Musicians – no matter how famous – are not above the law. Although the First Amendment protects freedom of speech, that’s not the case if it’s deemed “obscene.” It’s a nebulous term, and some artists have paid a huge price (and legal fees). Sometimes their dance moves are a little too risque, while other times their lyrics are just a little too dirty. Getting naked onstage is definitely a no-no, and intentionally pissing off police probably isn’t a wise move.
Many musicians had to learn the hard way that just because they have the mic doesn’t mean they can do whatever they want with it. Though not all were convicted, read on for seven musicians who faced charges of obscenity. Get ready for some sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Well, mostly just sex.
Jim Morrison of The Doors
When discovered making out with a female fan backstage before a 1967 show, Doors singer Jim Morrison was maced by a security guard who didn’t recognize him. Morrison’s profanity-laced mid-concert tirade against the “little blue man in a little blue hat” made him one of the first rock stars to ever get arrested onstage during a performance.
Then in 1969, Morrison was charged again with obscenity and indecent exposure after he asked a Miami audience if they wanted to see what was in his pants. The Lizard King unzipped his jeans, but whether or not he actually exposed himself has been a source of rock ’n’ roll debate for decades. He was convicted in September 1970, and sentenced to six months in prison and a $500 fine. Sadly, he died the following year before he had the chance to appeal.
Wendy O. Williams of the Plasmatics
The punk singer was arrested on January 28th, 1981 for getting frisky with a sledgehammer on stage. Williams, who was famous for performing topless and wearing only electrical tape or shaving cream over her nips, was later slapped with another obscenity charge in Cleveland for simulating sex.
Just after saying “I Do,” to Whitney Houston in 1992, Bobby Brown was arrested during a Georgia concert for simulating sex in a bed onstage with audience members. He was dragged off, posted bail, and returned to the venue in time to complete the concert. Talk about a quick turn around!
2 Live Crew
The Crew’s knew their live performances would be police magnets because their 1989 album, As Nasty As They Wanna Be, had been deemed obscene in court. Songs like “Me So Horny” had watchdog group American Family Association in a tizzy, despite the presence of a “Parental Advisory” sticker on the album. U.S. district court Judge Jose Gonzalez ruled the tracks obscene in June 1990, and that retailers would face prosecution for selling the album.
It was into this maelstrom that the band played a show at Club Futura in Hollywood, Florida—including the offending songs. Band members Fresh Kid Ice, Luther Campbell and Marquis were promptly booked on an obscenity charge. The arrest sparked a major debate about the intricacies of freedom of speech and made headlines around the world. 2 Live Crew received support from Professor Henry Louis Gates, who testified at the trial to defend the lyrics artistic merit. The group were eventually acquitted, and the obscenity ruling on their album was overturned in 1992. Their follow-up disc was called, appropriately, Banned In The U.S.A.
As part of a GWAR performance at Charlotte’s 4808 Club in 1990, spike-covered aliens “mock-ejaculated” on stage. Lead singer Dave Brockie and club owner Michael Plumides were both arrested for charges of disseminating obscenity. “We anticipate it all the time. We’re ready for it wherever we are basically,” Brockie said later.
“After the show, I was in the dressing room. I started taking my costume off from the head down to my waist and I’m standing there with this huge, fake penis with nothing else on and I heard this voice behind me go, ’Hey Dave!’ and I turned around and waved. A cop was standing there with a camera. They got this beautiful shot of me smiling and waving this big, huge schlong.”
“Right after that they took me away to jail. I was covered in fake blood. They put me in a cell with all these other people, everyone thought I had been in a gang fight or a horrible car accident.” His lawyer ended up striking a plea-bargain deal with the district attorney.
On April 15th, 1986, police raided an apartment belonging Dead Kennedys member Jello Biafra in response to complaints by the Parents Music Resource Center. The singer and others associated with the band’s record label were charged with distribution of pornography to minors via their record, Frankenchrist. The album artwork included a poster of the H.R. Giger fine art painting, “Work 219:Landscape #XX” (A.K.A. “Penis Landscape”), which featured nudity and sex acts.
Madonna (almost)Embedded from www.youtube.com.
During Madonna’s Blond Ambition Tour, she was warned by police in Toronto that they would arrest her if she simulated masturbation on stage. “Last time I was on tour, Sean [Penn] was in jail. I guess it’s my turn,” she said. As it turns out, the pop icon was never arrested. Who could say no to Madonna?