Talk shows usually go something like this: a smartly dressed host invites a celebrity onto a sofa with them, asks them to tell the polite studio audience about their latest film/TV show/book/true crime podcast/whatever, and we get a few minutes of rather chummy, rather bland promotional chat. We do that three times, and then we get a musical guest on to play us out with a faithful run through their latest single. Pretty boring, right? But it doesn't always have to be this way! Occasionally, a rock or metal band will find themselves being invited on to one of these shows, uninterested in the usual pleasantries, and they’ll cause an absolute bloody ruckus. Here are 10 of our favourite times that exact thing happened.
The Doors – Light My Fire (The Ed Sullivan Show, 1967)
The great grandaddy of talk show-induced outrage, though today the idea that this performance would have upset anyone at all seems rather quaint. The Doors were riding high on the back of Light My Fire topping the US charts in 1967, and were invited onto The Ed Sullivan Show, the premier talk show of the era, capable of making and breaking bands across the US. It was a far more conservative time on US television back in those days, and the line “Girl we couldn’t get much higher” was proving something of a sticking point for the show's producers. They instructed vocalist Jim Morrison to change it to “Girl we couldn’t get much better”. Which, obviously, isn’t as good. Something Morrison obviously knew as, when it came to the performance, he sang the original line anyway. It prompted outrage from the producers, who banned The Doors from the show. Morrison's bandmates might have been a bit pissed off about the furore, but the singer allegedly shrugged it off, telling them, “Hey, man, we just did the Ed Sullivan Show”. They certainly did, and it’s gone down in legend.
Nirvana – Territorial Pissings (Tonight with Jonathan Ross, 1991)
Nirvana’s ascent into the mainstream was a wonderfully exciting thing to behold; you really couldn’t second-guess what the Seattle trio were going to do in the live environment. Possibly their finest ever TV troll (and they’ve had a few) was when they were invited on to UK chat show Tonight With Jonathan Ross to play recent single Lithium. Rather than play that song, however, and after Ross explicitly announced that that was the track they’d be playing, Nirvana instead decided to power through a chaotic and feedback-drenched version of the far more scabrous Territorial Pissings, before trashing their kit and fucking off. Ross looked a tad annoyed as the camera cut back to him, and only managing a “Nirvana, doing the tune we didn’t expect, but they wanted me to tell you they are available for children's birthday parties and bar mitzvah’s”. Very droll, Wossy.
L7 – Pretend We’re Dead (The Word, 1992)
During the 90s, Channel 4’s late night entertainment show The Word set itself up as an anarchic alternative to bland mainstream chat shows. Often it was just eye-rollingly 'edgy' or confusingly wacky, but now and again it threw up something genuinely cool. When cult riot grrrl band L7 turned up in 1992 to play the fantastic recent single Pretend We’re Dead, vocalist and guitarist Donita Sparks decided to give some of the loutish lads in the audience the eyeful they were after as she pulled down her jeans and knickers in full view of everyone. The cameraman gets a shot of her bum (he’s a little too keen to capture it, if we’re honest) and as bassist Jennifer Finch dives into the drum kit, Sparks is seen shuffling across the stage with her pubes in full view. “Gonna be one of those shows, innit!” says host Terry Christian as it cuts back to him. Yes, Terry, like every episode of your show.
Rage Against the Machine – Killing in the Name (The Word, 1993)
Rage Against The Machine’s self-titled debut album blew up upon release in 1992. The Word, having not learned their lesson about booking raucous rock acts from the year before, decided to let the most incendiary live band on the planet at that time loose on their audience in the direct aftermath of the success of Killing in the Name single. You won’t be surprised to learn it massively kicks off, and by the time the iconic “fuck you I won’t do what you tell me!” refrain is ringing out, the audience are onstage and both guitarist Tom Morello and vocalist Zack De La Rocha have been taken out of action, leaving just drummer Brad Wilk and bassist Tim Commerford to finish the song. Morello lobs his guitar into the drums and De La Rocha is at the bottom of what any 90s schoolkids will fondly remember as a “pile-on”. Marvellous.
Sepultura – Refuse/Resist (The Word, 1994)
Come on, The Word, how many times are you going to let your show descend into absolute chaos? Sepultura getting booked to play the show was always going to be something of an event for metal fans, and so the producers decided to invite a bunch of them down and keep them in a cage throughout the show, before they were released by presenter Dani Behr as the Brazilians tore into Refuse/Resist. The carnage here is actually very little to do with Seps, and more to do with the rabid reaction from the metalheads unleashed, who plough out of the cage, steamroller the confused and terrified audience and proceed to, in Max Cavalera’s own words, “FUCK SHIT UP!”. Check out those cameramen, absolutely soiling themselves.
Black Grape – Pretty Vacant (TFI Friday, 1996)
Chris Evans' weekend party-starter of a show always flew fairly close to the wind with its content. With such a combustible cast of 90s characters, it was quite the shock that the show was allowed to go out live in its earliest incarnation. It was Manchester dance-punks Black Grape that put a stop to that when they were invited on in 1996, with a foul-mouthed performance of Sex Pistols classic Pretty Vacant. Truly, Evans only has himself to blame; BG frontman Shaun Ryder had caused the host a headache when he was interviewed on the show the year before and dropped a few accidental f-bombs, so giving him a Stars In Their Eyes make-over and asking him to live out his Johnny Rotten fantasies at 6pm on live television was only going to end one way. “OH, OH, OH, OH FUCKING NO!” bawls Ryder before the song even starts, going on to cram Pretty Vacant with endless F-ing and C-ing. When the camera cuts back to Evans at the end the look on his face is one of a man who knows he is in deep trouble.
Limp Bizkit – Faith (Late Night with Conan O’Brien, 1998)
Limp Bizkit’s breakthrough hit was a cover of the George Michael classic Faith, and when it started doing business in the US, Fred Durst and his crew were invited on to Late Night With Conan O’Brien to perform the song. It’s a standard run through the song from Bizkit, but towards the second half there are a couple of stage invaders who appear and begin dancing behind them. Obviously, the show’s producers are going to kick them off immediately, though... any second now... hold on... is that Kid Rock?! And, if that wasn’t random enough, is that also US comedian, actor and star of classic 90s stoner comedies Encino Man and Biodome, Pauly Shore?!
Slipknot – Wait and Bleed (TFI Friday, 2000)
Another TFI performance that has gone down in legend. If you thought the Sepultura crowd were wild on The Word, and if you thought Chris Evans had his hands full with Shaun Ryder, both are mere blips compared to the total destruction that Slipknot caused on their UK television debut. The Iowan Nine were a feral beast as they toured their self-titled 1999 debut, and the fevered response to the band was untameable. Channel 4 weren’t to know this, but in just a mere three minutes they found out the hard way, as Slipknot tore TFI to shreds. The maggots in attendance went so berserk that the cameraman in the crowd vanished and one of the incredibly expensive cameras was actually lost during the song. It still looks terrifying all these years later.
Iggy Pop – Mask (The Late Show with David Letterman, 2001)
If it wasn’t entirely clear just how crazy an idea it would be to invite Slipknot onto your show in the year 2000, by 2001 you would surely have known that asking Iggy Pop onto your show is going to be trouble. It was that year that Iggy was invited onto The Late Show With David Letterman while promoting his latest album, Beat ‘Em Up, an underrated gem in his back catalogue. It’s obvious he’s up for causing his usual brand of mischief as he sprints out onto the stage with...er...some broccoli tied round his neck. Iggy then proceeds to bark out Mask to the rather shellshocked looking audience, before ripping the broccoli off and chucking it at them, jumping down and screaming in their faces, coming back to the stage, getting his mic lead caught on a camera, aggressively pulling at it and then grabbing his own cock and balls. Which is exactly what we would have predicted he would do, to be honest.
The Dillinger Escape Plan – Black Bubblegum (Late Night with Conan O’Brien, 2008)
If you know one thing about The Dillinger Escape Plan then we’d wager that thing is that they are an absolutely uncontrollable live band. For the entirety of their career, it was been their calling card, and so, you’d imagine, the sterile and polite world of the mainstream TV chat show would not be a great fit for them. Quite how they got the call to perform on the hugely popular Late Night With Conan O’Brien is a mystery, but back in 2008 they did, and their performance of Black Bubblegum perhaps shows why they weren’t invited onto anything similar again. It’s classic Dillinger, with the entire band throwing themselves around with wild abandon, but as ever, special mentions are due to guitarist Ben Weinman, who takes his amp, throws it into the middle of the stage and jumps off of it over and over again, and frontman Greg Puciato, who goes for a walk into the theatre to high five the petrified crowd and ends screaming his guts up on O’Brien’s desk. Fair play to Conan her,e too, who isn’t phased at all, and instead pulls a glowstick from his jacket pocket and proceeds to rave away throughout the song. Go on, son!