There’s a certain freedom that comes with being onstage playing music to a crowd. Even though the constant travel miles on the soul might be hard, there are no rules for owning the stage for a few hours. With that freedom, sometimes being clothed becomes a suggestion and not a requirement, as artists such as Green Day and Rage Against the Machine proved when they performed naked to controversial results.
Throughout rock history, a number of artists have gone onstage in the nude, perhaps, as an attempt to bring a greater spontaneity to the gig. Given the modesty of clothing seemingly isn’t an issue anymore, every one of the musicians listed below spoke about having a great time letting their freak flag fly when they performed. Granted, playing naked also meant dealing with the repercussions that came afterwards.
Although the performances might have gone over well with fans, some of these artists were charged with indecent exposure after the show ended. Despite seeming a bright idea at the time, inclusions on this list have acted as major setbacks for bands and led to legal trouble.
While not all of these performances were derived to be sexual, their intent isn’t always considered by those in attendance. Although the crowd might notice the nudity, playing music has always been about carrying energy to another place through any means possible.
10 infamous naked performances by rock stars:
Towards the end of the ’60s, The Doors started going off the rails. While the musicians held things together instrumentally, Jim Morrison’s drinking was getting out of control, which often led to some hairy situations whenever he rambled onstage. When the band set up shop in Florida, what should have been a hometown gig for Morrison quickly turned into a crime scene.
In the middle of the performance, Morrison starts mocking the crowd, telling them that they’re all a bunch of slaves. After asking the crowd whether they want something more than just a standard rock and roll show, he allegedly exposed himself to the crowd before law enforcement subdued him and ended the show.
While Morrison tried to laugh it off in the press, his eventual arrest for indecent exposure led to him losing his creative spark. From this show onward, The Doors remained in the studio for LA Woman before Morrison left for Paris to spend his new life with his girlfriend Pam. Though Morrison would be found dead of heart failure a few months after going to Paris, his creative spirit died the minute that he was subdued in Florida.
There’s a strong chance that Blink-182 will always be known as a pop-punk band with a tendency to get naked. Whether they knew it at the time, seeing them go full frontal in the video for ‘What’s My Age Again’ became an iconic image, as the rest of the world looked at their bare bodies in bewilderment and hilarity. As it turns out, the Billboard Music Awards thought that Blink’s lack of modesty was more marketable than they realised.
Blink-182 were asked to host the 1999 Billboard Music Awards, but only if they stripped down for the occasion. While the censors wouldn’t let them bare everything onstage, most of their speeches throughout the night were made with gigantic cutouts of the Billboard charts across their sensitive areas. Though Blink have grown up in the years since this stunt, the image of them running through the streets of California has followed them.
The entire premise behind Queens of the Stone Age was no rules. When Joshua Homme left the stoner rock outfit Kyuss, he grasped his opportunity to have fun with some of his best friends. As they started to get more prominent, Nick Oliveri started to have a little too much fun and took to the stage in the nude.
During the tour cycle for Songs for the Deaf, the bass player would occasionally get onstage naked, with only the bass covering up his more delicate parts. Then again, the bass wouldn’t keep his manhood hidden for long, culminating in a few shows where Oliveri smashed his instrument in front of the crowd and let everything else fly. Though it might have worked as a one-time thing, Oliveri’s escapades were set in stone on video.
Whilst filming the tour, Queens were recording a video for the song ‘First It Giveth’, and a crucial part of the video shows one of those moments where Oliveri is flying off the handle with his bass.
There appears to be a certain punk rock element about getting up onstage naked. Since the establishment would prefer that the talent at least put on a pair of pants, rock and roll is always about going against the grain, which means going naked onstage sometimes, like GG Allin.
Although acts like the Sex Pistols regularly shocked audiences, Allin blew them out of the water and was an absolute madman when he stepped up to the microphone. From the minute his shows started, no one was safe, as he arrived onstage nude and destroyed the crowd and himself. Though a lot of blood was spilt onstage, things turned dark when the faecal matter became part of the act.
During a handful of his shows, Allin’s calling card was defecating in his hand and then throwing it out into the crowd while the band played around him. There are millions of people trying to find the next way to shock the people, but when someone throws shit around like a caveman, the punk rock argument has been settled.
Alice in Chains
Alice in Chains are not the first band that one would think of for getting into a hijinx onstage. Since they were the lovechild of grunge rock and Black Sabbath, half of their songs were meant to be more sludgy than anything to strip for. However, pranks were never out of the question, and Alice In Chains shocked Van Halen by arriving onstage in their skivvies.
While Van Halen originally booked the group on the tour because they thought they would look cool alongside the alternative generation, Alice In Chains’ way of repaying them involved getting onstage with thongs as the band played. A woman’s thong would not hold the band’s manhood for long, and Jerry Cantrell had mentioned having to cover himself up when they mockingly parodied Van Halen’s trademark march alongside them onstage.
Instead of being furious, Eddie Van Halen took the entire thing in stride, laughing it off and even missing a few notes when coming back into the song because of how hilarious it was. The band might not have been from the same world as Van Halen, but they must have done something different to make a virtuoso like Eddie Van Halen screw up onstage.
Billie Joe Armstrong
When Dookie was released, Green Day started losing some of their punk credentials. The mission statement behind their scene was about going against the mainstream, so why were they suddenly signed to a major label and singing songs that everyone heard on the radio? They may have returned home as pariahs of their local scene, but Billie Joe Armstrong hadn’t even begun to upset the establishment.
During the world tour for Dookie, Armstrong had the idea of coming out nude and playing ‘She’. Though the fans loved it, the police covering the show were less than enthused and were waiting on the side of the stage with a pair of handcuffs when Armstrong walked off.
While Armstrong was let out on bail, the main reason the police decided to take him to jail was because of the clientele in the audience, some of whom were as young as ten years old at the time. A punk band playing nude might not have been unusual at the time, but some kid’s punk rock awakening might have come amid Armstrong’s manhood swinging in the wind.
When The Stooges emerged on the scene, there was no limit to what Iggy Pop could do. Though intellectuals had raised him, Pop always believed that there was something about rock and roll that spoke to the reptilian side of the brain. One evening when he went onstage, he decided to test that theory by stripping everything off.
As The Stooges started to blow up in Detroit, Pop thought it would be a good idea to get his ‘little Iggy’ out every once in a while, including a show where he rested it on top of an amplifier for the majority of the show. Despite the lurid behaviour, this was bound to be a footnote in what Pop would get up to in front of the mic.
Aside from exposing himself, Pop popularised walking on the crowd’s hands during the show and went so far as to self-mutilate himself onstage, where he would cut himself up and get off the stage covered in his own blood. Pop may have wanted to wake people up, but having this much sensory overload is bound to scare fans if they aren’t careful.
Rage Against The Machine
Whenever a band plays naked onstage, they send a graphic message. Even if their memo is about having fun doing their job, the act of stripping down tells the fans that rules don’t apply to them and they can do whatever they want once they set foot on that platform. In the case of Rage Against The Machine, they drove that message home directly and didn’t even need music to do it.
When playing Lollapalooza 1993, Rage opened the show nude with no instruments and duct tape over their mouths. Standing in a row, everyone had a letter on their chest spelling out PMRC about the censorship laws cracking down on the lurid pieces of pop music.
Though no music was played that date, Rage practised what they preached, always pushing the envelope in their packaging and performing in front of the New York Stock Exchange a few years later for the video for ‘Sleep Now in the Fire’. Since their first record has a picture of a Buddhist monk burning himself alive, fans know they’d have to step things up whenever they had imagery to the stage.
Red Hot Chili Peppers
For as far as the Red Hot Chili Peppers have come, the whole exercise started as a dumb joke. When Flea and Anthony Kiedis were messing around with some mischievous friends from school, the Peppers came into existence when writing a song for laughs and getting a callback from the club to play again. They were never an ordinary band, and they spent the rest of their lives seeing what they could get away with onstage.
When the band were playing the club circuit in California, Kiedis originally had the idea for them coming out for the encore naked. Though they backed out of playing naked the first handful of times, they found a way around through a pair of cosy gym socks. Taping their junk to their respective areas, the band got into a habit of playing their encores with their socks out, even posing with the socks for an EP they made at Abbey Road Studios.
That wasn’t even the last time that one of the members stripped everything down, with Flea playing the entirety of the band’s Woodstock 1999 set completely naked as fire raged in the background. The Peppers have always been known for their funky fresh good time spirit, and when they’re this in tune with the music, clothes are merely a suggestion.
Prince was never shy about his body. When listening through the discography of the ‘Purple One’, the man liked sex and was unashamed about that fact, offering up a selection of the raunchiest thoughts that music has ever presented. Though his songs were always killer, the performance was not always the best for live television.
When performing at the VMAs in 1990, Prince was playing through his set when he flashed the crowd with a pair of trousers with a hole in the bottom area. Though there wasn’t anything too revealing behind the scenes, the camera captured Prince’s buttocks in full view, with the performance moving on as if nothing had ever happened.
With a performer like Prince, the fact that this is the raunchiest that he got on live TV is almost tame. From his performance in Purple Rain to appearing in the video of ‘When Doves Cry’ crawling out of a bathtub, Prince was always comfortable in his own skin and would show some more of that skin for anyone who was willing to watch. The PMRC may have started directly in response to Prince’s behaviour, but nothing was going to get in the way of him expressing himself.
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