Via Gawker via the NY Post: Four men knocked off a series of laundromats, gas stations, and convenience stores earlier this week, making off with cash and cigarettes in hopes of getting money to start a record label. (180-gram vinyl is expensive!) This got us thinking about the long and delightful relationship between music and criminal activity. The five most interesting rock'n'roll scofflaws in modern history after the jump!
Roky Erickson, singer and guitarist of psychedelic rock band 13th Floor Elevators, earned a three-and-a-half year stint in the psych ward after an arrest for the possession of one single marijuana joint in 1969. Pleading insanity to avoid prison landed him in the State Hospital for the Criminal Insane, where he was diagnosed as schizophrenic and subjected to copious amounts of electroshock treatment, and dosed with Thorazine on a regular basis. (He also had a band full of insane murderers who'd take day trips to cover Rolling Stones songs for nearby small-towners–tapes exist!) After his release in 1973, he continued to record, but struggled until recently to get the acclaim and recognition he deserved. Above: Roky and the Elevators in happier times, lip-syncing by the pool.
Les Rallizes Denudes were a revolutionary psych/noise rock band from Japan, formed in 1967 at Kyoto University. Guided by avant-garde Japanese theater and inspired by krautrock, Blue Cheer, and the Velvet Underground, they played a foundational role in Japanese rock music and continued to play shows as late as the mid-1990s. They are about as known for devotion to militant, left-wing politics as they are for their music, however, and are rumored to have distributed Marxist pamphlets to schoolchildren; this passion for politics led LRD member Wakabayashi to participate in the hijacking of Japan Airlines Flight 351 along with a paramilitary group known as the Japanese Communist League-Red Army Faction. Wakabayashi and other members of the hijackers were given asylum in North Korea. Check out LRD above in a 1976 live performance.
Johnny Cash managed to get arrested no less than seven times–five times for drunkenness, twice for drugs–and spent a night in jail for each arrest. It was not until his 1967 arrest in Lafayette, Georgia, for driving his Cadillac through the woods “as though it were a Jeep” and then pounding on the door of a random rural home that he got serious about getting clean. Perhaps his many experiences with the criminal justice system were foreshadowed by his famed 1958 jailhouse performance, where, incidentally, one of the inmates in the crowd was Merle Haggard. Above: performing live at San Quentin.
Los Angeles' own Don Bolles, drummer of the legendary punk band the Germs and currently in the absolutely ripping Fancy Space People, was pulled over by the Newport Beach Police Department and his van was searched. The police found nothing but a bottle of Dr. Bronner's hemp soap, which they subsequently tested, and then alleged that it had contained GHB. After Bolles spent three days in jail and was threatened with felony drug possession, the charges were dismissed and the police admitted that the kit that they used tended to cause false positives with that and other liquid soap brands. Oops. Above: Fancy Space People live at the Echo.
And last but not least, it appears that all but one member of the Beatles have, at one time, been arrested! Shortly before Nixon tried to prevent his entry into the U.S. out of fears of further reinforcing the anti-war movement, John Lennon was arrested when police raided his flat and discovered what was described as “a quantity of cannabis resin.” George Harrison was arrested twice–once when he was illegally working in a foreign country at age 16, and once the day before Paul and Linda's wedding, when a drug-sniffing dog found 120 joints in his home during a raid. Finally Paul McCartney was arrested on three different occasions for possession of marijuana. Above: Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, which is about … dreams.
Honorable mention: British rock band the Thirst was arrested at gunpoint after thirty police officers and a helicopter surrounded the band members after a gig. Apparently, the CCTV cameras that are ubiquitous in England had led to a tip that the band had a gun. They in fact did not.