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12 Music myths (you totally believe) debunked

Music – and particularly rock music – is littered with so many instances of outrageous debauchery, excess and ridiculousness that it's hard to believe any of it actually happened. However, while much of it actually did, there exist those made-up stories that, despite their unlikeliness, have persisted in the minds of fans. Some may sound reasonable, but there are others that only the truly conspiratorial or mentally impaired would believe. We take a run through the fantastical, and often depraved, myths that exist in the world of music.

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"Keef's" new blood

Legendary wild man and Rolling Stones guitarist Keith “Keef” Richards had put a lot of impurities into his system, even as early as 1973. This prompted him to seek the services of medical professionals in Switzerland, where his blood underwent a cleansing procedure. Quizzed relentlessly by the media about it, Richards eventually spun them the line that he had actually received a complete blood transfusion. The lie gained legs and now exists as one of the most enduring rock myths.

Dead as a (love me) dodo

In 1967 rumours began that Paul McCartney had died in a car accident. Unswayed by McCartney's continuing public appearances and song-writing, conspiracy theorists suggested he had been replaced by a look-alike – one that, presumably, has continued the charade to this day. Seemingly, despite going to such hard work to cover up the rouse, the sceptics claimed there were multiple tip-offs and inferences in The Beatles' subsequent work, such as the cover of Abbey Road that is meant to represent McCartney's funeral procession.

Sale of a soul

One of the oldest music myths is the wild, but quite cool, story of how early Delta bluesman Robert Johnson gained his expert guitar skills. While walking the streets one night – prior to attaining his talents – he is said to have met the devil at a crossroads. The devil offered him the guitar skills he desired, but the cost was his soul. Johnson agreed and instantly began blowing people away when he picked up his six-string. Real or not, it's certainly a better story than one of hard work and practice.

What a choke

In a case of adding insult to injury, the story that emerged after the death of “Mama” Cass Elliot was always going to be food-related. The musical – and physical – heavyweight of the Mamas and the Papas died of a heart attack in 1974, but the story that a lot of people know is that she choked on a ham sandwich. Reports suggest there was a sandwich in the room, but this was not held responsible for her death. In tragic irony, the heart attack may have been brought on by extreme weight loss that Elliot had accomplished through crash dieting.

A gentle ribbing

What to get the man who has everything? Perhaps a rib removed so he can practice oral sex on himself. The rumour that rock-god Prince had this procedure done abounded in the early 90s, but it later became attributed to chalk-faced antichrist Marilyn Manson. Even if you ignore the obvious physiological improbabilities of the procedure, such a devil-may-care attitude to personal well-being would probably make it unlikely the pair had ribs removed. It's a horrific image either way, and the person who started this rumour should hang their head in shame. Which they are probably doing anyway if they too have had this procedure done.

Going Gaga

One transformation Lady Gaga never intended to make was that from possessing female and then male genitalia. When one enthusiastic photographer presented the world with a crotch-shot that seemed to show Gaga's meat and two veg, the world lapped it up, sparking rumours that she was either a man or a hermaphrodite. The queen of pantomime and eccentric stage performances responded by saying she wasn't upset, but her vagina might be.

Don't have a cow

In one of the most unlikely music myths, tongue-flapping Kiss bass-player Gene Simmons is said to have had his most famous appendage transplanted from a cow. His tongue is fabulously long and highly mobile, but, most impressively, is actually human. Had it been successfully grafted from a cow, it would make it the most successful – and most pointless – transplant from an animal to a human.

Oh brother, where art thou?

Almost as soon as the White Stripes blazed onto the music scene in the early 21st century, rumours about Jack and Meg White's relationship flew. Were they siblings? Lovers? Both? The story that spread most rapidly was that they were siblings, but this is not the case. The pair were married, but divorced before making it famous. One slightly unusual element of the facts is that Jack took Meg's name when they married, his birth surname being Gillis.

Elvis has left...

The most enduring and widespread music myth has to be that Elvis didn't really die on August 16 1977. Hillbillies across America continue to challenge his family and his medical team's belief that the King died on the toilet in Graceland that day, aged 42. Many continue to spot the hip-thrusting trailblazer in an endless variety of banal situations, and even some more fantastical ones, like on board UFOs. It seems that the bigger the star, the more outrageous the myth.

Getting puffed

Ask most people what the children's song “Puff the Magic Dragon” is about and they will say it's about smoking marijuana. “Puff,” “draggin',” it's all in there. However, all of those involved in writing and performing the original song have strenuously denied the allegations. Co-author Peter Yarrow said the song was simply about how hard it can be to grow older and the loss of innocence. However, the myth continues.

Pump up the volume

Like the “rib-removed” myth above, one music myth has been attributed to multiple stars – the most common in this case being Rod Stewart. The myth says that Stewart had been so enthusiastic while pleasuring a fleet of sailors that he had to have his stomach pumped of the resultant ingested fluids. Nice. Stewart has reacted to the myth with weary good-humour, which continues to raise its stomach-churning head to this day.

Related: 12 "Fun facts" that are complete and utter lies, but you believe them

A Mars a day...

When the Rolling Stones were busted for drugs, the story itself was simply not enough for one enterprising journalist. A rumour started that Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger had been romantically engaged with his girlfriend Marianne Faithful at the time the police raided, although not in traditional style. The story was that Jagger had been enjoying a Mars bar, being held by Miss Faithful, although not with her hands. Stones guitarist Keith Richards has publicly said the story is false. “We were all out of Mars bars,” he said.

Related: Top 10 rockers who should be dead but aren't

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About the Author

Robert Macintosh is a full-time journalist based in Northern Ireland. He has accumulated eight years’ experience since 2005, writing for magazines, newspapers and websites in various countries. Macintosh has specialised in politics and entertainment. He has an honours degree in social anthropology, an NVQ level 4 in newspaper journalism and an AS Level in photography.

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