May 242011

What’s rock’s greatest stage prop? Pink Floyd‘s flying pig? The Rolling Stonesinflatable penis? Alice Cooper‘s guillotine? Elvis Costello‘s Spectacular Spinning SongwheelSpinal Tap‘s occasionally malfunctioning pods? Once and for all…can we determine the definitive answer to this question?

BONUS POINTS for your personal experiences witnessing any of rock’s greatest stage props or even using one with your own band!


  58 Responses to “Once and for All: Rock’s Greatest Stage Prop”

  1. Spinal Tap’s Stonehenge!

  2. Kid Rock’s sidekick Joe C.

  3. The Sex Pistols’ Sid Vicious.

  4. I remember being quite impressed as a child by the idea of Rob Halford’s motorcycle, but I’m really going to go with KISS’ rising platforms circa “Alive II.” That was Rock and Roll’s Easter right there.

  5. tonyola

    Keith Emerson’s flying and spinning piano.

  6. tonyola

    With the Happy Mondays’ Bez a close second.

  7. I’d never heard of, let alone seen, that thing! Oh my, that may top even Stonehedge!

  8. misterioso

    Holy Moses, that’s a new one for me, too. That’s entertainment!

  9. BigSteve

    Gang of Four, He’d Send in the Army

    A microwave oven as prop/percussion instrument/metaphor for consumerism or something.

  10. Live cattle…oh, wait…that never happened.

    I’ve always enjoyed having cannons shot at me for simply being in the state of “about to rock.” It’s a great salute.

    There were few props at the AC/DC show, but the most notable was the larger than life blow-up Rosie doll and the “Hell’s Bell.” My favorite were the cannons, of course.


  11. I still stand by KISS’s staging from Alive II for sheer awesome-osity, by that flying piano is frigging fantastic! I hate his music but that guy could mach some serious shau.

  12. misterioso

    Yes, of course, one would have to say that a herd of cattle, not to mention untold numbers of buzzards and rattlesnakes, would be the ultimate. Would be.

  13. I remember seeing Julian Cope back in the late 80’s with that crazy custom mic stand that he would climb on and rotate about.

  14. 2000 Man

    I think my favorites were Buck Dharma’s wrist laser beam shooter, because who wouldn’t want to shoot lasers from their wrist? Angel’s angel hologram, which explained to us why god sent these five guys down to rock Tower for us, and Iron Maiden’s big pyramid on the Powerslave tour.

    But for sheer spectacle for spectacle’s sake, I have to give it to the Stones in 98. We were between the B stage and the main stage on the field at Ohio Stadium, and the only shows that had been played so far were in Chicago, and they said, “No Way!” to the propane cannons on the side of the stage. Apparently, Columbus is the heart of redneck country, where blowing crap up is divine birthright. They had one of these things on each side of the stage, and it looked and felt like miniature atomic bombs went off. I couldn’t believe they let them do it, and there were only a few other cities that let them after that. It was really wild.

    Pink Floyd got in big trouble here in like 76 for buzzing Municipal Stadium with a 707. My friend said he tought the plane was going to crash into the stadium and it was pretty crazy. The FAA fined the band for that stunt.

  15. 2000 Man

    The Stones show I saw was acutally 97. Man, I must be old. I don’t usually get Stones tour dates messed up.

  16. Fleetwood Mac would sometimes bring in a full marching band for live performances of the song “Tusk”.

  17. That was shown live on ABC during their broadcast of the 1974 California Jam rock festival. Very much a jaw-dropping moment for the millions who watched it.

  18. Buck Dharma’s laser beam shooter reminds me of Philly Boy Roy’s experience at a GG Allin laser show, in which a virtual GG shot “laser beans” from his ass.

    And wow, Floyd flying and actual 707 over a show has to be considered as the Greatest Stage Prop Ever. I’d never heard of that stunt.

  19. Now I’m curious…during what Rolling Stones song is there room for the atom-bomb cannon? Did they just use it as song-ending panache, or did they work it into otherwise-Stones-y songs, like “She comes in colors everywhere BOOM She combs her hair BOOM She’s like a rain-BOOM”?

  20. I was in a Miami “experimental” band called Emris where the lead guitarist was also a pretty capable professional musician, so there’d be a part of the show when we would play free-form backing music for him as he did tricks like the girl-in-basket with swords, floating balls, and “biting” the heads off doves. He also set it up that at the beginning of the gig, each of us would appear on stage in a puff of smoke.

  21. BONUS POINTS have been granted to tonyola! Thank you. I want to hear more personal experience with on-stage props!

  22. hrrundivbakshi

    That is hilarious at so many levels. I especially appreciated the brief moment Keith spent turning that one knob one-tenth of one degree to provide me with optimum synthesized music quality towards the end there. Who could have guessed that twiddling that one knob — out of, what, 60 or 70 knobs — would make such a huge difference? Up until that point, I thought his performance was absurdly theatrical and not at all focused on the music at hand.

    The gum chewing kind of put me off, though.

  23. hrrundivbakshi

    The first rock concert (funny how nobody calls them “concerts” anymore) I ever went to was Bad Company on their “Desolation Angels” tour. The highlight (?) of the show was the drum solo, in which drummer guy pounded on the skins with special laser-beam drum sticks. Awesome!

    Of course, there was Gene Simmons’ bass “solo,” at the end of which a rocket burst out of the end of his instrument and “destroyed” a speaker cabinet hanging from the ceiling. I’ve written about that amazing mach schau moment in other posts.


  24. hrrundivbakshi

    I would imagine it was their tour plane. Not a bad use for something that otherwise sits on the tarmac, waiting for the band to return. And it musta been hella loud!

  25. I can’t find any references to an airplane flyover at a Pink Floyd concert except at the Knebworth Festival in 1975, where a pair of WWII- vintage Spitfires flew over the venue.

  26. If you’re running an analog synth on overload like Keith is doing, a small adjustment of a knob like an LFO or filter can make a huge difference in the sound.

  27. trigmogigmo

    Ah, yes. It was like his own weird miniature jungle gym to climb up on.

  28. hrrundivbakshi

    And you can distinctly hear the huge difference it made!

  29. This is probably not that impressive to most, but I remember being “wowed” by Squeeze drummer Gilson Lavis’ use of water on his drums, when I saw them the first time opening for Costello circa “Sweets from a Stranger.” He made some big splashes and I have not seen anybody do it since. I can’t find a clip of him doing it right now, but it gives me an excuse to post this link to Up the Junction.

    Recently — it’s hard to top Pink’s Girl in the Air routine on the Grammys in 2010.

  30. This is probably not that impressive to most, but I remember being “wowed” by Squeeze drummer Gilson Lavis’ use of water on his drums, when I saw them the first time opening for Costello circa “Sweets from a Stranger.” He made some big splashes and I have not seen anybody do it since. I can’t find a clip of him doing it right now, but it gives me an excuse to post this link to Up the Junction.

    Recently — it’s hard to top Pink’s Girl in the Air routine on the Grammys in 2010.

  31. whoops — first one had a bad link to up the junction — all apologies.

  32. tonyola

    Oops. That’s supposed to be “pretty capable professional magician”.

  33. BigSteve

    I was just about to go looking for a clip of the Mothership when you posted this. The thing that’s amazing to me about that article is the revelation that George Clinton now lives in Tallahassee.

  34. “Ahem,” he said, adjusting his pince nez, “The rocket shot out of Ace’s guitar because his solo was so awesome.”

  35. tonyola

    If you’re close to retirement as 69-year-old George must be, Tallahassee is not a bad place at all. Attractive town, hilly terrain, fairly agreeable climate, reasonable land and house prices, pretty cosmopolitan for being a small city, a large Afro-American population (around 35%), and no state income tax.

  36. hrrundivbakshi

    No, I was there, and it was Gene. This was long after Ace left the band. And — double-reverse pince-nez on you — I remember Ace’s schtick being a guitar (well, the pickups, anyway) bursting into flame with the heat of his shredding-ness. Not a rocket!

    On a related note: Prince’s “ejaculating” guitar.

  37. Triple reverse Pince Nez!

    Ace would play so furiously that a fireball would shoot from the end of his guitar, knocking out a light. Then, his solo would continue until the pickups spontaneously combusted.

    Gene would play until he vomited blood. He would then fly up to a platform high above the stage.

    I can’t speak to what went on after Ace left but after Ace left, does it matter?

  38. 2000 Man

    Hey now, I’m not Nick Kent. I hate when people make up stories that never happened in Rock N Roll, because enough crazy stuff actually did happen. None less than Jane Scott reported the Floyd airplane thing:

    I guess it was actually 77. My friends told me how big a plane it was, generally “The biggest Fuckin’ plane you ever saw!” but I had a friend that was from a family of pilots there and he said it was a 707.

  39. 2000 Man

    Ha ha! Jane’s article wraps up with:

    Of course, sitting on stage just behind a curtain has its downside, too. I remember being lulled to sleep during an interminable Emerson, Lake and Palmer song. When I awakened, about eight minutes later, the trio was playing the same refrain.

    I really liked her!

  40. machinery

    Wendy O Williams chainsawing a car in half.

  41. ladymisskirroyale

    That’s the 11 for me!

  42. ladymisskirroyale


  43. Funny you should mention that, we saw this on the Billboard Music Awards this Sunday:
    I said, hey, I’ve seen that before!

  44. No one went for the flying pig. I never understood that one. “Pigs (3 different ones)” and “Pigs on the Wing” aren’t major songs for the casual Floyd fan, why do people remember the pig?

  45. Hey, is Cee Lo the first artist to have ever holstered a piano?

  46. 2000 Man

    I think it was after Satisfaction or Jumpin’ Jack Flash. They were HUGE, and shot flames probably 90 feet in the air. They had confetti cannons too, and that stuff was everywhere. It was some kind of metallic crap that was really static charged and I bet it was a bitch to clean up!

  47. Our seats were right behind Chuck Leavell’s ass on the mini-stage, yet when those torches went off on the main stage the heat was definitely nuts. And I’ve still got a bit of that confetti around here somewhere. It does not disappear

  48. That tour the Stones took on-line “requests” and played the winner no matter what it was. And for one of our shows it was indeed “She’s a Rainbow.” (BOOOM!)

  49. The Pig would have been my second choice. I’m not sure why but it’s an indelible image.

  50. gamesformay

    A few days late but as a not-so-casual Floyd fan I’d say people also remember it because of its use during the Wall tour as well. During the original tour, it always made an appearance during “Run Like Hell” accompanied by screams and general banter from Roger Waters – during Roger Waters’ current solo tour of the Wall, the pig made an appearance during “In The Flesh” as well as “Run Like Hell” – I’m not sure if that was also the case during the original tour. And as far as I know, Gilmour, Mason and Wright went on to use a slightly altered version of the pig during their post-Waters concerts. So it made several appearances that may have been memorable to non-casual fans.

  51. It’s hard to be “too late” in the Halls of Rock, gamesformay. Thanks for joining the fray! I, for one, was always fascinated by tales of the pig. I was never a Pink Floyd fan in their day, but the stoners in my high school always got excited when talking about the pig.

    Didn’t Waters actually get “custody” of the pig?

  52. gamesformay

    The pig was definitely part of their legal disputes in the 80s. During post-Waters Floyd tours, the inflatable pig had to be different that Waters’ design, so they added testicles to it. The pig Waters has used and still uses when he tours is sans testicles so yes, you could say that he has custody of the ‘original’ pig idea. Waters called it his ‘one pathetic victory’.

  53. Now you’re going to have me searching for transcripts of the legal proceedings – or drafting them from my imagination, if all else fails!

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