Rock music lore is littered with stories about the musical gods and goddesses that have been a part of its history, and some of those stories end up being true. Many rock stars are unconventional people, and the lifestyles some of them end up leading tend toward the extreme, so it's not really a huge surprise when a weird legend has a grain of truth to it. That may be part of the reason so many people end up believing some really silly myths about famous rock musicians, but a lot of those stories end up being untrue...Which is a shame, because a few of them are pretty great. Let's look at a few more famous rock-and-roll myths.
4. Marilyn Manson Starred In The Wonder Years Before Becoming a Rock Star
During his heyday in the mid to late '90s, shock-rocker Marilyn Manson was the kind of star who scared parents and inspired throngs of teenage listeners to don fishnet shirts and black lipstick. As per usual with extreme rockers who gather enough fame for the mainstream to notice, there were a whole bunch of bogus myths attributed to Manson. Rumors circulated that he'd had ribs removed so he could fellate himself, and that the star would command his fans to kill puppies at live concerts. One story that seemed to stick the hardest was that before reinventing himself as a spooky rock front man, Manson had been a regular cast member on the charmingly nostalgic television show The Wonder Years. The rumor was that Manson had been the actor playing Paul Pfeiffer, the geeky sidekick of the show's protagonist.
The public's interest in the tale was understandable; there's something appealing about the idea of a wholesome child star metamorphosing into a notoriously dark and unseemly adult celebrity. Of course, the story was complete bullshit, but that didn't stop it from making the rounds. The funny thing about this particular rumor is just how easily it should have been to dismiss, because unlike the character Paul Pfeiffer, the actor who played him didn't just disappear when The Wonder Years went off the air. The guy behind the show's lovable nerd is a man named Josh Saviano, who went on to continue acting and became a lawyer. He's also seven years younger than Marilyn Manson, whose real name is Brian Warner, but no one believing the story seemed to notice that either. Warner was an unattractive, geeky-looking guy under all the Marilyn Manson makeup, so I suppose it wasn't too much of a leap in logic for people to think the goofy-looking 12-year-old playing on The Wonder Years was the same dude as the creepy-looking clown scaring people onstage.
3. Van Halen Made Concert Promoters Provide a Bowl of M&Ms With the Brown Ones Removed
This bit of rock lore has been floating around for decades as a symbol of the types of ridiculous excess and pampering that egotistical stars expect. And it's true; some stars do have stupidly extravagant demands in their concert contracts (or "riders") that promoters are expected to meet. It's also true that most of the guys in Van Halen are famous for their egos, but here's an interesting thing about the brown M&M story — It's true, but not for the reasons most people assume it is.
While Van Halen collectively had an image for debauchery and prima-donna behavior, the Van Halen brothers and David Lee Roth were also known to be strict control freaks when it came to their band's business. After a few bad early experiences with unorganized concert promoters, the band began to demand the M&M bowl as a sort of test: When they walked backstage and found it was there and the brown M&Ms had been removed, they could feel confident that the concert promoter paid attention to details, and they wouldn't have to worry about bigger issues being taken care of. If they found the brown M&Ms were still present, then that signaled to the band that they needed to have everything else checked out before showtime. It was a clever way of making sure things were in order.
2. Paul McCartney Died Sometime In the '60s
A lot of people actually believe Sir Paul McCartney died in the 1960s and the remaining members of the Beatles had him secretly replaced by a lookalike impostor. While this is an appealing theory to those of us who regard Wings as one of the worst low points of 1970s rock, it is almost certainly false. I say "almost certainly" because there's no definite proof that Paul McCartney didn't die in the late '60s, in much the same way there's no definite proof that Elvis isn't still alive enjoying his golden years secretly in some tropical paradise. But the odds are The King IS dead, and McCartney is NOT.
Still, the rumor that Paul had been killed (usually in a car crash) was a really popular theory in the late 1960s, and continues to this day. The story initially began among American college kids who cited hundreds of clues they believed the band had hidden in plain site on their albums announcing that Paul had been killed sometime in 1966. Some theories claimed that the band had replaced the dead Beatle with the winner of a lookalike contest named William Shears Campbell to avoid disrupting the band's popularity. "Evidence" of Paul's death ranges from him appearing on later album covers posed differently than the other Beatles, and backwards phrases such as "I buried Paul" (or cranberry sauce, you decide) being hidden in their songs. Even recently, an almost immediately debunked story that Ringo admitted the charade in an interview made the rounds. A skeptic has to ask why a band would go to such serious lengths to hide the death and replacement of a member and then scatter hundreds of clues for fans to find. LSD was supposed to be really strong in the 1960s, so maybe that has something to do with this rumor being taken seriously.
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1. The Eagles' "Hotel California" Is Satanic
I remember hearing decades ago that this classic rock radio staple was secretly about devil worship. At face value, I could understand people thinking there might be something vaguely "Satanic" about the lyrics. All that talk of stabbing with steely knives and never being able to leave sure sounds menacing enough. And The Eagles had other songs, like "Witchy Woman," that could've indicated some sort of interest in the occult. Variations on the tale mention the band members having joined the Church of Satan, and a shadowy, out-of-focus figure on the album cover that some claimed to be Anton LaVey, the Black Pope himself.
Sadly, none of those seems to be true, and the band claims that the song is really about the dangerous lifestyle of fast living in the music industry at the time. While it's fun to think of the laid-back California band partaking in cocaine-fueled Satanic rites, much of the "evidence" falls short upon closer scrutiny. It's unlikely any members of the band ever belonged to the Church of Satan, or that Anton LaVey was on the cover of Hotel California. Why is that unlikely? Because the Church of Satan wasn't very good about hiding the affiliation of its celebrity members. Sammy Davis Jr. and Marilyn Manson were both linked, and LaVey was famously into promotion.
But the Church of Satan just wasn't very good at keeping secrets, and if the Eagles, who by 1976 were one of the world's biggest rock groups, had all been Satanists, that information would have gotten out. At the very least, Anton LaVey would've confirmed he was on the album cover of Hotel California, yet he never did. I'm guessing that the guys in the Eagles were a lot more concerned with securing a never-ending supply of cocaine from a dude wearing a leisure suit than they were with any allegiance to the Dark Lord.
And there you have it — a few more of the awesome and often silly rock rumors that people have believed over the years. More to come!