Top 40 Moments in Rock and Roll: Part Truth, Part Legend, Part Complete Nonsense

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In the end, the Top 40 Moments in Rock and Roll are part truth, part legend, part complete nonsense. Join us in the nexus where rock ‘n’ roll history meets rock ‘n’ roll mystery …

40. The Who’s Pete Townshend kicks radical politico Abbie Hoffman off of the stage during the band’s set at Woodstock.

39. Montreux Casino burns down in Switzerland, giving Deep Purple an instant source of inspiration and an international hit with “Smoke On the Water.”

38. Bob Dylan silences hecklers in Manchester Hall. “Judas!” someone yells out. “I don’t believe you … you’re a liar,” drawls Dylan, before launching into an incendiary version of “Like a Rolling Stone.”

37. Rumor has it that Alice Cooper kills a chicken during a concert in Toronto. Frank Zappa asks, “Did you kill the chicken onstage?” “No,” says Alice – to which Zappa replies, “Well, don’t tell anybody you didn’t do it.”

36. Iggy Pop discovers new use for peanut butter some audience member handed to him at the Cincinnati Pop Festival. Why did anyone bring peanut butter to a rock concert, anyway?

35. Appropriately enough, Jerry Lee Lewis argues with producer Sam Phillips about Heaven, Hell and his own personal damnation for playing rock ‘n’ roll during the recording of “Great Balls of Fire.”

34. FBI declares the Kingsmen’s version of “Louie Louie” to be “unintelligible at any speed.”

33. Jimi Hendrix trades his guitar for a well-tuned matchstick onstage at Monterey.

32. In Milwaukee, Bruce Springsteen turns to the E Street Band and calls out for Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour,” a song which as a band they had never performed nor even rehearsed. Of course, the E Streeters came through with flying colors.

31. Lester Bangs reframes both the purpose and style of rock criticism.

30. Paul McCartney dead? Fans sift through Beatles’ album covers and song lyrics looking for “proof” that the band supposedly left as clues for those who knew what to look for. Fake “Paul” goes on to have solo career spanning decades.

29. Ronnie James Dio popularizes the index and pinky fingers hand gesture; fans generalize the “horns” as the universal code for heavy metal. NYAAAAHHH!

28. Madcap drummer Keith Moon drives Rolls-Royce into swimming pool. Or maybe not; it’s all a bit blurry to most people associated with this incident.

27. After a warm up run at “Brand New Cadillac” during the London Calling sessions, producer Guy Stevens tells the Clash it was a good take and he would include it on the album. The band protests, “But it speeds up!” “All rock and roll speeds up,” replies Stevens.

26. New York Dolls contribute to the collapse of the Mercer Arts Center in Manhattan.

25. TV attempts to stop Elvis from destroying the morals of the youth of America by shooting his camera angles only from above the waist.

24. During the recording of Damn the Torpedoes, Tom Petty tells band roadies to hide the master tapes at the end of each recording session and not tell him the location. At the time, he was involved in a lawsuit with his record company, and this way Petty could testify honestly in court that he didn’t know where the tapes were.

23. A copy of “Johnny B. Goode” gets sent out of the solar system on both Voyager spacecraft. The running gag is that thousands of years from now aliens will probably respond with, “Send more Chuck Berry.”

22. Gram Parsons’ body gets stolen from the mortuary by his road manager Phil Kaufman, who fulfills Parson’s wish to be cremated in the desert. Kaufman gets fined for burning a casket.

21. Punk rock ushered into this world by Patti Smith (with birthing partner Lenny Kaye) at St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery during a poetry reading.

20. Sid Vicious uses his bass to club unruly audience heckler over the head.

19. The Ramones prove there really is no stoppin’ the cretins from hoppin’.

18. First base, anyone? Baseball metaphor exposed for what it is during Meatloaf’s “Paradise By the Dashboard Light.”

17. The MC5 tells all the brothers and sisters of the revolution to “Kick Out the Jams” – only to have Hudson’s department store in Detroit kick out the MC5. So does Elektra Records.

16. Tragedy turns to opportunity at Dartford Grammar School when young Mick Jagger accidentally bites off the tip off his tongue during a basketball game, forever changing his vocal delivery.

15. Ozzy. Bat. ‘Nuff said.

14. Beatles go for a “smoke” in a Buckingham Palace bathroom right before receiving their M.B.E. award. (No, it doesn’t stand for “Most Baked Excellently.”)

13. The PMRC (Parents Music Resource Center) insists that explicit content warning stickers be put on certain albums – probably so that the kids will know which are the “good” ones.

12. Kiss mixes Kabuki theater with the sound of Godzilla rampaging through Tokyo, thereby bringing the fine arts of Japan to the masses.

11. On Saturday Night Live, Elvis Costello cuts his planned performance short and starts playing a different song instead, causing panic among the shows’ production crew.

10. The mere thought of seeing Jim Morrison’s body parts causes a mass audience hallucination in Miami.

9. Teenagers hired as extras for Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video trash the film set, which is what most teenagers would probably have liked to do after being told to sit in the gym bleachers for an entire afternoon.

8. Steppenwolf coins the phrase “heavy metal thunder” in their Top 10 single “Born to Be Wild,” which is the first example of a musical genre named before there were any artists who qualified for it.

7. After getting a record contract and touring America, the Sex Pistols make good on their reputation as real punks and throw it all away. “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated? Good night!” lead singer Johnny Rotten sneers at the band’s final gig in San Francisco.

6. Lou Reed releases Metal Machine Music for those wanting a happier album than Berlin.

5. Punk rock icons Bill Haley and the Comets cause a riot in Berlin during their European tour. Was it the checkered coats? Was it the saxophone? Probably the accordion.

4. Led Zeppelin denies placing “backmasked” messages in their studio recordings, plagiarizing songs from old blues masters, and milking concert promoters for every last dollar – all in an attempt to get everyone to forget about the shark incident at Seattle’s Edgewater Inn.

3. Monkees’ guitarist Michael Nesmith puts his fist though a wall during a business “discussion” with the band’s management. Says Nesmith: “That could’ve been your face.”

2. Keith Richards falls out of coconut tree; survives, as usual.

1. Some as-of-yet unnamed culprit puts the bomp in the bomp-bah-bomp-bah-bomp.

JC Mosquito

JC Mosquito

JC Mosquito spends most of his day keeping the wolves from the door. When he's not occupied with this pastime, he's interested in all things rock and roll -- which may or may not have died back in the late 1950s, the late 1970s, or the early '90s, depending on who you believe. Contact Something Else! at
JC Mosquito
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