Rock music has been around for almost 60 years now, and has had plenty of time to spawn countless rumors and legends about the stars who have been a part of its history. It's amazing that some of the more ridiculous ones ever gained much traction, but since rock and roll is an excessive form of music to begin with, perhaps it makes a little sense that outlandish stories sound plausible to some people. Here are a few of the rumors that seem to have stuck particularly hard over the years.
4. Gene Simmons of KISS Replaced His Tongue With a Cow's
Gene Simmons is one of the world's most recognizable rock stars, both in and out of his iconic makeup. Back in the band's earlier years, a lot of people didn't know what to make of him or the other guys in KISS. It's no surprise that weird rumors were swirling around, but one of the oddest concerned the origins of Mr. Simmons's tongue, which is notably longer than most. It seems that about every other photo of Simmons has the bassist unfurling his oral appendage, and it's safe to say that people noticed. Lots of folks decided that a tongue as long as Simmons's couldn't possibly be natural, and the only way he could have come by it was obvious. He'd had a cow's tongue grafted in to replace his own.
KISS is an outlandish-looking band, so perhaps people were more willing to believe ridiculous stories like this than with other musicians, but anyone exploring this rumor a little deeper would soon realize just how impossible it was. For one thing, a cow's tongue is enormous, dwarfing the "large for a human" organ sitting in Gene Simmons's mouth. Even if he could have found some mad doctor who was willing to shoehorn a gigantic tongue into his pie hole, such a surgical procedure would likely have resulted in an end to the demonic bassist's ability to sing or even talk. The chances that Gene Simmons received a perfectly performed cross-species tongue implant done in the 1970s seem a bit less likely than that he was just an ugly guy who happened to be born with a long one to begin with.
3. Mama Cass Died From Choking on a Ham Sandwich
Cass Elliot was a gifted singer and member of The Mamas and The Papas, who died tragically at the young age of 32 after a concert in 1974. Those facts most people can agree on. The story often circulated about the cause of her death was that she'd asphyxiated on a ham sandwich, a sad end for a hugely famous singer, but believable enough. People die from similar causes every day, and there's no reason to think the rich and famous are exempt from such tragic fates. In the case of Cass Elliot, though, choking to death was not the cause of her demise. She suffered a fatal heart attack.
So how did the ham sandwich story take hold? The physician who initially examined her body at the hotel room she expired in told the press that she'd appeared to have been eating while lying in bed, which he concluded was a very dangerous thing to do, and that she'd appeared to "have choked to death on a ham sandwich." It's possible the doctor came to that conclusion because there was an uneaten ham sandwich and a soda on the nightstand, but his initial impressions were proven incorrect. The autopsy of Cass Elliot revealed that her airway wasn't obstructed, and that her death had been brought about by heart degeneration due to her obesity.
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There were other rumors about her cause of death at the time, including an FBI assassination plot, a drug overdose and suicide. The fact that so many conspiracies immediately popped up when she died might tell us something about the eagerness of many people to believe false garbage when a famous person dies. The ham-sandwich story was the story that stuck, but there's no truth to it.
2. Rod Stewart Had His Stomach Pumped After an Orgy
This classic tale of embarrassing rock star debauchery has been going around for decades, and has been attributed to numerous different famous people over the years, but the best-known version involves Rod Stewart. Basically, the story is that Rod passed out after a concert and was rushed to the hospital, where his stomach was pumped and it was discovered that he'd swallowed copious amounts of semen. The amount varies in the tellings, but I always heard a gallon.
As with the Gene Simmons tongue fable, one would think that even a tiny bit of critical thinking would dispel the myth, but this one has withstood the passage of time. Doing a little informal research, it was easy to find that the average amount of ejaculate a man issues in a sexual encounter is around a teaspoon; there are 768 teaspoons in a gallon, and 96 in a pint. For this myth to be true, Rod Stewart would have to have engaged in an oral-sex orgy of such gargantuan proportions that it would have spanned days. Recently, Stewart himself finally addressed the story and, unsurprisingly, the person who started it may have been an unhappy former employee of his. Rod claims that an ex-assistant named Tony Toon made up the story after being fired, and the rocker concedes that he did a great job of spreading the tale.
1. Bands Hide Satanic Acronyms in Their Names
Religious wackos have fought against rock music since its very beginning, but the late '70s and 1980s must have been their most creative period. After all, it was an era where a paranoia-driven witch hunt like the Satanic Panic was taken seriously by entities outside of fundamentalist circles. It was in that environment that rock music, but particularly styles like heavy metal, came under suspicion for leading young listeners to satanic servitude and destruction. It was a fun time to be alive, let me tell you. A time where a handful of religious protesters were likely to accost fans trying to get into an Ozzy Osbourne show, attempting to win souls over from the dark side by handing out religious tracts.
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One of the more interesting aspects of that sort of moral paranoia was the bizarre conspiracies some of those religious folks seemed to believe rock and metal bands were using to ensnare the minds of innocent listeners. Take, for instance, the band names themselves. In a time where there were metal bands with purposefully satanic names, many religious people seemed to mostly ignore those in favor of going after bands that didn't. To be fair, most of the really evil-named bands were pretty far underground, and it was probably much easier to just attack more established acts with broader fan bases. To accomplish that, some haters claimed that bands used acronyms in their names that were clues to their super-secret unholy natures.
"KISS" was said to stand for either "Kids in Satan's Service" or "Knights in Satan's Service," and either way that was enough to spook religious parents. If listening to KISS could bestow Satanic Knighthood on a listener, then I must have somehow missed out on the streets running red with blood as evil Knights rampaged the city to the sound track of "Strutter." "AC/DC" was rumored to stand for "Anti Christ, Devil's Child," among other equally awkward-sounding phrases. Of course they'd also penned "Highway to Hell," and the album cover had some very mild devilish imagery, so AC/DC must stand for something other than the obvious electrical reference. It's not like they named an album "High Voltage" or anything. Except of course they did.
The crappy shock-rock/metal band W.A.S.P. seemed happy to court controversy, and used the evil acronym paranoia to that aim, even conspicuously placing periods after each letter in the band's name — presumably to imply that the letters stood for SOMETHING unsavory, and barely hidden. The band seemed to have made their intent clear by etching "We Are Sexual Perverts" into the vinyl groove of their debut album. For some reason, that still didn't stop some people from coming up with their own meanings for the band's name. "We Are Satan's People" and "We Are Satan's Prophets" made the rounds in paranoid made-up gibberish bullshit circles, too.
My personal favorite satanic band name acronym was one claimed to be used by virtuosic hard rockers Rush. According to some religious conspiracy theorists, the band's name really stood for "Residents Under Satan's House." I could never figure out if they meant literally "under" the Devil's home, like some evil tunnel-dwelling group who was consigned to an eternity of playing "Red Barchetta," or if they meant it more broadly. It's still a ridiculous theory either way, since the most evil thing Rush has probably led a fan to is reading Ayn Rand or playing Dungeons & Dragons. Of course, the same people finding Evil (with a capital E) in band names also generally thought role-playing games were soul killers, too, so perhaps that played into their theories about the band. Sadly, the golden age of ridiculous hidden meanings in band names seems to have ended sometime during the '80s, but we can still look back and laugh.