|Cultural origins||1950s–1970s, United Kingdom and United States|
|Derivative forms||Horror punk|
|United Kingdom, United States|
Shock rock is the combination of rock music or heavy metal music with highly theatrical live performances emphasizing shock value. Performances may include violent or provocative behavior from the artists, the use of attention-grabbing imagery such as costumes, masks, or face paint, or special effects such as pyrotechnics or fake blood. Shock rock also often includes elements of horror.
A 2014 article in The Guardian stated, "British rock always was more theatrical than its US counterpart. Often this involved destruction or macabre gimmickry: The Move smashing TV sets, Arthur Brown and his flaming helmet, Screamin' Lord Sutch making a entrance from inside a coffin".
Screamin' Jay Hawkins was arguably the first shock rocker. After the success of his 1956 hit "I Put a Spell on You", Hawkins began to perform a recurring stunt at many of his live shows: he would emerge from a coffin, sing into a skull-shaped microphone and set off smoke bombs.Another artist who performed similar stunts was the British singer-songwriter Screaming Lord Sutch.
The 1960s brought several proto-shock rock artists. In the UK, The Who often destroyed their instruments, The Move did the same to television sets, and Arthur Brown wore vivid makeup and a flaming headpiece.In the US, Jimi Hendrix set his guitar alight at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. Detroit musician Iggy Pop of The Stooges adopted a violent, erratic onstage persona which drew widespread recognition, as Pop would often throw his body about the stage, frequently injuring his band members. Pop was known to wear a dog collar during some performances, along with arm length silver lamé gloves, exemplifying both shock and glam rock sensibilities. At at least one show in 1970, Pop smeared peanut butter on his body and threw it into the crowd as well.
On seeing Arthur Brown, Alice Cooper stated, "Can you imagine the young Alice Cooper watching that with all his make-up and hellish performance? It was like all my Halloweens came at once!"
The Plasmatics were an American punk rock band formed by Yale University art school graduate Rod Swenson with Wendy O. Williams. The band was a controversial group known for wild live shows. In addition to chainsawing guitars, blowing up speaker cabinets and sledgehammering television sets, Williams and the Plasmatics blew up automobiles live on stage. Williams was arrested in Milwaukee by the Milwaukee police before being charged with public indecency.Jim Farber of Sounds described the show: "Lead singer/ex-porn star/current weight lifter Wendy Orleans Williams (W.O.W. for short) spends most of the Plasmatics' show fondling her family size breasts, scratching her sweaty snatch and eating the drum kit, among other playful events".
From the late 1970s to his death in 1993, GG Allin was known less for his music than for his wildly transgressive antics,which included indecent exposure (stripping and performing naked was one of Allin's most common rituals), on-stage defecation, coprophagia, self-mutilation, and attacking audience members.
In the 1980s in Richmond, Virginia, Gwar formed as a collaboration of artists and musicians. The band members make their own lavish monster costumes, which they claim are inspired by many of the creatures from H. P. Lovecraft's literary multiverse, the Cthulhu Mythos. Gwar frequently incorporates extravagant theatrics into their shows, such as mock jousts and pretending to murder each other. Gwar condemned Eldon Hoke, the vocalist of the Mentors, during their appearance on The Jerry Springer Show , because he advocated rape during his interview.
In the 1990s and 2000s, Marilyn Manson became perhaps the most notable and well known act in shock rock. He was once dubbed by former US Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn) as "perhaps the sickest group ever promoted by a mainstream record company." Manson's stage antics, such as burning the American flag and ripping pages out of the Bible, have been the focus of protests throughout his career.Manson argued that every artist has their means of presentation and that his visual and vocal styles are merely a way for him to control the angle that his audience and the general public view and interpret what he is trying to convey artistically.
Glam rock is a style of rock music that developed in the United Kingdom in the early 1970s performed by musicians who wore outrageous costumes, makeup, and hairstyles, particularly platform shoes and glitter. Glam artists drew on diverse sources across music and throwaway pop culture, ranging from bubblegum pop and 1950s rock and roll to cabaret, science fiction, and complex art rock. The flamboyant clothing and visual styles of performers were often camp or androgynous, and have been described as playing with other gender roles. Glitter rock was a more extreme version of glam.
Death rock is a rock music subgenre incorporating horror elements and gothic theatrics. It emerged from punk rock on the West Coast of the United States in the early 1980s and overlaps with the gothic rock and horror punk genres. Notable death rock acts include Christian Death, Kommunity FK, 45 Grave, Zombina and the Skeletones, and Super Heroines.
Alice Cooper is an American singer, songwriter, and actor whose career spans over 50 years. With a raspy voice and a stage show that features numerous props, including pyrotechnics, guillotines, electric chairs, fake blood, reptiles, baby dolls, and dueling swords, Cooper is considered by music journalists and peers to be "The Godfather of Shock Rock". He has drawn equally from horror films, vaudeville, and garage rock to pioneer a macabre and theatrical brand of rock designed to shock audiences.
Arthur Wilton Brown is an English singer-songwriter best known for his flamboyant and theatrical performances, eclectic work and his powerful, wide-ranging operatic voice, in particular his high pitched banshee screams. He was also notable for his unique stage persona such as extreme facepaint and burning helmet.
The Plasmatics were an American punk rock and heavy metal band formed by Rod Swenson and Wendy O. Williams in New York City in 1977. They were a controversial group known for chaotic, destructive live shows and outrageous theatrics. These included chainsawing guitars, destroying speaker cabinets, sledgehammering television sets and blowing up automobiles live on stage. Williams was arrested in Milwaukee by the Milwaukee Police before being charged with public indecency.
Glam metal, also known as hair metal or pop metal, is a subgenre of heavy metal, which features pop-influenced hooks and guitar riffs, and borrows heavily from the fashion and image of 1970s glam rock.
Jalacy "Screamin' Jay" Hawkins was an American singer-songwriter, musician, actor, film producer, and boxer. Famed chiefly for his powerful, operatic vocal delivery and wildly theatrical performances of songs such as "I Put a Spell on You", he sometimes used macabre props onstage, making him an early pioneer of shock rock. He received a nomination for the Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male for his performance in the 1989 indie film Mystery Train.
Billion Dollar Babies is the sixth studio album by American rock band Alice Cooper, released in 1973. The album became the best selling Alice Cooper record at the time of its release, hit number one on the album charts in both the United States and the United Kingdom, and went on to be certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. The album has been retrospectively praised by such critics as Robert Christgau, Greg Prato of AllMusic, and Jason Thompson of PopMatters, but The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004) gave the album only two and a half stars.
Transgressive art is art that aims to transgress; i.e. to outrage or violate basic morals and sensibilities. The term transgressive was first used in this sense by American filmmaker Nick Zedd and his Cinema of Transgression in 1985. Zedd used it to describe his legacy with underground film-makers like Paul Morrissey, John Waters, and Kenneth Anger, and the relationship they shared with Zedd and his New York City peers in the early 1980s.
Corpse paint or corpsepaint is a style of black and white makeup used by black metal bands for concerts and band photos. The makeup is used to make the musicians appear inhuman, corpse-like, or demonic, and is perhaps "the most identifiable aspect of the black metal aesthetic."
Wendy Orlean Williams was an American singer, songwriter, and actress. Born in Webster, New York, she came to prominence as the lead singer of the punk rock band Plasmatics. She was noted for her onstage theatrics which included partial nudity, exploding equipment, firing a shotgun, and chainsawing guitars. Performing her own stunts in videos, she often sported a mohawk hairstyle. In 1985, during the height of her popularity as a solo artist, she was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.
American rock has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, rhythm and blues, and country music, and also drew on folk music, jazz, blues, and classical music. American rock music was further influenced by the British Invasion of the American pop charts from 1964 and resulted in the development of psychedelic rock.
Shock value is the potential of an image, text, action, or other form of communication, such as a public execution, to provoke a reaction of sharp disgust, shock, anger, fear, or similar negative emotions.
"School's Out" is a song first recorded as the title track of Alice Cooper's fifth album. It was released as the album's second single on April 26, 1972. It has been regarded as the band's signature song and reached number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100.
"Lunchbox" is a song by American rock band Marilyn Manson. It was released as the second single from their debut album, Portrait of an American Family (1994). A heavy metal song that features elements of death metal, industrial music and punk rock, "Lunchbox" was written by the band's eponymous vocalist, Daisy Berkowitz, and Gidget Gein, and produced by Manson with Trent Reznor. According to Berkowitz, the track was written as the frontman's plea to be left alone; it was also inspired by a time where Manson defended himself from bullies with a Kiss lunchbox. The track features elements of "Fire" (1968) performed by Arthur Brown, a musician who influenced the band.
This is a timeline documenting the formative events in heavy metal music before 1970.
"Rock Is Dead" is a song by American rock band Marilyn Manson. It was released as the third single from their third studio album, Mechanical Animals (1998). It was written by the band's eponymous frontman, along with bassist Twiggy Ramirez and keyboardist Madonna Wayne Gacy, and was produced by Manson, Michael Beinhorn and Sean Beavan. A glam rock and heavy metal track with elements of electronic music and grunge, the song features electric and bass guitars, keyboards, and live drums in its instrumentation. The song was featured on the soundtrack of the Wachowskis' film The Matrix (1999). It was also featured in the arcade street racing game, Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition.
Simon Reynolds is an English music journalist and author who began his professional career on the staff of Melody Maker in the mid-1980s, and has since gone on to freelance and publish a number of full-length books on music and popular culture, ranging from historical tomes on rave music, glam rock, and the post-punk era to critical works such as Retromania: Pop Culture's Addiction to Its Own Past (2011).
Metal Evolution is a 2011 documentary series directed by anthropologist and filmmaker Sam Dunn and director, producer and music supervisor Scot McFadyen about heavy metal subgenres, with new episodes airing every Friday at 10 pm EST on MuchMore and Saturday at 10pm EST on VH1 Classic. Its origins come from Dunn's first documentary Metal: A Headbanger's Journey, which included the acclaimed "Heavy Metal Family Tree."
Haunted Garage is a horror punk/heavy metal band from Los Angeles, California, formed in 1985. Fronted by B-movie actor Dukey Flyswatter, the band is known for their campy science fiction and horror movie-inspired songs and elaborately bloody and prop-filled stage shows.