Yesterday, it was revealed that founding KISS guitarist Ace Frehley promoted the conspiracy theory that rapper Travis Scott’s 2021 Astroworld Festival, in which ignored red flags and a lack of foresight resulted in the death of 10 people, was actually a mass sacrifice to Satan. While this was disheartening to say the least — it’s a shame that a guitarist who has so influenced metal is now spewing the arguments used by those who once tried to scuttle his own band — it was also a reminder of how many people believe these sorts of conspiracy theories. While we like to think of conspiracy nuts as being weirdo loners who have nothing to do with us, it looks like some of our favorite artists are in on the tinfoil hat game.
Rock and metal are, of course, filled with conspiracies, each one more elaborate and ridiculous than the last. So in light of this new, bizarre explanation of a very sad truth, we decided to examine those theories which have invaded rock’s subconscious. Here are 10 conspiracy theories that people believe about rock and metal music, no matter how far-fetched they might be…
“The walrus was Paul, Paul is dead”
Perhaps the most popular conspiracy theory in rock music is that Beatles founder Paul McCartney died in 1966. Rumor has it that Paul was replaced by the winner of a Paul McCartney lookalike context named Billy Shears, who’s referenced in “With A Little Help From My Friends.” This was also (reputedly) hinted at by Paul’s bare feet on the cover of Abbey Road and a hidden message in “I Am The Walrus” in which one can (apparently) hear the phrase, “The walrus was Paul/Paul is dead.” Hey, whatever makes the Beatles more exciting.
The Devil’s Tritone is banned by the Vatican
In music theory, the diminished fifth, or tritone, is an interval using three whole tones which sounds inherently dissonant and atonal. The tritone was later labeled diabolus in musica, or ‘the Devil in music,’ and was thought to be banned by the Vatican. In reality, religious figures were bothered by it because the tritone makes people want to fuck — the dissonance of the fifth is believed to inspire sexual urges within the listener, who find a kind of solace in the uncertainty and darkness of it. Gee whiz, who knew the church hated people having sex so much?
…and Jimi Hendrix and Black Sabbath unleashed Satan in music using it
Two popular occurrences of the tritone in rock — the heavy, striking hits at the beginning of Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” and the inverted tritone that opens Black Sabbath’s “Black Sabbath” — were later used as examples of musicians utilizing the fifth to unleash Satan onto the world of rock music. Some claim that when Hendrix played his track at Woodstock, he ushered in a new age of musical darkness; others believe that Sabbath summoned the very “great black shape” they reference in their own song with their use of diabolus in musica. Harsh music that makes you feel something — of course evangelicals found the Devil in it.
Ozzy and Judas Priest hid subliminal messages in their music
A recurring theme throughout the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, in which evangelical Christians decided that a wave of Satanism was threatening America’s youth, was heavy metal bands recording subliminal messages in their records. These messages, only truly audible when songs were played backwards, were meant to cause listeners to kill themselves. Twice, this conspiracy was used in court against bands — Ozzy Osbourne and Judas Priest, respectively, both in 1986 — when their fans committed suicide after listening to their music. Of course, when outsiders were asked why a band would kill the people paying for their records, shoes were quickly examined.
Courtney Love killed Kurt Cobain
Few conspiracies in rock music have as many hardcore believers as the idea that Courtney Love killed her husband, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, whose death was legally ruled a suicide. Much of this stemmed from the 1998 documentary Kurt & Courtney, which leans hard on this concept and includes controversial moments such as Mentors’ El Duce claiming he knew Kurt’s real killer days before being hit by a train. Many have argued, though, that this is a classic witch-hunt against a ‘wicked woman’ who makes a good patsy for her husband’s weakness. Simply put, why admit the heartbreaking truth that Kurt was unhappy when a snotty female rocker is there to take the blame?
Lemmy is alive and part of the Illuminati
When the shadow government that secretly runs the world decided to work with a rock artist, they chose…a warty speedfreak? That’s the claim according to one theorist who spoke to the UK’s Daily Star, who claims that Lemmy Kilmister made the “ultimate deal” with the clandestine organization. Apparently, the Motörhead frontman is not only alive and well, he’s now a high master of the Illuminati. So just a heads up that if you hear that a war has erupted over a massive shipment of Jack Daniels and Marlboros, you know who to thank.
There are multiple Andrew WKs
Sometime after the release of 2001’s I Get Wet, Andrew WK became plagued by the rumor that was actually being played by two actors. The thought was that the skinny, effete fellow on the cover of that record couldn’t possibly be the brolic, stubbly rock star we all know and love. A 2009 article WK wrote for The Guardian only drove home this idea when Andrew revealed that he’d finally obtained the legal rights to his own name. At the end of the day, one listen to this year’s God Is Partying reveals the truth behind this conspiracy — and that’s that nobody gives a shit when the music is this good. The guy could be seventeen weasels in a trenchcoat for all we care.
The CIA wrote Scorpions’ massive song “Wind of Change”
There are bizarre rock conspiracies, and then there’s this one: apparently, it’s believed “Wind of Change,” the massive ballad by German rockers Scorpions, was actually written by the CIA to soften the fall of the Soviet Union. To quote a podcast of the same name, “The CIA saw rock music as a cultural weapon in the cold war. ‘Wind of Change’ as released a year after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and became this anthem for the end of communism and reunification of Germany. It had this soft-power message that the intelligence service wanted to promote.” Guess Hasselhoff turned them down.
Dave Grohl faked breaking his leg
This one’s super weird: a contemporary conspiracy in rock music is that Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl faked the 2015 breaking of his leg in Gothenburg, Sweden. The idea is that Grohl staged the fall and injury in order to use sympathy to drum up ticket sales for Foo Fighters’ tour. Dave himself has heard the theory and laughed it off, telling Ultimate Classic Rock, “If it weren’t for that other guy who broke his leg – I’m sorry, if it wasn’t for me breaking my leg — we might not be here tonight!” Classic Dave, taking it all in stride.
Gilbert Gottfried is Slipknot’s Tortilla Man
Okay, so we all know that comedian Gilbert Gottfriend isn’t actually Slipknot percussionist Tortilla Man. But during the controversy surrounding the identity of the band’s new drummer, the voice of Iago in Disney’s Aladdin decided to out himself as the man behind the tortilla. “And also listen to me you bunch of maggots,” added Gilbert, “speaking of Mexican food, why is love like a fart? If you have to force it, it’s probably crap.” Genius.
Words by Chris Krovatin