Top 6 Shock Rockers of All Time

Rock and roll has always had an element of shock, a bent toward the provocative, but there are some artists who have pushed the envelope, earning their own sub-genre: shock rock. Shock rockers have existed since the dawn of the genre. They’ve crafted a distinct presence for the stage, delivering over-the-top, often unsettling, theatrics to accompany their sound.

Videos by American Songwriter

In doing so, they’ve inspired horrified awe in us all. Here are 6 of the most notorious shock rockers of all time.

1. Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

A pioneer of shock rock, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins rose to prominence in the 1950s with his classic “I Put a Spell on You.” Wild-eyed and cackling, draped in outrageous attire, Hawkins performed the song after an outpour of grumbles and gurgles in the video below. He often had skeletal props suggestive of hexes and conjurings like he would actually put a spell on you.

2. Alice Cooper

Provocateur Alice Cooper has always been one for the theatrical. He has spent his career one-upping himself on stage, incorporating snakes, guillotines, and gallows into his live shows. The painted-faced rocker would show off his own beheading or hang from a noose mid-song all to audiences’ fright or enjoyment.

3. GG Allin

The notorious GG Allin was the most shocking of all rockers. His live shows always bordered on controversial as they involved violence, self-mutilation, and defecation. Alongside his gruesome antics, he preached lawlessness and arrests were frequent as were hospital stays.

4. Rob Zombie

Before he was making films, horror mastermind Rob Zombie was crafting his own scary movies on stage. His live shows were filled with elements of horror and suspense as he donned demonic eyes alongside his bloody-mouthed backing band.

5. Marilyn Manson

A controversial figure in heavy metal and seemingly public enemy number one to the American Family Association, Marilyn Manson stunned the masses during his heyday. His live performances in the late 1990s were believed to be part of a Satanic ritual and were often boycotted by religious communities.

“When a show does go on during the Dead to the World Tour, Christian pickets are often present to object to the greasepaint-smeared Manson’s supposed Satanism, offensive lyrics and lewd onstage moves,” read a 1997 article from The New York Times.

6. Gene Simmons

Kiss’ Gene Simmons, also known by his on-stage alter-ego the Demon, is another trailblazing shock rocker, one who still shock rocks to this day. For 50 years, Simmons has painted his face, breathed fire, and spewed blood all in the name of rock and roll.

Photo by Denise Truscello/Getty Images for Keep Memory Alive

Leave a Reply

3 Songs You Didn’t Know Beyoncé Wrote for Other Artists

The Story Behind Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born in the U.S.A.’ Album Cover