named Francis Zappa, who lived in Baltimore. The fact that among Zappa’s many songs were two titled “Mr. Green Genes” and “Son of Mr. Green Genes” no doubt served as the basis of the myth. Coupled with the fact that Zappa’s persona was such that you could easily believe most anything about him, it isn’t hard to see how this myth started and lasted.
-The Beatles smoked dope in Buckingham Palace
Prior to the ceremony in which they received Member of the British Empire (MBE) awards, the Beatles smoked a joint in one of the Palace’s bathrooms.
Fact: It was actually John Lennon who made this claim, saying that the band’s members were nervous and smoked a joint to calm down. Paul McCartney later refuted this as a joke, with its probable basis being in the fact that the boys did share a cigarette of the tobacco variety to calm their nerves before meeting the queen.
-Keith Richards had his blood replaced
Prior to a European tour in 1973, the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards went to Switzerland to have his blood removed and replaced with a supply that was devoid of drugs and alcohol.
Fact: He did undergo a procedure that removes impurities from the blood, but it was a far cry from having his entire blood supply replaced. Richards eventually admitted that he got tired of answering questions about the procedure and made up the story himself.
-Gene Simmons had a tongue transplant from a cow
KISS bassist/vocalist Gene Simmons, famous for wagging his considerable tongue as part of his onstage antics, had a cow’s tongue surgically attached to his own.
Fact: Simmons’ tongue is abnormally long, and he has learned to use it in ways that draw abnormal attention to it. The fact is that ’70s medical technology didn’t extend to successfully attaching animal parts to humans, and a cow’s tongue looks nothing like Simmons’ or any other human’s.
-Ozzy Osbourne bit the heads off of live bats on stage
Osbourne routinely bit the heads off of live bats as part of his outrageous live performance antics.
Fact: Given his over the top efforts in achieving a high shock value with his live concerts, this myth isn’t too hard to swallow. The fact is, Ozzy did bite a live bat onstage – once, and by accident. He thought it was a prop made of rubber. The fact that the bat bit back, requiring Osbourne to undergo rabies treatments, kept him from ever attempting it on purpose.