On Halloween 1990, Billy Idol played the final show of his Charmed Life tour in Seattle. The night would feature Faith No More dancing naked, 600 dead fish, five miniature pigs, a goat, and a visit from the Seattle police department

Billy Idol and Faith No More in 1990
(Image credit: Alain BENAINOUS/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images | Ebet Roberts/Redferns)

There's a long-standing tradition in rock 'n' roll of onstage pranks being staged to mark the conclusion of successful tours, and the climax of Billy Idol's Charmed Life trek at Seattle Coliseum on the night of October 31, 1990 would prove to be a memorable occasion for all in attendance, not least for MTV's favourite British punk rocker and his support band Faith No More.

Idol was first to strike on the night. In a visual reference to the video for Faith No More's breakthrough hit single Epic, from the previous year's The Real Thing album, the former Generation X frontman instructed his road crew to dump 600 dead fish - smelt, to be specific - on the band's heads while they were performing the song. After flinging some of the fish into the cheering audience, Faith No More concluded their set with their cover of The Commodores Easy, which saw the band joined onstage by three 'housewives' in dressing gowns and hair rollers, who proceeded to open their gowns and flash the crowd with what Seattle's City Heat magazine described as "mammoth false breasts." 

This, however, would be merely a warm up for the high jinks to come. The first clue that Faith No More weren't about to let the headliner have things his own way came during the very first song of Idol's set when a 'gorilla' - and here we're going to assume this was a man in a gorilla suit, because, y'know... - appeared alongside his backing singers and joined in with their dance steps, seemingly un-noticed by Idol.

The rest of Idol's show passed without incident, but it appears that Faith No More were merely keeping their powder dry, for when the singer reappeared to sing To Be A Lover, his US Top 10 single from 1986's Whiplash Smile album, he was soon joined onstage by five naked men, with t-shirts, paper bags and towels obscuring their faces, but no other parts of their anatomy, who proceeded to do a conga dance across the stage to the delight/horror of the audience.

In its report on the gig, the Los Angeles Times noted that the onstage nudity provoked phone calls to the Seattle police department, but by the time officers arrived at the scene, the musicians had already left the building, and no one could confirm the identity of the naked dance troupe, according to Billy Idol’s publicist Rick Scott.

Idol, however, would have the last laugh. When a no-doubt elated Faith No More returned to their dressing room post-prank they discovered that they were not alone, for Idol had arranged for five miniature pigs and a goat to be smuggled into the venue, and the animals were happily tucking into the San Francisco band's rider.

A good time had by all, clearly. 

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.