Rock and roll can be a scary thing, and not just on Halloween. The music industry is populated by more sunken-eyed ghouls than a dozen haunted houses, and most of them will not hesitate to fuck your girlfriend. Some of the best of 'em die way too soon -- and all too often. Others, like Keith Richards or Lemmy, keep coming back for more like a horror-movie slasher, seemingly impervious to decades of drugs, alcohol and STDs. Whatever these people are, they aren't human.
But there's a certain class of rock star that's even more disturbing. These are the men who have stared death in the face and made the Reaper flinch. They've crossed over to the other side, sometimes more than once, and somehow made it back again to tell the eerie tale. They are the guitar-slinging undead: Real-life rock and roll zombies.
How do they do it? Hard drugs and 911, in most cases. The reasons why any of these people remain amongst the living when so many haven't is anybody's guess. But it's hard to escape the notion that somebody, whether in heaven or in hell, is a fan. So gaze upon these living corpses with wonder and awe, but beware! For given a half-melted spoon and a defibrillator paddle, you too could share their fate:
6. Dave Gahan At first glance, Depeche Mode front man Dave Gahan famously still looks pretty damn good for his age. Up close, though, it becomes a little more clear that this guy has been through some pretty rough shit in his day. Specifically, the man liked heroin. Rather a lot. (This will be a recurring theme in this blog entry.)
In 1996, the drug would take his life. Briefly. After overdosing on a speedball of heroin and coke at the Sunset Marquis Hotel in L.A., Gahan more or less died. NME reported his recollection of the experience thusly:
The first thing I realized in the hospital was that I exited my body. I was floating underneath the ceiling and could observe exactly what was happening underneath me: Paramedics were running around my body and tried to save me. I screamed that I wasn't actually lying down there but above them.
I believe it was my soul screaming, which had already left my body and became a witness of what happened to my body. At that point I was clinically dead, my heart wasn't beating. These seconds seemed like hours to me. And suddenly, there was a complete, frightening darkness around me. As if someone had turned off the light.
Gahan was eventually revived, only to find himself in handcuffs, charged with drug possession. That was a blessing, of course: the arrest led to his rehabilitation and continued sobriety.
5. Phil Anselmo Pretty much exactly like Dave Gahan (except way heavier), Pantera singer Phil Anselmo was also battling a nasty heroin addiction in 1996. Well, perhaps "battling" isn't the word. Maybe "indulging heavily." After a gig at the Dallas Starplex in 1996, Phil injected what he would later describe as a "lethal" dose of the drug. Hey, hindsight! His body completely shut down, and the singer went into cardiac arrest. Here's how he told the tale in a press release right after it happened:
I...died for four or five minutes. There was no lights, no beautiful music, just nothing. And then after 20 minutes (from what I heard later) my friends slapped me and poured water over my head all basically trying to revive me. The paramedics finally arrived and all I remember is waking up in the back of an ambulance. From that point on I knew all I wanted was to be back on the tour bus, going to the next gig.
Today, Anselmo says that his heroin abuse was largely due to the chronic back pain he suffered due to degenerative disc disease. The singer had back surgery in 2005 to help alleviate the symptoms, and claims to have been drug-free ever since.
4. Taylor Hawkins Today, the Foo Fighters are hardly known as the hardest partiers in rock, but there was a time when the band could certainly hold its own. In the late '90s, drummer Taylor Hawkins found himself with a pretty serious dope habit that culminated in an ugly overdose in London in 2001. As we've already discussed a couple of times at this point, heroin has an alarming habit of stopping people's hearts. When Hawkins went too far, it sent him into a two-day coma. That's never-coming-back territory.
Foo Fighters main man Dave Grohl, who knows a thing or two about losing band mates, reportedly stayed by his drummer's bedside the entire time. When Hawkins finally woke up, he greeted his buddy/boss with a wincing "fuck off."
Today, Hawkins is all cleaned up and loathe to look back on his darkest days, especially his "death."
"Thank God I did take it too far, and I didn't fuckin' croak, and I'm here to know how retarded I was and how lame my life had become," he told Spin in 2002. "I was just becoming a clichéd rock idiot. But I wouldn't take any of it away--none of the times I got high, not even the overdose. Because I learned so much about myself through the whole thing."
3. Al Jourgensen Our next zombie is none other than our good buddy Al Jourgensen, the Ministry mastermind and one of the weirdest motherfuckers on the planet. Jourgensen has never been shy in talking about his long, extensive history of drug addiction and its sometimes-fatal consequences. By Jourgensen's count, he's been "clinically dead" three times. And the last of these close calls was more recent than you might expect.
By the late '00s, Jourgensen had managed to develop quite a number of bleeding ulcers inside his digestive system. Draw your own conclusions why that might've been. For years on end, he did his best to ignore them, but in 2010, that was no longer possible. Let's hear the story from the man himself, courtesy of Revolver:
I was a tired, run-down, bloated drunk - just a mess. And then I exploded on March 27, 2010, and they had to take me to the emergency room...I had 13 bleeding ulcers in my esophagus and stomach, and the ulcer that burst was over a main artery right between my stomach and intestine.
I lost 65 percent of my blood. I was lying there in bed in a pool of blood when my wife called the ambulance. And here's the other great thing. Fire station 13, it's right across from my house. The paramedics came and said, "We don't think we can do anything. We'll try to get him to the hospital in time." I was going into seizures. My blood pressure was 30 over 20. I was a corpse. I flat-lined and they brought me back.
The hospital in Jourgensen's adopted hometown of El Paso stuck a tube down his throat with a camera attached and performed laser surgery, cauterizing six bleeding ulcers. Three days later, Al yanked the tubes out of his arm and walked out of the hospital (with his gown on backwards) and hailed a cab... he was upset that the hospital TV provider didn't carry the NHL playoffs.
Story continues on the next page.
2. Ozzy Osbourne Maybe it comes as no surprise that Ozzy, one of rock and roll's most out-of-control maniacs, made this list. But the ultimate heavy metal survivor's brush with death might surprise you, since it miraculously was not the result of a massive drug overdose.
But yeah, it still involved drugs. A little more than a decade ago, the Ozzman had been prescribed some heavy-duty anti-anxiety drugs (are there any other kind?) following his wife Sharon's recent cancer diagnosis. Doped into one of the stupors he so famously floated through on The Osbournes, the 55-year-old icon decided to take a nice four-wheeler ride across his English estate. Surprise! Something terrible happened.
Ozzy managed to flip the vehicle on to his body, which more or less flattened him. The singer suffered eight broken ribs, a punctured lung, a smashed collarbone and a crushed vertebra in his neck. The Daily Mail reported that Ozzy credited his bodyguard with bringing him back to life twice by giving him mouth-to-mouth while paramedics were en route. The metal madman remained in a coma for eight long days following the accident.
1. Nikki Sixx Of all the glammed-out '80s sleaze rockers, possibly none of them had a bigger death wish than Motley Crue's Nikki Sixx -- and Lord knows that's sayin' somethin'. Once again, the drug of choice in this tale of mortality is heroin. In December of 1987, the same year the Crue released their feminist opus Girls, Girls, Girls, Sixx was hitting the horse rather hard, partying in a hotel room with pals from Guns N' Roses and Ratt. After one syringe too many, Sixx stopped breathing and began turning blue.
Paramedics were called, but it appeared to be too late. In Motley's autobiography, The Dirt, Sixx describes his post-mortem out-of-body experience:
I tried to sit up to figure out what was going on. I thought it would be hard to lift my body. But to my surprise, I shot upright, as if I weighed nothing. Then it felt as if something very gentle was grabbing my head and pulling me upward. Above me, everything was bright white.
I looked down and realized I had left my body. Nikki Sixx--or the filthy, tattooed container that had once held him--was lying covered face-to-toe with a sheet on a gurney being pushed by medics into an ambulance.
Sixx was given two shots of adrenaline to the heart, which managed to revive his lifeless body. When he came to in the hospital, he popped the tubes out of his arm, hit the streets and hitched a ride home, where he shot up with more heroin. That, my friends, is addiction. The incident would go on to inspire one of Motley Crue's best songs, "Kickstart My Heart."
ROCKS OFF'S GREATEST HITS
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.