10 Infamous Rockstar Arrests
The Doors live in 1967 - TheDoors Best
It’s an unspoken contract that rockstars are paid to be as unruly, wild, and live life in excess. Some of them do this for the onstage appeal but shake off the persona in their private lives, but others really live up to the stereotype no matter the circumstance. But while it does help with paying the bills, it doesn’t exempt them from the law at all. Here are some of the most infamous arrests of rockstars that have made headlines and soiled their already-stained reputations.
Zappa was arrested after a 1965 Chicago show, which all started because of a chance encounter he had with a fan. He was approached by a person who claimed to be a used car salesman who wanted to buy an audiotape from him having sex for the sum of $100. Seeing as wanting to make a profit, Zappa decided to fake the sex noises for an easy buck. But as he was about to hand the fabricated tape over the next day, he was arrested as the man turned out to be an undercover cop. He was charged with conspiracy to commit pornography and had his studio stripped of all documented material.
He even made the headlines the next day on The Daily Report, which read: “Vice Squad investigators stilled the tape recorders of a free-swinging, a-go-go film and recording studio here Friday and arrested a self-styled movie producer”.
While Johnny Cash’s more notorious misadventures weren’t unheard of, an arrest in 1965 stood out the most in his career. He was caught red-handed picking flowers, an offense even Cash himself could get arrested for. Cash was drunk from an evening of drinking and wound up on a farmer’s field after doing a show at Mississipi State University. He was arrested for trespassing, where he claimed he was taking a shortcut to buy cigarettes at a nearby store.
He was eventually pardoned (posthumously) in 2007 as part of the town’s Johnny Cash Flower Pickin’ Festival which saw citizens gather on the Mississipi State University grounds for the ceremonial pardon.
The Clash wasn’t in the best of shape during their 1980 German tour, but things were way worse with Strummer. As a result, he was arrested at their Hamburg Show. According to him: “In Hamburg these kids attacked us, going ‘You’ve sold out, you’ve sold out’. But I figured that they hadn’t come to that conclusion, it was rather a trendy supposition that they thought ‘Oh, we’ll follow that’. I don’t think they worked it out using their own brains. A tough year. I mean, it’s changed my mind a lot. That Hamburg thing was kind of a watershed, y’know?
“How much can a man take, y’know? I was playing and I saw this guy, sort of using the guy in front of him as a punch-bag, trying to be all tough. So I rapped him on the head with a Telecaster, I just lost my temper. After that, after I’d been taken down the cop station and charged with assaulting a German citizen by striking him over the head with a guitar, I began to think that I’d overstepped my mark.”
The Who were in the middle of performing Tommy at the Fillmore East in their 1969 tour when trouble presented itself – costing Townshend in the process. They were doing “Summertime Blues” when a plain-clothed policeman jumped onstage and tried to take the mic off Roger Daltrey’s hands, who defended himself in the process. Seeing it happen, Townshend took a swing at the man with a heavy boot.
The reason why the policeman did that, was to warn people that there was a fire from the grocery store next door and have them evacuated asap, only to be hit in the groin by the guitarist. Townshend did the night in a jail cell and was fined $30 in the process.
March 12, 1969 – a date memorable to the Beatles for two reasons: Paul McCartney’s marriage to Linda, and the unfortunate drug raid on George Harrison’s estate. The “random” search found no less than 120 joints on the Esher estate – along with the stuff hidden in one of Harrison’s shoes (which he strongly denies).
They were found guilty in court and were fined £250 plus 10 guineas each, but what really irked Harrison was the police tailing them wherever they went. “I hope the police will leave us alone now,” he said upon leaving the court. The officer behind the raid, Detective Sergeant Norman Pilcher, was later convicted of planting evidence in other cases and was jailed in 1972.
The Guns N’ Roses frontman has been notorious for his stage antics right from the start, but the St. Louis incident on July 2, 1991, takes the cake on his naughty list. He saw a fan videotaping the band and snapped at him, shouting “Wait, take that! Take that! Now! Get that guy and take that!” Wanting to take matters into his own hands, he dove into the audience and began to assault them, the security team included. It was only then when he was pulled out by crew members where he grabbed the mic and said: “Well, thanks to the lame-ass security, I’m going home!” and slammed it on the ground.
His bandmates didn’t know how to react, as Slash responded in panic: “He just smashed the microphone. We’re out of here.” After that, a three-hour riot ensued that resulted in massive equipment and venue damages and injuries, leading to the ban of the group from the city.
According to keyboardist Ray Manzarek, Jim Morrison was fooling around with a fan in a backstage shower cubicle on their Newhaven concert in 1967 when a police officer chanced upon them. The officer didn’t know that Morrison was The Doors’ frontman, so he told the two to stop and leave. Morrison was uncooperative and taunted the officer, which went on until he and the woman were both sprayed with mace. This delayed the band’s show as they waited for Morrison to recover. When he went on stage, Morrison made an impromptu song about the said event, complete with vulgar imagery. This taunted the police officers surrounding the stage and ended with him being dragged off it, starting a riot as the crowd grew restless.
In Gordon’s schooling years, he and a friend escaped from responsibilities and decided to spend the day in Disneyland. They proceeded to the pirate-themed Tom Sawyer’s Island to smoke a joint until the facility’s police spotted them. She spent a night in an underground cell while leering officers asked her questions like: “Does your mother know you’re not wearing a bra?”
“I was writing this paper in my head about Disneyland and how fascist it was. It confirmed my beliefs about American consumerism. Consumerism is killing us,” she continued.
Arrest record-breaker Pete Doherty’s most unusual encounter with law enforcement came when he was caught in 2019 riding an electric scooter in the middle of the night while on the search for one of his huskies. To be fair, he didn’t know he was breaking the law as two officers who stopped him prior to asking for a selfie told him that it was okay as long as he stayed on the pavement. He obliged but was spotted later when he was riding it with his two huskies after he had found his missing dog.
He pleaded guilty to the offenses on top of driving a car without insurance, netting him a fine of £6,000 and was six points on his license, going over the 12-point limit that disqualified him from driving for two years.
Liam and Noel Gallagher decided to take the night out in the midst of their German tour after a show. It didn’t end up well as a mass brawl erupted with the police, who claimed that Liam kicked an officer in the ribs before losing several teeth, but Liam countered that it was the German police responsible for it.
He and two other band members got into a fight with five Italians in the Bayerischer Hof nightclub. “The boy didn’t look good. Several of his teeth were punched out,” said Munich police spokesperson Christoph Reichenbach.
In a 2018 interview with The Guardian, Gallagher said: “Here’s what I think happened. It all went down after I kicked a copper at some point in the fucking lobby, I think because after that I woke up in the fucking nick. So I think they give me a whack over the head in the back of the fucking van and I think they’ve just gone, ‘Fuck you, you cunt’, later on. Because they were pulled out completely perfect.”