Every hard rocking hero knows that the perfect (and most badass) way to cap off a performance is to sacrifice your six string to the almighty God of Smash. Wrecking your equipment on stage is the ultimate DGAF (“don’t give a f-ck”) move, proving that you’ve got money (and guitars) to burn!
The standard rock practice can be traced to The Who’s Pete Townshend, who accidentally bumped his Rickenbacker onto a low ceiling during a gig in 1964, snapping the neck in the process. Not wanting to look clumsy in front of the crowd (and legitimately bummed about his guitar), he decided to finish the job…and thus, guitar smashing was born! The process has been refined and jazzed up over the years through artists like Eddie Van Halen, Paul Stanley, and Richie Blackmore, but it still fills us with an awesome sense of fear, exhilaration, and “Damn, I REALLY wanted that Strat!” Even a generational spokesman like Kurt Cobain occasionally wanted to drop the whole frontman thing and just rock out uncontrollably.
Eddie Van Halen in Tucson (2004)
We’re not totally sure if it was his guitar or Sammy Hagar that set him off, but Eddie’s axe ended up paying the ultimate price during the final date of the band’s summer ’04 tour.
Graham Oliver of Saxon
In the midst of the appropriately-named “Machine Gun,” Graham Oliver of the British metal group Saxon killed his Strat in the most long and drawn-out manner possible, before throwing the remains into the crowd.
Jeff Beck in Blow Up (1966)
A guitar genius like Beck ordinarily deserves to be higher on any list, but he lost points for this rather subpar smash. While appearing with The Yardbirds in the seminal ’60s film Blow Up (alongside Jimmy Page, no less), Beck had to be persuaded to wreck his instrument by director, Michelangelo Antonioni. It was a decent smash, but his lack of enthusiasm is obvious. But it makes sense -no virtuoso would feel good about disrespecting his tools!
Yngwie Malmsteen in Tokyo (2005)
One of the greatest ever, Yngwie takes his sweet time destroying his six string. It doesn’t sound too pretty, but it looks GREAT!
Paul Stanley during the Sonic Boom tour (2010)
The Starchild of KISS isn’t afraid to send one of his trademark guitars into that great gig in the sky…
Richie Blackmore in Munich (1977)
Also of Deep Purple, the guitarist was on duty with Rainbow when he executed this six string.
Kurt Cobain, pretty much anytime
The late great Cobain is remember for many things, but being a destroyer of guitars amazingly doesn’t immediately leap to mind (at least for us). Thankfully this video set us straight.
Paul Simonon of The Clash at New York City’s Palladium (1979)
OK, technically it’s a Fender P-Bass that’s about to meet its maker. But this incredible smash was immortalized on the cover of the Clash’s seminal London Calling record.
Jimi Hendrix at the Monterey Pop Festival (1967)
This guitar smash (re)introduced the guitar god to American fans after getting his big break in the United Kingdom under the management of The Animals’ bassist Chas Chandler. Not only that, it went on to become one of the most indelible images of the 1960s.
Pete Townshend (too many times to count)
Honestly, Pete has “auto-destructed” his guitar too many times to count, so we helpfully offer this fan video as a taste. Even though he may get out-shined by Keith Moon‘s exploding drum-kit, his axe swinging on their iconic Smother Brothers Comedy Hour performance is definitely one for the ages.
Billie Joe Armstrong at the iHeartRadio Music Festival (2012)
Many musicians turn to the whole guitar smashing thing for show, but the Green Day front man was legitimately pissed off when he was told that the band had to cut their 45 minute set to 25 in order to give more time to Usher.
Matt Bellamy of Muse during the Absolution Tour (2004)
Although they’re definitely not in the same legendary pantheon as these other bands, Bellamy actually has a world record in guitar destruction, pulverizing an incredible 140 on the band’s Absolution tour in 2004. Is he currently trying to break his own record? Time will tell…
Bluto Blutarsky in Animal House (1978)
And finally this one, just because it seems wrong to leave it out. No one could smash like Mr. John Belushi!