10 Ridiculous Pranks in Rock History

Arcade Fire, Canadian pranksters

Happy April Fool’s Day! Today, we celebrate the silliest day of the year with a post of ten ridiculous pranks in rock history. Some lean more political, others make for excellent promotional strategies, but they are all equally hilarious (except the Keith Moon pranks, which are objectively the best).

1. Arcade Fire Fans ‘Get Lucky’

Stand around in the California desert long enough and you might see some strange things: an oasis (actually sand), a cowboy (actually more sand), or, if you’re like attendees of Coachella 2014, Daft Punk (actually Arcade Fire playing a prank on thousands of unwitting fans at their Sunday night set). That’s right, Arcade Fire invited fans to believe they’d witnessed a rare performance from the French hitmakers when two people wearing Daft Punk’s signature robot helmets appeared onstage to play a slowed-down version of “Get Lucky.” If you look closely at the video below, previously posted on Consequence of Sound, the Daft Punk lookalikes are not even touching the instruments in front of them, though that undoubtedly did not stop of delirious fans from thinking they’d witnessed a magical moment in festival history. Best to just let them be. Nothing wrong with a mirage or two.


2. Just Another Bloody Rolling Stones Myth

Rolling Stones‘ guitarist Keith Richards is rock’s biggest party boy. During classic rock’s excessive peak in the 1970s, while many wondered how Richards maintained his oversized lifestyle, Richards played with the press, telling them that he survived his habits by having complete blood transfusions. While Richards did visit a clinic in Switzerland during a 1973 tour to undergo hemodialysis to filter out toxins from his blood, the idea that he had a full blood transfusion was a just joke that got reprinted into classic rock mythology. Richards explained: “Someone asked me how I cleaned up, so I told them I went to Switzerland and had my blood completely changed. I was just fooling around. I opened up my jacket and said, ‘How do you like my blood change?’ That’s all it was — a joke. I was fucking sick of answering that question.” Read more about how the rumor spread at Snopes.


3. The Sound of Silence

Michigan funk nerds Vulfpeck found a new way to make money from streaming when they released Sleepify in March 2014, an album consisting entirely of songs less than a minute in length which contained no audible music. Vulfpeck then invited their fans to listen to the ‘songs’ repeatedly while they slept. Though Spotify eventually caught on and closed the loophole, the band earned close to $20,000, enough to embark upon a tour where they played all shows entirely for free, as reported on Stereogum. This was one of the first times Vulfpeck, who now headlines major festivals, made its way into the national music press. While perhaps less “prank” than “clever streaming heist”, this one was too ingenious not to include. Don’t get any ideas.

4. God Save the Queen

A great prank often doubles as a great marketing scheme. Perhaps no one knows that better than Malcolm McClaren, manager of iconic punk group, the Sex Pistols. On June 7, 1977, days after the Sex Pistols released “God Save the Queen,” McClaren arranged for the Sex Pistols to perform outside of the Houses of Parliament. As the rest of the country celebrated the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, the Sex Pistols tore into “Anarchy” and “God Save the Queen,” mocking the pro-monarchy festivities around the country. A scuffle broke out and police arrested band members as soon as the boat docked, but the prank was well worth its weight in fines. The Sex Pistols’ songs, stunts, and attitude make them one of the best-remembered punk bands of all time. All hail!

5. Björk fronting Led Zeppelin

On this day eight years ago, Björk claimed that she would be fronting Led Zeppelin on their new tour. To convince fans of the rouse, Björk elaborated on her blog that Robert Plant, Led Zeppelin’s traditional frontman, could not commit to touring with the band because he wanted to focus on his side project with Alison Krauss, noted Spin. While the post turned out to be unfounded, I still enjoy imagining what kind of costumes our favorite Icelandic singer might have gotten the band to wear. That’s a show I’d pay to see.

6. Elton John Surprises Iggy Pop in a Gorilla Costume

According to Rolling Stone, Elton John once rushed the stage of a Stooges show in Atlanta wearing a gorilla costume. John, under the influence of Creem staff members, assumed frontman Iggy Pop would be able to differentiate between a pop star in a costume and a real-life gorilla. Pop, however, was in a bit of an altered state of mind at the time, and ran offstage as if King Kong himself was nipping at his heels. Realizing Pop’s confusion, Rocket Man took off the head of the costume before any calls to animal control could be made.

7. Oh Yoshimi, They Don’t Believe Me

If someone doesn’t believe your prank, there’s really only one solution: double down! That’s exactly what the Flaming Lips did when they released Flaming Side of the Moon, a companion piece to Pink Floyd‘s The Dark Side of the Moon. Pitchfork reports that the idea for the album started as a joke with the humor site, Funny or Die, which got picked up by the music press. When Coyne and company realized the potential for the gag, they ran with it. The collaboration between the Lips and Funny or Die eventually yielded a string of spoof videos (Comedian Fred Armisen replaces Wayne Coyne as frontman for two-tone ska version of “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1″), a cereal (Flames and Lips), a fake New York Magazine cover story (“I, Wayne Coyne, do hereby announce that I am retiring from indie life. I am ready to fully embrace the mainstream.”) and, most surprisingly, an actual album. We don’t know where the joke ends on this one, but we’re content to re-watch the supposedly Michael Bay-directed trailer for “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots,” (also part of this extended gag) until we figure it out.

8. Pie is the new Punk

No April Fool’s Day list would be complete without a good pie gag. For that, look no further than the cover of the Damned‘s debut, Damned Damned Damned, which shows the four members of the Damned with pie cream all over their faces. How did it happen? Photographer Peter Kodick and the Damned’s label at the time, Stiff Records, ambushed the band with pies immediately before taking the photo for the cover. So obscured by whipped cream was Captain Sensible’s face that the Damned bassist marched to a nearby photobooth, got a photo of himself sans pie, delivered it to Stiff, and demanded that a picture of his unsweetened face be put on the back cover. In the liner notes to a vinyl reissue of the debut, Sensible explains that he was so sure that the band wouldn’t get to make another album, he at least wanted to have a clean photo of himself on his work to show his relatives. How very sensible of him (pun 110% intended).

9. Keith Moon Does Anything

If Keith Richards is the party boy of rock, Keith Moon is the party monster. Known for detonating his bass drum on the Who‘s American TV debut in 1967, Moon also engaged in many other bewildering stunts. In 1969, Moon teamed up with Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band drummer Larry “Legs” Smith to prank a popular British clothing store, Marks & Spencer. As Rolling Stone recounts, first Smith walked in, requesting to test the durability of the store’s pants. Enter Moon, who offered to help Smith test the pants. Much to the store employee’s distress, the two would begin ripping the pants apart, for quality assurance purposes, of course. Cue accomplice number three, Moon’s driver, who rushed through the doors, saw the ripped pants and exclaimed: “Are those one-legged trousers? They’re just what I’ve been looking for!” No changes to Mark & Spencer’s trouser catalogue were made following the incident.

10. Grunge Speak

Hey all you cob nobblers, lame stains, and dishes! You’re really going to want to keep swingin’ on the flippity flop for this Sub Pop-perpetrated prank. If you didn’t understand half of those words, that’s fine because they are neither real words nor real slang, though that did not stop the New York Times from printing them in a piece called ‘Lexicon of Grunge: Breaking the Code’ in November 1992. After a reporter pestered then-Sub Pop receptionist Megan Jasper for a list of slang used by people in the grunge scene at the time, she decided to give them what they wanted, making up a list of grunge slang on the spot. The Times printed it, Thomas Frank of Baffler debunked it, and now we can all laugh about it. As they apparently said in Seattle in the early 1990s, ‘rock on’ (translate to: a happy goodbye).

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