Shock Rock? What is shock rock?

‘Shock Rock’ refers to a genre of rock and roll music in which the band or artists incorporate unusual and often disturbing theatrical performances as part of their show. The artists typically use these types of performances along with their music and sexually suggestive lyrics to shock the listeners in some type of manner. They typically include many things such as costumes, masks, horror elements and special effects. Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Alice Cooper, Kiss and Marilyn Manson are some of the well-known artists of shock rock although there are many, many more.

Did ‘Shock Rock’ actually start in the 60’s ?

Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

Screamin’ Jay Hawkins is sometimes seen at the first shock rocker. His antics were mild compared to later shock rockers; however, at the time singers did not emerge from coffins. His biggest hit in (1965) was “I Put a Spell on You”; however, it was not a huge seller mainly because it was banned on several radio stations. The song was found to be too shocking for more conservative natured types. Today the song can easily be found on Halloween compilations. To read more about Screamin’ Jay Hawkins visit

For your viewing pleasure, here is a performance of this “shocking” song.


The Crazy World of Arthur Brown…

took shock rock to a new level with stage antics such as Brown setting himself on fire. Initially, the song did not do well because radio stations were not playing it. However, once the song got out in the masses, it became a huge hit reaching number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1968 where it remained for several weeks. Actually, it would have probably reached number 1 if The Beatles song “Hey Jude” was not sitting strongly on top of the music charts. Rolling Stone has a great article on the Veteran Shock Rocker Arthur Brown that can be seen here.

See for yourself the incredible performance of this iconic song.

The ‘accidental’ Shock Rocker

Alice Cooper is the master of shock rock and also consider by journalists and peers as the ‘God Father of Shock Rock’. There’s always been some confusion as to whether or not Alice Cooper was a group or a person. While it is true that Alice is a person, the group did exist as well. Many of the more conservative people saw Alice Cooper as the most disgusting act ever. Their performances included guillotines, hangings, fake dead and headless babies, snakes, light shows, unusual makeup and more. It was a true theatrical experience, but there’s no doubt that this is truly a rocking band regardless of genre. See more about Alice Cooper here and how he accidentally became a shock rocker overnight because of an unrehearsed stage routine in Toronto involving a chicken and a feather pillow here.

“No More Mr. Nice Guy”.

“Billion Dollar Babies”

Unfortunately, the video quality and sound quality on “I’m Eighteen” (1972) is not great, but this was ‘Alice Cooper’ at their height so it must be included and enjoyed.

The 1970s brought us more terrifying face paint

Kiss was one of the next shock rock bands to terrify parents and other more conservative people. The band was formed in 1973 composed of Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Peter Criss and Ace Frehley. The face paint and stage outfits were their trademark along with their theatrical live performances which included blood spitting, fire breathing and pyrotechnics. For more about Kiss visit

A performance of “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” by Kiss

Now that’s just crossing the line

Marilyn Manson. Photo by Joseph Cultice

The shock rocker, Marilyn Manson, created the biggest disturbance among many in the general public since Alice Cooper. Manson crossed every line and some people were truly horrified. Even the name Marilyn Manson was spooky to some since it was a combination of sex symbol Marilyn Monroe and serial killer Charles Manson. This was seen as combining good and evil. For more about Marilyn Manson visit

Here is “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” which was one of Marilyn Manson first hits.

A later hit was “The Dope Show”

4 Decades of Shock Rock?

Shock rock consists of many bands from every decade of rock and roll. Many artists commonly use using theatrical elements in their music and performances. The influence has been left on music of the present and the future. There is always someone out there ready to break the barrier. At some point, Marilyn Manson will appear tame. Most of these artists in shock rock have not been received well by many in the general public, but have become legends and influences in music history.

Wikipedia has a comprehensive list of ‘Shock Rockers’ that you can find here.