Is there anything better than a good pop culture rumor? In an era during which the public knows and cares way too much about celebrities, it’s amazing there are still rock and roll rumors that persist long after the facts have been laid out. False rock star rumors cover anything from a band murdering a model, making an audio recording of it, and turning it into a hit, to one of rock’s most enigmatic stars maybe getting in an accident. And, of course, there’s all that glorious stomach pumping.
Untrue rumors about rock stars are hard to disprove because there are a bunch of similar wild stories that are spot on; separating fact from fiction can be nearly impossible, especially now that everyone involved is either dead or has a failing memory. In some cases, such as that of monsieur Bob Dylan, there are probably personal reasons for not revealing the truth behind the rumor.
Even if these rock star rumors proved to not be true, they’re all fun. Some of the stories are so rock and roll the rock stars involved never denied they happened, because they didn’t want to ruin their cred. Of course a rock star wants everyone to think all they do is shove drugs in their body and crashing cars in pools; it’s much cooler than having a cup of tea and going to bed at a sensible hour.
Keith Moon is the quintessential rock and roll wild man. He collected Nazi memorabilia, may have bitten Steve McQueen's dog, and blew up his drums when The Who played on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. But he never drove a Rolls Royce into a pool at the Holiday Inn in Flint, MI, on his 21st birthday (imagine being that famous at 21).
According to The Who guitarist Pete Townsend, the story is a combination of two stories:
"Keith Moon driving a Rolls-Royce into a swimming pool is an erroneous conflation of two incidents. In one, he left the handbrake off, and the car rolled into a pool, which was under construction and waterless. In the other, he charged a new car to the band, who refused to foot the bill, so Moon drove into a muddy pond in his garden and called the dealer to pick it up."
This rumor about two musical luminaries is great, awful, and oddly specific - oh, and it's probably not true. The story is, David Bowie's first wife, Angela, found Bowie and pal Mick Jagger in bed nude, lookin' like a couple fellas who just finished an intense game of Hide the Salami.
In Mick: The Wild Life and Mad Genius of Jagger, Christopher Andersen wrote the following:
"Angie had been out of town for a few days when she returned home one morning and went straight to the kitchen to make some tea. The Bowies’ maid, who had arrived about an hour earlier, approached the lady of the house with a peculiar look on her face. 'Someone,' she told Angie, 'is in your bed.'
Angie went upstairs to her bedroom, slowly pushed the door open, and there they were: Mick Jagger and David Bowie, naked in bed together, sleeping. Both men woke up with a start. 'Oh, hello,' said Bowie, clearly taken by surprise. 'How are you?'
... Angie 'felt absolutely dead certain that they’d been screwing. It was so obvious, in fact, that I never even considered the possibility that they hadn’t been screwing.'"
It's totally fine and very rock and roll if this happened, but without confirmation from a source who isn't an ex quoted in a book the National Post called "Hot tub reading at its very tingliest," it's nothing but a rumor. Also, to reiterate, who cares if Bowie and Jagger were shagging? Anyway, everyone knows they couldn't have been lovers because they used all their erotic energy in the video for "Dancing in the Street."
#4 on The Best Rock Vocalists
#11 on The Best Singers of All Time
Following a series of sold-out gigs in London, Mama Cass retired to her apartment, where she died of heart failure on July 29, 1974. A rumor quickly spread that she died from choking on a ham sandwich, a vile thing to say.
Where did the rumor start? It's believed Dr. Anthony Greenburgh, the physician who first examined Cass after her death, started it when he wrote: "She appeared to have been eating a ham sandwich and drinking Coca-Cola while lying down—a very dangerous thing to do. She seemed to have choked on a ham sandwich.”
In fact, her autopsy showed "A heart problem leading to heart failure; there was no sandwich or any other item lodged in her throat or trachea; and she had had very little to eat the day before she died.”
#40 on The Best Female Rock Singers
Thanks to Keef's lifelong love of drugs and alcohol, there are a plethora of rumors circulating about all the things he's put in his body. The strangest has to be that he smoked, snorted, or otherwise shoved his father's ashes into himself after dear old dad passed. The rumor was born of a moment of levity; Richards joked he meant to plant his father's ashes, accidentally spilled them on a table, and snorted them. Oh Keith, you goof!
The story got out of control, and Richards had to set the record straight. "The truth of the matter is that I planted a sturdy English Oak. I took the ... ashes [and sprinkled them beneath the tree], and he is now growing oak trees and he would love me for it!"