The 7 Biggest Scandals To Ever Hit Grunge Music

Ryan Sandlin

Grunge singer circa 1990

Sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll. These three words in conjunction have come from the mouth of many parents throughout the ages. More often than not, grunge music (having been mistaken for rock or heavy metal) is the accused perpetrator of said violations against moral standing. However, the grunge scene was a driving life force for the ’90s music scene in Seattle. The beauty of the genre, if one chooses to call it that, is the uniting of like-minded individuals with common interests and goals.

Being a combination of punk and heavy metal, grunge certainly fits outside of the mold of traditional music. The evolution of grunge music stems from the anger and misery of heavy metal combined with the social and political rants of punk music, leaving the entire grunge genre influenced by angsty, political musicians. Like any industry, the grunge scene has its own scandalous downfalls. Here are some of the biggest scandals to ever hit grunge music.

Kurt Cobain Decked By A Bouncer

Kurt Cobain In Utero

Kurt Cobain, front man for Nirvana and known for his gravelly voice and wistfully dirty guitar, was held dear in the hearts of every teenager during the ’90s. Being one of the most influential names in music history, it shouldn’t be a surprise that he had both his ups and downs.

During a concert in 1991 at Trees in Dallas, Texas, Nirvana was set to perform the hit single “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” as well as other songs from “Nevermind.” Filming the show, local musician Brad Featherstone said, “People were very excited, and that feeling was in the air” (via the Dallas Morning News).

During a performance of “Love Buzz,” Cobain jumped off the stage into the throng of fans and accidentally hit the Trees Club bouncer, according to Diffuser. Caught on video, the bouncer then punched Cobain in the face. At this point, drummer Dave Grohl bassist and Krist Novoselic pulled Cobain out of the mayhem, and the band continued to play music. Needless to say, fans were outraged that their concert was interrupted by a fight.

Stone Temple Pilots Legal Trouble

Scott Weiland

Stone Temple Pilots are a sort-of capstone for grunge music, influencing the music scene with raw, heartfelt lyrics dissimilar to some other grunge bands. Frontman Scott Weiland, a known substance user, was fired from the band in early 2013 for repeated tardiness and the band’s policy against addiction before music, reports Rolling Stone.

That same year, Weiland was caught by various fans and band members playing STP songs at local venues under the band’s name as a means to support himself. Arguing that he illegally used the band’s name and songs without the band’s consent, Stone Temple Pilots sued him (via Associated Press).

According to the Stone Temple Pilots’ website (via USA Today), the band said, “… The plan was for a big tour where we’d perform the album in its entirety, along with some other favorite STP songs. So, you might imagine our shock and disappointment when, without any notice, we learned that Scott had seized this tour for himself as his solo tour …”

In light of the legal issues, Weiland countersued Stone Temple Pilots with allegations of conspiracy to eject him from the band, as per Rolling Stone. However, legal action on Weiland’s behalf was difficult to confirm as in the band noted on their site, “… The band has a binding agreement that clearly states what each of us can and cannot do outside of STP …”

Vicky Cornell and Soundgarden

Vicky Cornell

Of all the grunge scandals, Soundgarden promotes a sticky situation for every party involved. Chris Cornell’s family life has often been debated heavily in the media, but nothing such as this until recently. In 2019, Vicky Cornell, wife of the late Chris Cornell, publicly engaged in legal action against the surviving members of Soundgarden. Vicky claimed that the band withheld royalties from the estate to coerce her into providing them with unreleased songs written by Chris. Vicky filed a lawsuit in hopes to gain access to her husband’s royalty money.

However, Soundgarden rebuts that all songs found in Chris Cornell’s estate are strictly the sole proprietorship of Soundgarden and countersued Vicky Cornell, leaving a messy legal situation. Recently, in 2021, Judge Michelle Peterson stated that evidence shows Soundgarden is not withholding royalties from the Cornell estate (Reuters). In recent months, Soundgarden has released allegations that out of spite, Cornell has locked them out of their website and social media. As of now, there is no further information in regards to Vicky Cornell’s allegations, according to Billboard

Wendy O. Williams Arrested For Obscenity

Wendy O. Williams during her public masturbation scene.

Combining heavy metal with punk, Plasmatics was a precursor to grunge music. Vocalist and frontwoman Wendy O. Williams has been known for many scandals throughout the years, but taking the cake is her 1981 public masturbation scene.

According to UCR, Williams was arrested for “lewd and lascivious behavior.” Williams, never one to be conservative, during the concert partook in simulated oral sex and public masturbation. As a result of this behavior, the police gave her a visit.

Williams and her manager, Rod Swenson, were arrested, however, the arrest took a violent turn ending with both Williams and Swenson being beaten by the police. Later that year during the trial, Swenson was found not guilty and having lost the case against Swenson, the judge dropped the charges against Williams.

The following year, Williams was admitted to a hospital following another burst of masturbation in front of her ex-husband-manager. After receiving professional help, so far there are no more stories involving any lewd activities. (The Source)

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1–800–950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Michael Todd Threatens To Blow Up A Pharmacy

Michael Todd

Post-hardcore bassist Michael Todd of Coheed and Cambria, known as an exquisite performer, had a major run-in with law enforcement in 2011, according to NME. Todd, on his way to open for Soundgarden, stopped by a Massachusetts pharmacy.

Having approached the pharmacist, Michael Todd stated that he was in possession of a bomb and that he would detonate said explosive if he was not provided with OxyContin immediately. The undisclosed employee replied to Todd stating that there was currently no OxyContin within the store. At this point, Todd allegedly responded that he would accept Percocets.

After obtaining various substances, Michael Todd fled the scene, later arriving at his tour bus. After the robbery, Massachusetts police tracked Michael Todd down at the venue where he was set to perform with Soundgarden, says E! News. Michael Todd pleaded not guilty to the robbery and was set a $25,000 bail. Shortly thereafter, on August 4, 2011, Coheed and Cambria replaced Michael Todd with Zach Cooper (Rolling Stone).

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1–800–662-HELP (4357).

Todd Harrell And Recurring DUIs

Todd Harrel

Popular amongst teens in the late ’90s, 3 Doors Down is a post-grunge performance group. Bassist, Todd Harrell, is a strict connoisseur of the limelight. Harrel, known for having a wild streak, has been arrested on various charges ranging from possession of marijuana to illegal possession of a firearm (All Music).

Harrell was first arrested in regards to impaired driving, in 2012, having crashed into the car in front of him, enduring a two-day jail sentence as well as a $1,000 fine (via Loudwire). In the two subsequent years, he was arrested two more times for other alcohol-vehicular-related crimes.

In 2013, he was suspended from 3 Doors Down after an impaired driving spree ended with vehicular homicide as well as intoxication and drug possession charges according to Billboard. Todd Harrell says that during the incident he was intoxicated.

Finally, in 2014, Harrell was indefinitely ejected from the band after being convicted of driving under the influence for the third time in three years. Suspected of driving impaired, Harrell was pulled over by local police. After being issued a $1,789 bond, frontman Brad Arnold for 3 Doors Down says: “for the foreseeable future. He’s got a lot to deal with, man… He’ll always be my brother, but we had to put this band first.”

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1–800–662-HELP (4357).

Ian Watkins Arrested For Sexual Crimes

Ian Watkins

Ian Watkins, singer-songwriter for the band LostProphets, a metal and post-grunge phenomenon, originally was a staple of good morale, having denied substances and illegal activities in order to focus on his music during the start of his career, according to BBC.

Quickly gaining fame in the British rock scene, LostProphets was a respected band, having little to no legal trouble before Watkins was accused of several sexually charged crimes in early 2012. Upon further investigation, allegations of substance-fueled sexual assault were brought forth during interviews and independent confessions (The Guardian).

Due to little proof, police needed probable cause to investigate further into Watkin’s life, as he was known as a reputable musician. However, in mid-2012, it became evident that Ian Watkins had his foot within a narcotic trade ring, giving police probable cause for further investigation.

After a home raid, and seizure of technology, police found evidence of child pornography, bestial pornography, as well as conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with a young child (Consequences.net). During the trial, Watkins pleaded guilty to rape and attempted assault of a minor under 13 and three accounts of sexual assault of children.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1–800–662-HELP (4357).

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN’s National Helpline at 1–800–656-HOPE (4673).

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