From Touring Band To Touring Banned

Following yesterday's story that Cannibal Corpse might be banned from Russia after a religious movement accused them of blasphemy, we look back at some moments in metal history where other artists were banished from countries, bars, radio stations and Disney World.

BANNED FROM SOVIET RADIO: Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, Nazareth, Iron Maiden, Scorpion, KISS, Judas Priest, AC/DC, Van Halen

Being a rock or metal fan inside the Soviet Union in the mid-‘80s was tricky. You certainly wouldn’t have heard any of your favourite music on the radio since most of it was banned outright (though, come to think of it, it’s not like the Radio 1 Breakfast Show played much Nazareth or Maiden at 8am, is it?). But the reasons given for the bans ranged from the tedious – violence, generally – to the downright weird. Black Sabbath, for example, were banned from Soviet airwaves for religious obscurantism (as if Ozzy could even spell it), KISS were done for nationalism, while AC/DC were prohibited because, obviously, they were neo-fascists. But oddest of the lot were Van Halen, who were banned for their apparent anti-Soviet propaganda, and Judas Priest because, as everyone knows, they were racist. Strange.

**BANNED FROM DISNEYLAND/DISNEY WORLD: **Exodus, Machine Head, Skeletonwitch, Gallows

If you type the words ‘Disney’ and ‘evil’ into Google, the search engine throws up more than 50 million results, so perhaps the fact that the organisation has banned a host of metal acts from playing the Anaheim or Orlando House Of Blues, located in Disneyland and Disney World respectively, is a case of pots calling kettles black. The list of bands that have been deemed unwelcome by Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and co. now includes Machine Head (inflammatory lyrics and, allegedly, undesirable fans), Exodus (because, the band claim, they were “too metal”) and Skeletonwitch (apparently “unfit to be associated with Disney” – that’s Disney, let’s remember, whose founder Walt hung out with Nazi film-makers). British punks Gallows were also banned in 2007 – “I think Mickey Mouse got jealous that Minnie Mouse had Gallows posters on her wall,” reckoned guitarist Lags Barnard.


After selling 1,500 tickets in Malaysia, Lamb Of God were understandably keen to get onstage there. But Islamic officials in the country had other ideas and quickly decided that the band’s material was blasphemous and banned them from playing, claiming they could lead Muslims astray. “It’s very evident that [they] only made a passing glance at the content and meaning of those songs,” parped a band statement, conjuring the enticing image of a committee of Malaysian elders sitting in a room watching the live Killadelphia DVD and failing to mosh. Lamb Of God were in good company, though – Mayhem were also banned in 2006.


When Falling In Reverse’s frontmoron Ronnie Radke hurled three microphone stands off the stage during his band’s performance at 2012’s FestEVIL, hosted at New Jersey’s Six Flags Great Adventure theme park, he also managed to injure two fans in the crowd. One was a 16-year-old girl who had to be treated in hospital for bruising and cuts. It was an act of idiocy, but the theme park went into overdrive afterwards. “This was the first metal show that we’ve ever had and it will be the last,” sniffed a spokesperson. “We have no plans to host another metal show … it’s not the type of entertainment we want to be producing.” And hence all metal acts have been prohibited from riffing near their rollercoasters ever since.


The list of places Marilyn Manson has been banned from is long – New Jersey, Glasgow, Jacksonville, Richmond, Oklahoma, Russia … the list goes on – and the reasons for banning him are invariably tedious (except the one in Florida where police believed he was inserting a dildo into his anus while urinating on the audience). Perhaps the best ban came in Utah. When Manson was booked to play at Salt Lake City’s Delta Center in 1994 while supporting Nine Inch Nails, the arena’s management said he could not perform. Reluctantly, he was forced to agree and it appeared the Mormon morals of the city had won through. That was until Nine Inch Nails’s Trent Reznor invited Manson onstage with him instead, whereupon the God Of Fuck ripped up a Book Of Mormon and was not invited back to the city for a number of years.


The story of Ozzy Osbourne pissing on The Alamo (or, actually, the Alamo Cenotaph which is next door) while dressed in his wife’s clothes in 1982 is as well worn as it is well told. But it was later that night, after he had been released on bond and was playing a show at the HemisFair that the trouble hit tipping point. Fans who were unable to get into the sold-out show began to throw rocks and, reportedly, started to “riot”. The combination of the two events meant Ozzy was a persona non grata in the Texan town for a decade. Only a $10,000 donation to the Daughters Of The Republic Of Texas allowed him back in.


Tickets for Led Zeppelin’s February 1975 show in Boston went on sale on 6th January at the city’s Boston Garden Arena. But because fans had started queuing the night before in freezing temperatures, the venue let them in at 2.30am and had sold out of tickets by 6am. Unfortunately, fans were not minded to repay the kind act and instead ran wild through the building – knocking over concession stands, charging the Bruins and Celtics’ dressing rooms and purloining 300 cases of beer. Once drunk, the fans turned fire hoses on each other and the local police before dragging a piano out onto the ice rink and destroying it. The upshot was that the city mayor refused to grant a licence for Led Zep’s show, effectively banning the band from Boston. They were well used to bans though: in 1972 they were banned from Singapore for the crime of having long hair, while in 1969 they were banned from Seattle’s Edgewater Hotel after the notorious shark-groupie interface, while they also got a worldwide ban from the Hilton chain of hotels in 1971 after drummer John Bonham slashed up bassist John Paul Jones’ room with the aid of a Samurai sword.

BANNED FROM RUSSIA: The Bloodhound Gang

When novelty-hit numbskulls The Bloodhound Gang played Ukraine in 2013, bassist Jared Hasselhoff thought it might be fun to stuff a Russian flag down the front of his underpants, and then pull it out the back. “Don’t tell Putin,” he sniggered. But then a video of him doing it went on YouTube and patriotic Russian music fans decided that musicians pretending to wipe their backsides on their flag probably wasn’t something they were into. So when the band turned up at Kubana music festival in Krasnodar Krai inside Russia, they found that their van was pelted with eggs and tomatoes and that they themselves were attacked inside a Russian airport. Hasselhoff faced the threat of criminal charges for his act, despite a quick apology, but the band were rapidly drummed out of Russia. “Bloodhound Gang packing suitcases. These idiots won’t perform in Kubana,” tweeted the Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky smugly.


Cradle Of Filth’s notorious Jesus Is A Cunt t-shirts and hoodies have caused controversy wherever they have been seen or sold. When Dani Filth elected to wear one in front of The Vatican once, for example, it did not go down well, while the shirt itself was banned from Glasgow by the city’s Lord Provost. It has since also been banned in Invercargill, New Zealand, after a tourist was upset by a fan wearing one. Meanwhile, in Australia, a 16-year-old boy was charged under anti-hate laws for wearing one. “I’m not religious but that’s just offensive,” arresting officer Sergeant Ottaway frowned.


You might well be asking “who?”. And you’d be right to. But Sunset Nation have something of a history of having the plug pulled on them and subsequently getting banned. They were a right-wing, conservative and deeply patriotic American metal act whose first instance of being banned came when the management at the legendary Sunset Strip venue the Whisky A Go Go booted the band offstage within five minutes of them opening up. “They effed with the wrong band,” said singer Bryan Ross. “Heavy metal and patriotism is alive and well.” He was to become quite used to being effed with, though. Two years later and shortly after starting what they planned to be a two-hour set at the Toyota Speedway, the band were dismayed when the owners of the race track demanded they turn it in. “They fucked with the wrong band,” roared Ross again, quickly turning the words into a catchphrase. He marched over to the organiser and demanded compensation for the audience. The organiser begged to differ. “Ross quickly made him regret his foolish ways by making him fear the wrath of our Metal Gods and simply threatening to kick his pompous ass,” growled a band statement afterwards. The organiser, though, was left unmoved by both the Metal Gods and the promise of an ass-kicking from Ross. It left the singer vaguely threatening that he would “be back” and that he’d be “bringing him a gift…” The band split up soon afterwards, which was perhaps the gift that everyone else was looking for.

Tom Bryant

Tom Bryant is The Guardian's deputy digital editor. The author of The True Lives Of My Chemical Romance: The Definitive Biography, he has written for Kerrang!, Q, MOJO, The Guardian, the Daily Mail, The Mirror, the BBC, Huck magazine, the londonpaper and Debrett's - during the course of which he has been attacked by the Red Hot Chili Peppers' bass player and accused of starting a riot with The Prodigy. Though not when writing for Debrett's.