When Wild Musicians Attack!

Ryan Adams is headed this way. Where does he fit in among the great meltdown artists of yore?

Star: Jim Morrison/the Doors

Specifics: March 1, 1969, the Dinner Key Auditorium, Miami

Meltdown: Drunk beyond even his own impressive norms, Doors front man Jim Morrison staggered onstage and berated the people of his native state for being too dumb to leave Florida and move to California. He moved on to encouraging the audience to strip naked. And then he started asking questions. "You didn't come here for music, did you? You came for something more, didn't you? You didn't come to rock and roll, you came for something else, didn't you? You came for something else -- WHAT IS IT?" A long pause followed, as the audience wondered what he was on about. Morrison had the answer. "You want to see my cock, don't you? That's what you came for, isn't it? YEAHHHH!" And then Morrison unleashed his love scud, or maybe he didn't. To this day, no one is sure.

Please, for the love of God, don't ask Ryan Adams 
(second from right) to play "Summer of '69."
Please, for the love of God, don't ask Ryan Adams (second from right) to play "Summer of '69."

Aftermath: Everybody went home. Nothing happened until the papers picked up the story the next day. The media pressured City Hall and the police to do something about Morrison's corruption of Florida youth, and eventually even President Nixon and the FBI got involved. Finally, four days after the show, six warrants were filed for Morrison's arrest, ranging from misdemeanors such as public drunkenness to a felony charge of lewd and lascivious behavior. This was to have been the first show on a long U.S. tour, but as word spread of Morrison's conduct, promoter after promoter canceled. Doors songs were dropped off radio playlists from coast to coast. Though Morrison did complete the L.A. Woman album after this incident, and his trial resulted in only two misdemeanor convictions, the Miami incident effectively ended his career. His life would end in a Parisian bathtub in July 1971. (Or would it? Just a couple of weeks ago, A Current Affair aired a segment that purported to prove that Morrison had faked his death. Apparently he's kicking it with Elvis and 'Pac at a Golden Corral in suburban Wichita or some such.)

Star: Grace Slick/Jefferson Starship

Specifics: June 1978, Lorelei Festival and Hamburg, West Germany

Meltdown: Jefferson Starship's European tour was not going well. At the Lorelei Festival, their first show in Germany, thousands of fans rioted when it was announced that singer Grace Slick was too sick to perform. The next night, in Hamburg, the band probably wished Slick was still ailing. As a child of the post-World War II era, Slick later admitted that she always had it in for Germans, and she told them so in no uncertain terms at this Hamburg show. Drunk as a skunk, she took the stage in a Nazi uniform and goose-stepped around the stage taunting the Germans about losing to America in the war, pausing occasionally to insert a finger or two up the nostrils of puzzled German men, whom she called a bunch of Nazis. Those in attendance reported a curious phenomenon: mass walk-outs of people who would get almost to the door and then think "I wonder what she will do next" and head back to their seats. "I'm in Germany and I'm gonna get back at them for Dachau or some dumb drunken decision," Slick said years later. "That's what that night was about, dumb, drunken decisions. So they started walking out but they kept coming back, like maybe she'll do something really hideous and we will have missed it. A freak show."

Aftermath: Slick quit the band immediately after the show. The band staggered on without her through the rest of the tour. "I think she created punk rock that night," recalled Jefferson Starship drummer John Barbata. If only that had been her swan song…Sadly for Slick this gig proved to be just a midpoint on her transformation from hippie ice princess to corporate rock schlockateer. In 1981 she would rejoin the band, which dropped the "Jefferson" from its moniker and (along with other once-decent bands like Chicago and Heart) unleashed some of the worst and most unaccountably popular rock of all time in the mid-'80s. From "White Rabbit" and "Somebody to Love" to "We Built this City" and "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" fairly defines the concept of creative descent.

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