From deals with the devil to blood transfusions to faked deaths, the music world has always been rife with rumour, conjecture and conspiracy. But how do you decipher the fiction from the fact? We examine ten of music's tallest tales.
10. Jack White and Meg White are siblings
Back when The White Stripes first started to make it big one of the principal enigmas behind the band was that no one could quite figure out Jack and Meg's relationship to each other. To build up a sense of intrigue, Jack White - ever the publicity hound - concocted a tale that he and Meg were brother and sister and the media latched on to this fable of a family band conquering the music world to the delight of every journalist who interviewed them for several years thereafter. The simple truth is that Jack White was born Jack Gillis and he and Meg were married for a spell. Ever the contrarian, Jack opted to take Meg's last name when they got hitched and kept it when they split some time later.
9. Marilyn Manson was in The Wonder Years
Those of you of a certain age might well have a fondness for classic 80's TV show The Wonder Years but have you heard the urban legend associated with it?. The coming of age drama was completely inoffensive fare, showing protagonist Kevin Arnold battling his hormones with the help of long, unnecessary pauses and strange voices in his head. But do you remember Kevin's best friend, the gangly bespectacled Paul Pfeiffer? Rumours emerged online a while back that Paul was actually played by a young Brian Warner, AKA Marilyn Manson, on the show. As you may have guessed, these claims were easily disprovable as one glance at the credits will tell you that the role was played by Josh Saviano. Still one of our favourite (but completely unfounded) rumours, though.
8. Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil
A popular myth around the turn of the last century centred around a select group of people engaging in a deal with the devil in return for success or wealth in their mortal lives. As soon as death comes though, all bets are off and the devil gets his due. The most famous example of this type of unholy alliance centres around bluesman Robert Johnson who is said to have sold his soul to Satan in return for the gift of music - a myth which Johnson himself furthered in the lyrics to his song 'Crossroads'. These pacts with the devil were often cited to explain huge leaps in skill - in Johnson's case his incredible improvement on the guitar - when it was thought that no force on earth could have explained it. In reality though, Johnson basically invented the blues and there was no other-worldly intrusion from Satan or anyone else.
7. Lady Gaga is a hermaphrodite
Back when Lady Gaga first exploded into the public consciousness in 2008 she almost immediately became a source of rumour or conjecture, as fans and media alike struggled to explain her unique style of performing. Among the most obscure, yet most often repeated, urban legends surrounding Gaga was that she was born a hermaphrodite. Quite how this one surfaced we'll never know but it quickly gained steam online. Certain 'bulges' were highlighted in photographs by conspiracy theorists with little better to do adding fuel to the allegations. In fact, these rumours still persist to this day despite Lady Gaga unequivocally proving otherwise by posing starkers.
6. Ozzy Osbourne regularly eats bats on stage
When you picture Ozzy Osbourne in your head odds are you immediately conjure up images of the 80's rock god biting the head off a bat live on stage, as is the most often repeated so-called fact of his career. Well, this one actually has a modicum of truth to it but the full story probably isn't as you might have imagined it to be. Ozzy did indeed chow down on some bat during a live show during his 80's heyday but it was a complete accident. Grabbing what he thought to be a prop bat on stage, Ozzy bit its head off only to learn that the 'prop' was very real and some rock and roll mythology was born. He's never repeated it.
5. Keith Richards undergoes blood transfusions to stay healthy
When Keith Richards eventually kicks the bucket it might be wise to have a team of scientists study him to find out exactly how he's managed to make it in to his 70's. Perhaps the most debaucherous figure in all of music (and that's saying something) Richards' drug and alcohol use is the thing of legend, often prompting speculation as to how he hasn't died several times over already. One rumour claims to explain it and it centres around a strange medical procedure which flushes all the blood out of your system and replaces it with cleaner, healthier blood. Unfortunately for us all, no such procedure exists. The rumours stemmed from a trip to Switzerland prior to the Rolling Stones' 1973 Pacific Tour where Richards did in fact undergo a blood treatment called haemodialysis to help repair a damaged kidney but this alone does not explain Keef's baffling longevity.
4. The Beatles smoked a joint in Buckingham Palace
When the Beatles rolled into Buckingham Palace to collect their MBE's in 1965, rumour has it that they excused themselves briefly and high-tailed it to the jacks to smoke a joint to calm their nerves ahead of meeting the Queen. The source of this rumour? John Lennon. This tale was taken as scripture until, several years later, Paul McCartney admitted that it was false. Macca explained that the boys did nip out for a smoke but that their cigarettes were completely above board. By the time the White Album was released in 1968 though, you can be sure that their cigarettes became a hell of a lot less law-abiding - they just never smoked 'em in the Queen's gaff.
3. Mama Cass choked to death on a ham sandwich
Of all the urban legends listed here, the one most often believed to be true is that 'Mama' Cass Elliott of The Mamas & the Papas died alone in her London flat after choking on a sandwich. Elliott's hefty frame lent weight to the rumour that food had played a part in her demise. Not so. While a partially eaten ham sandwich was indeed found nearby, Mama Cass died from a heart attack after months of crash-dieting after losing around 35kg in just eight months. So it was her lack of food intake, rather than the opposite, which ultimately caused her death at the age of 32. The most interesting, and rarely mentioned, fact about her death? Mama Cass died in the same room where The Who's Keith Moon passed on four years earlier.
2. Paul McCartney died in 1966 and was replaced by a lookalike
At around 5am on Wednesday 9th November 1966, a furious Paul McCartney stormed out of a recording session for The Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album, got into his Austin Healey car, crashed it and died - or so the legend goes. Facing the demise of their band, the surviving Beatles opted to try and find a replacement, one who looks like and - crucially - sings just like Paul and to just make nice and pretend the entire thing didn't happen. The replacement's name was rumoured to be William Shears Campbell (who became Billy Shears on Sgt Pepper) or William Sheppard (referenced in 'The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill'). Sounds legit, right?
These rumours originally stemmed from a call to Detroit station WKNR-FM from a caller who claimed that some Beatles songs contained lyrics which proved Paul had died but in reality, Paul was travelling between France and Kenya between the 6th and 19th November and was very much still alive.
1. Elvis is alive
The golden goose of rock n' roll mythology. When just about any influential music figure dies it is often followed by a litany of "so-and-so faked their death" rumours but none have stuck more than that of Elvis Presley. The official story is that The King died of a heart attack on August 16th 1977. His death never sat right with a section of his fans though, who refused to believe that the official story was accurate. Proponents of the rumour will cite things like Elvis' gravestone having a typo on it (it reads Elvis Aaron Presley, 'Aron' was the correct spelling) and say that Elvis faked his own death in order to escape the music business and live in peace, instead burying a waxwork lookalike and retreating from the public eye. The truth is that a post-mortem was conducted and, unless it was the most elaborate waxwork ever made, Elvis did indeed die on a sunny August afternoon in Memphis, Tennessee.
(All images used with permission via WENN)