PG-13 – Parents Strongly Cautioned – Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13 –
Strangely, one of the buzzword of the moment in marketing is the word “buzz”, it seems like every organization wants to create some buzz, but many of these organizations fail to do so when it comes to create what can be considered as “The Buzz”. When it comes to buzz, one interesting inspiration is the music industry. Last week, the German industrial-metal band Rammstein gave an eccentric show in Quebec City using pyrotechnics to accompany – and as part of – their musical performance (for more on this performance, I recommend these three videos: Part I (starting at 1:54), Part II, Part III). However, this story is no exception in the world of music, and especially when it comes to rock and metal music. This is why, in this post, I proposed you a summary of the most prominent Buzz-building actors in the history of Rock and Metal music. This also illustrates how the music industry can be an interesting playground when it comes to generate/test new ideas. So open your eyes and let’s get ready for some in-your-face stories.
1. Alice Cooper – The Father of Theatrical Live Shows
Considered by many experts as one of the father of theatrical live shows, Alice Cooper emerged at the end of the 60’s and had most of his success in the 70’s presenting live shows that features guillotines, electric chairs, fake blood, boa constructor and baby doll. However, it is during a show at the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival in September 1969 that his reputation developed, when spectators thrown a live chicken on stage and Cooper picked it up and had thrown it out over the crowd expecting the chicken to fly away. Naturally, instead of flying, the chicken plummeted into the first rows occupied by disabled people in wheelchairs, who reportedly proceeded to tear the animal to pieces. On the next day, the incident made the front page of multiple national newspapers which reported “that he had bitten the head off the chicken and drunk its blood on stage”. It was only the beginning of a new era.
Representative video -> School’s Out (See below)
2. Black Sabbath – The First Heavy Metal Band
Formed in 1968 in Birmingham, United Kingdom (UK), by a line-up including vocalist Ozzy Osbourne and guitarist Tony Iommi, Black Sabbath has been named as the “Greatest Metal Band of all time” by MTV. However, along with being extremely heavy for the 60’s, Black Sabbath fame on stage performance came when singer Ozzy Osbourne ate a bat (pigeon) on stage during a concert (See this video for those interested: Ozzy Osbourne eating a bat). The band was also known for its performance on stage, especially the one of vocalist Ozzy Osbourne who was always shaking his head while bent at the post of the microphone; a gesture which influenced a generation of music bands. After Ozzy Osbourne was replaced in 1979, Ronnie James Dio took the stage as vocalist and is often credited as having popularized the famous “devil sign” which is similar to the “sign of the horns” in Mediterranean countries.
Representative video -> Iron Man (See below)
3. Kiss – Putting the “Brand” in the “Band”
Well-known as a rock’n’roll band, it is more as a rock’n’roll “brand” that Kiss have made its name. Formed in 1973 in New York City by a line-up including guitarist/singer Paul Stanley and bassist Gene Simmons, Kiss made itself a name using specific makeup design, and presenting live shows which featured fire breathing, blood spitting, smoking guitars, and pyrotechnics. The band is also known for having licensed its name to more than 2,000 product categories. As a lucky one, I had the opportunity to attend one of their concerts last year in Quebec City last summer. Even at 60 years old, they were still entertaining.
Representative video -> Detroit Rock City (See below)
4. Guns N’ Roses – Sexy Hair, Sexy Girls and Unsexy Incidents
Led by eccentric and undisciplined vocalist Axl Rose, as well as guitarist Slash, Guns N’ Rose (GNR) was considered as an icon band of the Glam/Hair Metal movement in the 80’s. Their looks and attitude included debauched lifestyles of late-night parties (widely covered in the tabloid press), very long backcombed hair, use of make-up, gaudy clothing and accessories (chiefly consisting of tight denim or leather jeans, spandex, and headbands). GNR’s vocalist Axl Rose is also famous for tackling a fan who was illegally filming the show with a camera. After being pulled out of the crowd by members of the band, Rose said: “Well, thanks to the lame-ass security, I’m going home!”, slammed his microphone on the ground and stormed off stage. Furthermore, in 1992, at Montreal Olympic Stadium, as GNR were performing the second part after Metallica’s vocalist James Hedfield was injured on stage after stepping too close to a pyrotechnics blast, GNR were therefore forced to go on stage earlier. The sound wasn’t really good, and after some songs, Axl Rose decided to end the show, claiming that his throat was hurting. This behaviour later led to an infamous riot around Olympic Stadium.
Representative video -> Welcome to the Jungle (See below)
5. Metallica – Attitude and Talent
Formed in 1981 in Los Angeles, California and known as the premier band when it comes to trash metal and modern metal music, Metallica brought a lot of attitude and a more manly approach to metal music. The band also brought extremely raw performances which notably include Kirk Hammett solos on guitar and Lars Ulrich now famous fast drumming technique. Furthermore, there was a time where the band was nicknamed by some metal specialists as Alcoholica due to abuse of alcohol. The story behind the band is exposed in the 2004 documentary entitled “Some Kind of Monster”.
Representative video -> Enter Sandman (See below)
6. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Never too Hot
Formed in 1983 in Los Angeles, California by members including vocalist Anthony Kiedis and bassist Flea, the band soon made their reputation of special live performances and California style wearing. The band has made its reputation out of eccentricity with the infamous “sox on cox” outfit where each of the members where playing live on stage naked with only a long sock to cover their genitals (See in this video: Sox on cox). However, after some years in the dark, the band finally earned success after recording the cult album “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” in 1991.
Representative video -> Give it Away (See below)
Parody of the video by Weird Al Yankovic -> Bedrock Anthem
7. Nirvana – The Anti-Marketing Attitude
Emerging as the most popular band of the Seattle grunge scene (Alice in Chains, Mudhoney, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden) with their second album entitled “Nevermind” in 1991, Nirvana was considered by many experts as the most influential “band” of the early “90’s”. The band adopted an “anti-marketing” attitude and casual wearing such as the infamous grunge shirt. It was a time in the 90’s where it was common to cross on the street a group of teenagers all wearing a Nirvana t-shirt. Unfortunately, the activities of the band suddenly ended, when vocalist Kurt Cobain committed suicide in 1994.
Representative video -> Smells Like Teen Spirit (See below)
8. Marilyn Manson – Whatever it Looks Like, As Long as Its Ugly
Professional provoker Marilyn Manson alias Brian Hugh Warner, started to terrify parents of teenagers in the early 90’s. Everything he made since then is perfectly described in the sentence: “talk to me in good, talk to me in bad, as long as you talk about me”. Furthermore, in the case of Marilyn Manson there had always been a duality between the beauty and the beast as the Marilyn Manson name comes from the contraction of the busty “Marilyn Monroe” and the infamous murderer “Charles Manson”.
Representative video -> Sweet Dreams (cover of Eurythmics; See below)
9. Rammstein – Sometimes Its Better Not to Understand German
Formed in 1994 in Berlin, Germany by members including one-time junior olympic swimmer Till Lindemann as vocalist. The band is well-known for their strange and provocative videos, unique music style that blends metal and industrial music, and provocative performance on stage. For instance, vocalist Till Lindeman is well-known for lighting himself on stage with fire (See video: Till Lindeman lights himself on stage) and masochist behaviors such as slapping himself. Other behaviors include when keyboardist Christian “Flake” Lorenz surfs over the crowd using an inflatable boat (See video: Christian “Flake” Lorenz surfs over the crowd using an inflatable boat).
Representative video -> Feuer Frei (See below)
10. Slipknot – Bad Clowns and Heavy Music
Emerging from Des Moines, Iowa with their first album simply entitled “Slipknot” in 1999, and with a first video clip entitled “Wait and Bleed” and banned on MTV, the 8-member band was once considered as the heaviest band on earth. The band originally includes all members dressed with nasty clown masks that covers their actual identity and costumes that seem to be directly borrowed from a horror movie. The band is also characterized with extreme live performances which has culminates with the “Jump the f*** up” gesture. (See video: “Jump the f*** up” gesture)
Representative video -> Left Behind (See below)
In conclusion, are you inspired or are you simply disgusted by the description of these moments of buzz-building in the music industry? Did you understand the recipe: (1) a minimum of talent as a necessary condition, (2) a unique style, (3) cool wearing, (4) special live shows and (5) attitude!!! Any other popular bands that could/should have been considered as a major buzz-building actor in the rock and metal music industry without copying too much the style of these already described bands?
6 thoughts on “Looking to Create Some Buzz – Get Inspired by the Top 10 Buzz-building Actors of the Rock and Metal Music Industry History”
Mr. Belisle, after the lecture of you last post, I wonder if it was easier for bands of the eighties and nineties to create a «buzz» than it can be for bands of today. The « buzz » examples you gave, from Alice Cooper to Slipknot, are full of sexual and violent content or provocative materials of all sort. I would have the tendency to think that after decades of a society strained in the rigidity of moral and religious rules, anything that offered something « un-politically and unmorally correct » was like a breath of fresh air for the youth of these years, looking for more freedom. In this way, it seems that it’s in the possibility to be in contradiction with their society that these bands gave to their public (fans) what was appealing.
But in 2010, with most youth that have seen everything at the age of twelve and is not impressed anymore by scenes that would have given an heart attack to their grand-mothers and not impressed by technology-oriented performances after they saw their first 3D movie at the age of 4, what can a band do that has not been done to create a buzz? I am thinking of this with the example of Arcade Fire in mind. This band creates a buzz at each of their album releasing or show by not saying or announcing much about it. The mystery « aura » and the secret around them are what create in important part of the attraction for them. Fans want to become a part of the private event their shows tend to look like and, finally, are just one in millions of other fans watching for a sign of the group anywhere on the web or small local papers.
So, in conclusion, if the « in-your-face-full-of-controversy » staging and rebel attitude of the bands presented in your post were the ingredient to create a buzz in the past, is it possible that, in counter-part, mystery, secrecy and even sobriety are a bit of «what to do» if an actual band want to become a legend?
Amazing comment Michèle and this is mainly for these types of comments that I’m still writing my blog. First of all, I must agree that at first sight, it can appear more difficult than before to create an instant buzz due to the fact that everyone tries to create a buzz and that users/consumers/fans are mostly spoiled with information. However, I must admit that if a band wants to target youth, they have to keep in mind that most youth are born in the 90’s and haven’t seen the 80’s. In a different type of music, Lady Gaga is not that innovative with all her costumes and looks and she can be considered as the “flavour of the day”, it’s mostly entertainment, and most of what she is doing would not have impressed anyone in the 80’s.
On the other hand, I must admit that comparing the rock and metal bands I highlighted to Arcade Fire is similar to compare Apples to Oranges, since they are in a different type of artistic approach and they have a different type of targets. I would compare the case of Arcade Fire to the one of Radiohead and Pearl Jam, who all voluntarily limit their presence in the media, in the way that they are their own media, and they perfectly mixed “popularity” and “scarcity” to create envy.
I see Axl Rose and the boys got booed off stage at Dublin – those annoying music-lovers get everywhere LOL!
Thanks for your comment Hazel, you’re so right, Axl is certainly one of the most unpredictable music performer of all time, fans should like him for its good and bad side at the same time, anyway.