Last week, Queen guitarist Brian May interrupted a performance of his musical We Will Rock You to denounce the Welsh government's plan to reduce its badger population. Audience members were equally puzzled by May's lousy timing and his passionate support of the badger, a sort of white trash wolverine without the awesome superhero namesake. May has been widely goofed on for his outburst, but he is far from the first musician to back a dubious cause. We dug up a few more examples of musical advocacy that make Freddie Mercury's shambling ex-sideman look like Bob Geldof in comparison.
5. Rock Against Drugs (RAD)
Back in the Reagan era, MTV tried to cure one of America's greatest social ills with its Rock Against Drugs (RAD) campaign. Based on our review of its surviving public service announcements, RAD probably encouraged a massive spike in drug use instead.
Notable RAD participants included Jon Bon Jovi (seen above), the teacher's pet of rock, whose teased hair and feigned street accent had as much youth appeal as a balding guidance counselor with nicotine-stained teeth. Meanwhile, Belinda Carlisle made her case for clean living by waddling down the beach in mom jeans and a Volvo-shaped blazer from the Benetton clearance rack.
Then there's KISS buffoon Gene Simmons, who wore a monster mask and grunted like a special needs werewolf in his PSA. Simmons, far easier on the eyes when costumed, inadvertently convinced viewers that getting high makes you more handsome and eloquent. Only Vince Neil, conscripted into RAD duty by his probation officer, recognized the hypocrisy of rock stars decrying drug use and thankfully filmed his spot drunk.
4. Hear N' Aid
After his tenure as Ozzy Osbourne's replacement in Black Sabbath, the late Ronnie James Dio seemed hell-bent on embracing his role as second banana of the music industry. Case in point: In 1984, after the success of USA for Africa's “We Are the World,” Dio assembled Hear N' Aid, an all-star metal band to raise money for starving Africans. Whereas USA for Africa featured hit makers such as Michael Jackson, Dio shored up a few guys from Night Ranger. Punishingly hubristic, the resulting video and single, “Stars,” is reminiscent of a hit movie's direct-to-DVD sequel with none of the original cast and cheaper special effects, which is probably how the compulsive underdog Dio wanted it.
3. Rap Against Violence
Possibly the most confused musical advocacy group is Rap Against Violence. We hate to burst anyone's bubble, but a lot of best-selling hip-hop – be it of the cartoonish “Licensed to Ill” variety, the emotionally walloping work of Tupac, or the goofy anthems of Lil Wayne – contains violent lyrical content. Violence is such a fundamental part of hip-hop that protesting it with said music creates the kind of universe-warping mindfuck that we'd have to resurrect Einstein to resolve. If you still insist on taking Rap Against Violence seriously, allow us to introduce you to some other worthy causes: Actors Against Emotion, Writers Against Typing, Gamers Against Graphics, Readers Against Books and Dancers Against Feet.
2. Musicians United for Safe Energy
By the mid-1970s, American rock & roll had declined from the bulging-crotched boogeyman of square adults into a pursuit as inoffensive as camping, with musicians more likely to lecture audiences than shake their dicks at the front row. No one embodied this desultory trend better than Jackson Browne, a Los Angeles department-store mannequin that magically came to life one day and started fingerpicking an acoustic guitar.
In 1979, Browne, whose bowl haircut and cavernous dimples exude a waxen, horrifying boyishness, took up the equally unsexy cause of clean energy and formed MUSE. While the bad-asses in Green Peace got into fistfights with loggers and polluters, obtaining actual results, Browne and his MUSE cohorts hoped to save the Earth with mellow sit-ins and three-part harmonies. MUSE eventually held a handful of benefit concerts, but overall, it failed to live up to its name, inspiring no meaningful legislation or action of any kind.
1. Musicians for Apes
We know what you're thinking: Why on earth would musicians work on behalf of apes?
Although Musicians for Apes seems like the world's most random nonprofit, it does make sense once you do the math. Save for differences in posture (apes stand more erect), musicians and apes are largely indistinguishable. Both lead nomadic lifestyles, hump anything moist and fleshy, and throw fecal matter when angry. Both are incapable of supporting themselves in a rapidly changing world, surviving best in taxpayer-supported shelters where they are kept behind bars. Just as musicians are sure to whine that there used to be a day they could make a living, apes, if they could talk, would complain how they once ruled the jungle. Still don't believe us? Go ask a musician about illegal downloads. Make sure to duck if he reaches behind his back.