Whenever dozens of stars converge for a night to celebrate their efforts, there will inevitably be something that happens 20 years later where everyone still goes, “Remember when…?” With just a brief time in the spotlight, it serves as a chance for artists to make a meteoric impact with hundreds of thousands, even millions of watchful eyes fixed on the glowing screen, forsaking all else in their world for just a couple hours of can’t-miss entertainment.
Controversy seems to be the most effective measure in the long term, so what better place to start than the 31st annual Grammy Awards?
1989: Jethro Tull Win Grammy for Best Hard Rock / Metal Performance Over Metallica
This is the one everybody knows about. Metallica were figured to be a shoe-in for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Vocal or Instrumental at the 1989 Grammys. Alice Cooper took the stage in a studded leather jacket alongside guitar goddess Lita Ford and they introduced the nominees. Ironically, the last nominee revealed was Jane’s Addiction for Nothing’s Shocking… but nobody knew how shocking things would soon become. When Alice revealed that Jethro Tull had secured the win for Crest of a Knave, Lita Ford was immediately taken aback. It’s okay, the Grammys would make it up to Metallica over and over (and over and over…) again in the ensuing years.
1992: Nirvana Troll MTV Over Song Performance Disagreement
We can only imagine what kind of war was going on behind the scenes here! Nirvana were lined up to play “Lithium” after a heated disagreement with MTV over the fact the Kurt Cobain had insisted the band play “Rape Me” on national television instead. The grunge act caved in to the demands, but when you’re live and the cameras are rolling, anything can happen. Before launching into “Lithium,” Nirvana’s controversial moment came when they played the opening chords of “Rape Me,” which their frontman had so ardently championed. But wait, there’s more! Later on, Krist Novoselic hurled his bass upward, only to watch it return on a downward trajectory straight to his face. After all was finished, Dave Grohl grabbed the mic and taunted Guns N’ Roses‘ frontman, repeatedly saying, “Hi Axl! Hi Axl!” Was it risky? For sure. But it worked — we wouldn’t be talking about it today if it didn’t!
1995: Courtney Love Crashes Madonna Interview at MTV VMAs
Poor Kurt Loder. They say to live life with no regrets, but we’re sure the anchor would love to take a mulligan for his interview with Madonna at the 1995 MTV VMAs. All was going smoothly until Courtney Love hurled her shoe up toward Loder and Madonna. Despite pleas from the pop star to keep Love out of the interview, Loder waived her up anyway. Slurring her speech, Love realized she was interrupting, apologized and then crouched down on the floor to discuss footwear, among other things. The MTV anchor realized his lapse in judgement and dismissed Madonna while awkwardly trying to recover his greasy-handed fumble. No regrets, huh?
1996: Van Halen (With David Lee Roth) Go Off Script at MTV VMAs, Things Get Awkward
Nothing about a Van Halen original lineup reunion was cemented at this point, but all signs pointed north as the four classic members of the party rock act made their first public appearance together in over a decade at the 1996 MTV VMAs. This night would live in infamy in VH lore for destroying a chance for the reunion to materialize, as David Lee Roth went off script, much to the chagrin of his guitar player Eddie. A blowout ensued backstage after the band presented the Best Male Video of the Year, leading to the most maligned era of Van Halen’s career as they then enlisted former Extreme singer Gary Cherone as their new frontman.
1997: Marilyn Manson Condemns Society + Religion, Strips Down to Leather Lingerie at 1997 MTV VMAs
You can’t have awards show controversy without Marilyn Manson‘s name cropping up at least once (more on that to come). As you’ve certainly come to notice, the MTV VMAs have been a lightning rod for outrageous moments and the shock rock industrialist made headlines (quite the common feat) as he took the podium for a State of the Union-like address. Preaching from his mic-adorned pulpit, Manson confidently condemned the “fascism of Christianity” and the “fascism of beauty,” setting up his deranged performance of “The Beautiful People.” As the network likely breathed a sigh of relief that Manson’s controversial moment was behind him, he then stripped down to a leather corset and matching banana hammock. Beautiful.
1998: Marilyn Manson’s Outfit Raises Eyebrows
Apparently not enough people called the FCC after Marilyn Manson’s performance at the MTV VMAs the previous year, as he was invited back in 1998. While many held the belief that the awards was a pretty dope show, Manson had a different “Dope Show” in mind. Everything was surprisingly normal (as normal as anything can be in the realm of Marilyn Manson)… until he shed his fluffy blue boa in a gender-bending showcase. His latex blue suit was exposed with prominent, nipple-less breasts and viewers were reminded of what his backside looks like in case they had scrubbed it from memory after the rocker’s 1997 stunt. How’s that for your next day wardrobe wrap-up, Joan Rivers? (R.I.P.)
2000: Rage Against the Machine’s Tim Commerford Protests Limp Bizkit’s MTV VMAs Win
Who remembers when this happened? During Limp Bizkit‘s acceptance speech for Best Rock Video at the 2000 MTV VMAs, Rage Against the Machine bassist Tim Commerford wasn’t having it. True to his band’s name, Commerford engaged in a silent but camera-worthy protest, scaling the sharp-angled fixture set behind the acceptance podium. Fred Durst asserted that the whole ordeal was “pretty phat” and recognized how true the defiant act was to the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll, even conceding that Commerford “should be getting the award.” Perhaps the red-capped frontman sniffed out the motive. Anyway, MTV wound up cutting to commercial while security earned their paychecks and the bassist was jailed for the night.
2007: Tommy Lee + Kid Rock Fight Over Pamela Anderson at MTV VMAs
Another MTV VMAs in the books, another infinitely memorable moment! Unlike so many other wild incidents in the awards show’s history, the punch-up between Kid Rock and Motley Crue drummer / wildman Tommy Lee stemmed from a previous event. Both rockers had been married to Pamela Anderson at different points in their respective careers and when Lee said some unsavory things to Kid Rock prior to the 2007 VMAs (while at a birthday party for Anderson’s son), both saw red when they met face to face. Fists were thrown and tables cleared after Kid Rock found the skinsman occupying his seat at the table after returning from the bathroom. Naturally, the police sorted out the details that followed.
2013: The Dillinger Escape Plan’s Greg Puciato Cuts His Face Open at Revolver Golden Gods, Band Wrecks Their Gear
Blood at a Dillinger show? Well, that actually sounds about right, but typically it comes from the pit, not down the forehead of frontman Greg Puciato. There was blood, there was sweat and now we’re shedding tears that the band has decided to call it a career. We’ll miss the erratic and downright dangerous performances The Dillinger Escape Plan have provided over the years — like their set at the 2013 Revolver Golden Gods. At the tail of their showcase, Puciato made fire marshals bug-eyed with a fire breathing stunt and the set culminated in TDEP thrashing their equipment, leaving the stage more battered than their singer’s face.
2014: Revolver Golden Gods Credit Warrant’s Jani Lane as Motorhead Member During ‘Fallen Heroes’ Tribute
The “Fallen Heroes” segment of the 2014 Revolver Golden Gods was poised to be an all-time highlight. With Zakk Wylde seated in front of a piano performing “In This River” (written as a tribute to the late Pantera riff-slinger Dimebag Darrell), images of rock and metal’s departed icons flashed by on a massive screen behind him. What was supposed to be one of the most touching moments in rock was derailed when late Warrant singer Jani Lane was seen, regrettably credited as a member of Motorhead.
Loudwire Music Awards Tickets Available Now!