We’ve known for a while that “rock star” isn’t always the safest occupation. While it’s normally the things that happen off-stage we think of as dangerous, performing can be just as bad. Pyrotechnics, steep stage edges and precarious set pieces can all pose serious threats to the health and safety of our musical icons.
Here are six of the most extreme on-stage injuries of all time.
Back in 2015, Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl took an unplanned stage dive while performing in Gothenburg resulting in a broken leg. Being the hero that he is, he missed no more than 15 minutes of the show before returning to the stage in a chair to finish the gig. Sadly that wasn’t the end of it. The break was so bad that it required surgery meaning the Foo Fighters had to cancel some European tour dates – including a headline slot at Glastonbury. Grohl is a man who hates to disappoint and returned to the UK just a few months later to make up for the cancelled shows and finally headlined Glastonbury in 2017.
While filming for a Pepsi ad campaign in 1982, Michael Jackson received second and third-degree burns after sparks from a pyrotechnic explosion landed in his heavily gelled hair. Jackson was rushed to hospital with severe burns to his scalp, face and body which required extensive plastic surgery to cover. Tragically this is largely thought to have started his long-lasting addiction to painkillers and obsession with plastic surgery.
Fact: pyrotechnics are dangerous. Metallica frontman James Hetfield also suffered major burns from a pyrotechnics accident while performing in Montreal in 1992 as part of their stadium tour with Guns n Roses. The heavy metal legend accidentally stepped into a 12-foot flame estimated to be as hot as 3200 degrees, leaving him hairless and with second and third-degree burns to his face and the entire left side of his body. Despite his injuries, Hetfield continued performing a mere 17 days after the incident, somewhat showing up tour buddy Axl Rose who became known for his diva attitude and regularly cutting performances short.
The Godmother of Punk Patti Smith suffered a nasty stage fall in 1977 when she fell 15 feet into a concrete orchestra pit while opening for Bob Seger in Tampa, Florida. The performance was set to be her biggest to date but ended early after the fall left her with a fractured skull, neck and back. Smith had to have 22 stitches in her head and months of extensive physiotherapy. She still suffers from reduced movement and vision, but she hasn’t let that stop her, she’s on tour in January!
Last September, while on the third night of his Heaven Upside Down tour, shock rocker Marilyn Manson was crushed by a falling stage prop, causing him to hit his head and break his leg in two places. The New York crowd watched on anxiously as stage crew and band members tried to free Manson from the set piece. Fans feared the worst when Manson remained motionless for 15 minutes after the collapse before he was taken to hospital where he had to have surgery performed on his leg and ankle. Although Manson was forced to cancel nine tour dates and left with excruciating pain, things could have been a lot worse.
You’ve probably never heard of Delain, and you will almost certainly never have heard of their bassist Otto Schimmelpenninck, but when you hear his story you’ll definitely remember him. Delain, a Dutch metal band, were touring the UK in 2014 when their bassist Otto Schimmelpenninck suffered a very unfortunate injury from a streamer cannon during a gig in Birmingham. Schimmelpenninck was hit in the groin but continued to play through intense pain and finish the gig, despite bleeding and struggling to maintain consciousness. After the gig, Schimmelpennick discovered his “scrotum had swollen to the size of a grapefruit” and went to the hospital where he had 500ml of blood drained from his testicle which was diagnosed as “ruptured”. Ouch.