Greatest Hits

The rock & roll hall of pain

Illustration by Bob AulWhen the Von Bondies play the House of Blues Wednesday, don't expect to see any signs of the bloody brawl between Jack White of the White Stripes and the Von Bondies' Jason Stollsteimer. That duke-fest went down in a Detroit bar in December—maybe you've even seen White's booking photo on TheSmokingGun.com or the full-color pictures of Stollsteimer's crimson nose and purple eye. Aside from any detached retinas, though, Stollsteimer and the Von Bondies came out of this smack-around pretty good. There's a long, honorable tradition of getting or giving ass-kicking in rock & roll, and this latest high-profile brouhaha now gets to slide to the bottom of this list.

Keith Moon vs. Neil Boland(1970)

Patented-British-exploding-drummer Moon was never too good with the motorcars, and although the story about him driving a Towncar into the Flint, Michigan, Holiday Inn pool is apocryphal, there's worse that really did happen. After opening a disco in London in 1970, Moon and his limo-bound entourage were attacked by skinheads, and when chauffeur Boland got out to break up the scene, a (helpful?) Moon slid into the driver's seat. Something went wrong, the car popped forward, and Boland was killed. Blaming Moon seems somewhat uncalled-for, but that didn't deter Moon, who later told groupie-angel Pamela Des Barres—between dress-up role-play sessions—that he never forgave himself. Champeen: Moon by a technicality, but fallible modern technology itself deserves the KO.

Lou Reed vs. David Bowie (1978)

Bowie didn't want to pick up the bar bill, and Lou socked him—simple etiquette in New York, but Bowie (who was already cockeyed from a long-ago schoolyard fight) took it hard, and his relationship with Reed cooled considerably. Too bad Marc Bolan was dead by then, though, because this could have been the glammiest bar fight ever!Champeen: Bowie, except Lou Reed never appeared in Labyrinth.

Courtney Love vs. Kathleen Hanna (1995)

It's almost quaint now, since it was one of Love's first public assaults, but it must've scared the fuck out of the kids at a Washington state Lollapalooza stop when Love and then-Bikini Kill's Hanna started swinging. Hanna got an arm cast (or was that just a punch in the face?) and Love got a one-year suspended sentence, then took some anger-management classes, which worked perfectly and she never ever did anything violent again . . . until she punched photographer Belissa Cohen three years later. Champeen: Wendy O. Williams, forever.

John Lennon vs. Stu Sutcliffe (1961)

Accepted canon is that proto-Beatle Sutcliffe (who gave the group their name, their haircut and their first bass player) suffered an eventually fatal brain injury during a Hamburg street fight. But years later, sister Pauline blamed a jealous John, based on allegations that Lennon shoved Sutcliffe down a flight of stairs and drew sketches in Sutcliffe's art portfolio with captions like BLOODY BRAIN. Champeen: Mark David Chapman, karmic avenger—but only if Lennon really did it.

Ike Turner vs. Tina Turner (1976)

Charting the Ike-and-Tina relationship is like core-sampling superfund sites, but this July 4 back-of-a-limo altercation was definitely the big one. After Ike finally passed out—as much from exhaustion as alcohol, maybe?—Tina took everything she had on her (clothes and 36 cents, according to Rolling Stone) and split for good, though the divorce wouldn't be finalized for another two agonizing years. Champeen:Ike Turner might have invented rock & roll, but all anyone will remember him for is going, "Aww, Tina, baby . . ." while rubbing his knuckles. Tina takes the moral victory.

Phil Spector vs. the Ramones (1980)

Dee Dee always maintained there was significant gunplay during sessions for the Ramones' End of the Century LP, but rumors can't settle between Spector, say, holding a pistol on the band while he played them "Baby, I Love You" for several hours or maybe just Spector making Joey sing choruses at gunpoint over a keening string section. Lucky for the Ramones, that's probably one of the more interesting things about the album. Champeen:Two Ramones are dead, and Spector's reign of terror rolls on unchecked. Easy call.

Buddy Rich vs. Dusty Springfield (1969)

Buddy Rich had it all—well, mostly he just had a satanically abusive temper and a preternatural ability to play a drum kit, and it's an easy guess which talent he liked to exercise more. While sharing a bill with Dusty Springfield, he started yelling at her when she mentioned something about whose name was over whose on the marquee. Story goes that he called her a fucking bitch, and she smacked him hard enough to knock his toupee off. Champeen:Dusty, the only human being gutsy enough to ever lay a hand on Buddy Rich.

Elvis Costello vs. Bonnie Bramlett (1979)

Drunk so far off his ass they had to prop him up on a pile of phone books and barstools, new wave's last angry man bizarrely concluded an argument about race with singer Bramlett by calling Ray Charles a "blind, ignorant nigger." Bramlett belted him, and the resulting publicity tornado left Costello pleading ill-considered booze-y shit-talking. But, you know, Ray Charles apparently forgave him, telling reporters, "Drunken talk isn't meant to be printed in the paper." Champeen:Bramlett, who can (a) hold her liquor and (b) beat up a nerd.

Iggy Pop vs. Scorpians Biker Gang (1974)

After an on-air call-in shit-talk session on Michigan radio, this last Stooges show (available on quasi-bootleg) turned into a 20-minute "Louie Louie" punctuated by bottles hitting the bass strings. Fearless Iggy even hopped offstage but limped back on a few minutes later after incensed bikers tried to eat him—probably one of Iggy's very few retreats. Champeen: You cannot defeat the Ig. Unless you wait 30 years and convince him to record with Sum 41.

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