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Shock rock is a wide umbrella term for artists who combine rock music with elements of theatrical shock value in live performances.

History and roots

Screamin' Jay Hawkins was arguably the first shock rocker. After the success of his 1957 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, among other gimmicks. 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 Festivalmarker in 1967, while Detroitmarker musician Iggy Pop's violent, erratic onstage persona drew widespread recognition, as Pop would often throw his body about the stage, frequently injuring his band members.

With a career spanning the mid-1960s to recent years, American band leader Alice Cooper refined shock rock, with expensive, upscale illusionary, graphic stunts, such as feigning decapitation with the use of elaborate special effects. In the early 1970s, Cooper's unique blend of heavy metal and folk-blues, complete with sardonic and inevitably controversial lyrics, proved a powerful inspiration for many future genre artists such as KISS of the mid 1970s, W.A.S.P. and King Diamond of the '80s and Marilyn Manson of the 1990s. Cooper is the one who has been credited for inventing true shock rock, as well as trade-marking shock rock.

Punk rock spawned a new wave of shock rockers. The Sex Pistols have long been considered one of the most rowdy punk bands in the history of the genre, as their gritty Britmarkerpunk sound and anti-authoritarian lyrics tended to complement their loud, raucous, and often drunken onstage behavior. Bassist Sid Vicious was known to wear swastika t-shirts to concerts for the sake of provoking a reaction from the audience.

Lou Reed's frequent unpleasantness and mid-1970s habit of simulating an intravenous heroin injection whilst performing might also be considered a shock rock act of synergistic theatricality, especially when conducted during his band The Velvet Underground's song "Heroin".

From the late 1970s to his death in 1993, punk rock, country, and spoken word performer GG Allin was known less for his music than for his wildly transgressive antics, which included performing naked, defecating on stage, consuming the excrement and throwing it at the audience, receiving oral sex from fans, self mutilation, fights with the audience and his band members, and allegedly setting a fan on fire after one show in Ann Arbor, Michiganmarker.[59175]Perhaps Allin's most famous stunt was his claim that he would kill himself onstage in a sacrifice to rock and roll, though he died of a drug overdose before being able to see this threat through.

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. Incidentally, GWAR later condemned fellow shock rockers The Mentors, whose shows typically featured graphic live sex acts, on The Jerry Springer Show, for being "too over the top." [59176]

Post shock rock

Over the late 1990s and on into the 2000s, Shock Rock's power to outrage waned considerably. In turn, Shock Rock's public profile and effectiveness has similarly worn low. A few bands like Piledriver, Slipknot and Mushroomhead wear masks and costumes on stage for "shock value". Recently, bands like Mindless Self Indulgence adopted the shock rock formula, albeit in a more comedic, satirical style.

Notable acts

See also



  • Furek, Maxim W. (2008). "The Death Proclamation of Generation X: A Self-Fulfilling Prophesy of Goth, Grunge and Heroin." i-Universe. ISBN 978-0-595-46319-0
  • Haenfler, Ross (2006). Straight Edge: Hardcore Punk, Clean-Living Youth, and Social Change (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press). ISBN 0-8135-3852-1
  • Leblanc, Lauraine (1999). Pretty in Punk: Girls' Gender Resistance in a Boys' Subculture (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press). ISBN 0-8135-2651-5
  • Lydon, John (1995). Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs (New York: Picador). ISBN 0-312-11883-X
  • McNeil, Legs, and Gillian McCain (1997). Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk (New York: Penguin Books). ISBN 0-14-026690-9
  • Raha, Maria (2005). Cinderella's Big Score: Women of the Punk and Indie Underground (Emeryville, Calif.: Seal). ISBN 1-58005-116-2
  • Reynolds, Simon (2005). Rip It Up and Start Again: Post Punk 1978–1984 (London and New York: Faber and Faber). ISBN 0-571-21569-6
  • Robb, John (2006). Punk Rock: An Oral History (London: Elbury Press). ISBN 0-09-190511-7
  • Sabin, Roger (1999). Punk Rock, So What? The Cultural Legacy of Punk (London: Routledge). ISBN 0-415-17030-3.
  • Savage, Jon (1991). England's Dreaming: The Sex Pistols and Punk Rock (London: Faber and Faber). ISBN 0-312-28822-0
  • Simpson, Paul (2003). The Rough Guide to Cult Pop: The Songs, the Artists, the Genres, the Dubious Fashions (London: Rough Guides). ISBN 1-84353-229-8
  • Taylor, Steven (2003). False Prophet: Field Notes from the Punk Underground (Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press). ISBN 0-8195-6668-3

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