Sexual assaults, death, addictions, jail stints, it’s very easy to topple your music career.

But there are 16 other ways to derail the track and have your manager sobbing.


Robin Thicke out of the blur
Robin Thicke out of the blur

What went wrong: No one likes a cry-baby.

You couldn’t escape Robin Thicke in 2013. ‘Blurred Lines’ went to #1 in 14 countries with triple Grammy nominations and suggestions he could be a worthy successor to Justin Timberlake.

However after the twerk performance with Miley Cyrus on the MTV Video Music Awards, he tried to duck the backlash by claiming he didn’t know it was going to be sooo sexy.

Cyrus snapped back, “You were in rehearsals! You knew exactly what was going to happen.”

It was the last straw for actress wife Paula Patton who thought it disrespectful to her and left him.

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He released a cringeworthy baby-come-back album called Paula (2014).

Not only did it sell badly (word is it just moved 50 copies in Australia first week) but on TV appearances he’d burst into tears, which created even more of a kickback.

Then came the lawsuit from Marvin Gaye’s family over ‘Blurred Lines’ and his defence he couldn’t remember the writing of the song because he was pissed, saw the public wave him off.

In an interview this year Thicke shrugged, “Regret is boring.”


sinead oconnor black and white
Sinead O’Connor in happier days

What went wrong: She was a lil’ ripper!

There are a 1.2 billion Roman Catholics in the world, and 85 million in North America alone.

Sinead O’Connor managed to alienate them all in 1992 when she ripped up a photo of Pope John Paul II on live TV, Saturday Night Live.

It came at the end of an a cappella version of Bob Marley’s ‘War’ with changed lyrics to bring attention to the rampant child abuse in the Catholic Church. As she tore up the photo she yelped, “Fight the real enemy.”

She later explained, “Half of me was just like: ‘Jesus, I’d love to just see what’d happen’.”

She found out two weeks later at Bob Dylan’s star-studded 30th-anniversary concert at Madison Square Garden when the crowd soundly booed her and she stumbled off stage in tears.

Until then O’Connor’s career was rising worldwide, but after that she remained a cult figure albeit a revered one.


What went wrong: Hello Dallas, it’s party time!

Dragon moved from New Zealand to Sydney in the mid-’70s and promptly made themselves a top draw with a series of multi-platinum albums, dynamic live shows, drug deaths and headlines caused by charismatic and controversial frontman Marc Hunter.

They landed a US deal with Sony imprint Portrait and in 1978 launched their first American tour opening for blues guitarist Johnny Winter.

In Dallas, Hunter goaded the hostile redneck crowd, calling them “f***s” and references to oral sex.

The crowd pelted the stage with bottles, chairs shoes, light bulbs and fittings. They later fitted into two massive barrels.

The band ducked and kept playing while Hunter leaped from table to table, throwing more insults and splendidly throwing crucifixion poses.

Winter’s band took bets on when someone would shoot the lanky singer.

Portrait had also booked a showcase in New York, and flown media from all around the country.

Alas, Hunter disappeared for three days and was discovered living it up in a brothel.

On their return to Australia, he was sacked although he would re-join a few years later. Dragon continued their hits here but America was over for them.

Not only did an icy-cold Portrait tear up the contract but another signing, Sydney band Finch/Contraband, who were about to get on a plane to head for their US tour, were told not to bother coming.


What went wrong: Hands off!

The legendary Harry Vanda and George Young team from Alberts Records changed John Stanley Cave to William Shakespeare, glam rocker.

They wrote two smash hits for him, ‘Can’t Stop Myself from Loving You’ and ‘My Little Angel’ and his debut album sold 6x Platinum.

The world stage was calling but in 1975 he was convicted of carnal knowledge of a 15-year-old girl from his fan club.

The hits stopped cold. What followed was electro-therapy for depression and alcoholism and a long stint detailing cars at a Sydney dealer.

But by 2001, he was homeless, first living in his Mini Minor car and then in a ticket booth at an oval next to St George’s Leagues Club.

He was rescued by Support Act Ltd, who found him government housing in Riverwood until his death in October 2010. Alberts Records paid for his funeral.


milli vanilli

What went wrong: Didn’t sing on records (like that’s a rarity).

Milli Vanilli were a German R&B duo from Munich, who sold millions of records in the late ‘80s.

They were put together by German producer, songwriter and singer Frank Farian.

He sang on records by Boney M and Far Corporation (or got in session singers) but got good looking types to perform them live.

In this case he got hold of photogenic dancers and models Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus, who won a Grammy for best new artist in February 1990.

Later in the year while performing their giant hit ‘Girl You Know It’s True’ at the MTV Awards, the backing track had a technical hurl and got stuck on repeat.

No one at the concert cared in all the lighting screaming and smoke, but the mainstream media called them frauds (even though it was a common occurrence in pop music), and turned it into a giant scandal.

Farian admitted the pair hadn’t even sung on the records, and their Grammy was grim-facedly revoked.

They moved to LA but two albums under the name Rob & Fab stiffed.

In 1998 a Milli Vanilli comeback album titled Back And In Attack was scrapped after Pilatus died aged 32.

He had turned to drugs and crime, jailed for three months for a series of assaults and robberies, and died of an accidental overdose.


Dixie Chicks

What went wrong: Got all Bushed up.

In March 2003, just nine days before US-led allied forces invaded Iraq, the Dixie Chicks were playing London and feeling the anti-US sentiment especially against president George W. Bush.

Lead singer Natalie Maines announced from the stage, “Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all.

“We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas.”

Country music radio in America trashed their records and held listeners polls if they should ban their music.

Manes had to release two statements, The first was that as a mother “and proud American”, she felt there could be options considered before war.

That wasn’t enough to calm the waters and Maines had to follow with:

“As a concerned American citizen, I apologise to President Bush because my remark was disrespectful. I feel that whoever holds that office should be treated with the utmost respect.”

The band took a hiatus and didn’t tour the US for ten years. Many patriots still haven’t forgiven the trio.


What went wrong: Thought gay feelings didn’t matter.

Michelle Shocked had all the leanings of a left-wing progressive nui-country singer songwriter who admitted to having a lesbian encounter and was “honoured” to be an honorary lesbian.

She had apparently become a Born Again Christian, which is why an audience of many gays at a San Francisco club show in 2013 was stunned when during the encore, she yapped, “When they stop Prop 8 (California’s Proposition 8 outlawed gay marriage in that state) and force priests at gunpoint to marry gays, it will be the downfall of civilisation, and Jesus will come back.”

She challenged the crowd, “You are going to leave here and tell people, ‘Michelle Shocked said God hates f—-ts.'”

Bookings were cancelled, she lost her star status, and ended up releasing albums independently.

She said she had been misunderstood, that her comments were not reflecting her beliefs but that a lot of Christians thought so about the gay community, and she wished she’d made that distinction clearer.


What went wrong: Turned on the wrong switch.

In the anger following governor-general John Kerr’s dismissal of the Gough Whitlam government in 1975, Aussie jazz-blues singer Renee Geyer did herself no favours singing the Liberal Party’s theme song, ‘Turn on the Lights’, in the election that followed.

Retribution came quickly, with the singer later admitting to the Sydney Morning Herald in July 2013 that a subsequent tour was ”clearly affected” with fans showing their disapproval.

Geyer told the SMH: ”At that time I was so naive politically.

“I don’t want to sway people one way or another because of my political leanings, but I’m definitely not a Liberal Party person.”

In the same interview she also revealed that her chance of inroads in the US were curbed when the record company suggested that as Americans thought she was an African American because she had a “black” voice, that she not have a photograph of herself on the album cover.

She indignantly refused.



What went wrong: Reached for the stars and fell to earth.

In the early ’80s, Kiss undertook their biggest tour of Australia.

But in the US record sales had declined.

In 1981, Kiss wanted to make a record that was bigger and bolder, and came under the influence of record producer Bob Ezrin, who’d worked with Pink Floyd’s The Wall (1979).

The resultant The Elder, based around a mystical medieval warrior’s attempt to save the world, was made more pompous with a gospel choir and orchestra.

Critics and fans savaged it but Kiss managed to get back on the right road after that.

One poor guitarist who got a job with the band during their masked days when fans did not know what they looked like.

He sent out an unauthorised media release complete with a photo of himself showing off his face – which led to his being sacked even before he started.


Lil Wayne

What went wrong: Didn’t attend history lessons.

It’s always best not to sleep through history class in case you piss off your fans in later life.

Emmett Till is an African American civil rights martyr: in 1955, the 14-year-old from Chicago was visiting Mississippi and apparently for flirting with a white woman, tortured and murdered by a group of men.

The killers were acquitted, and the woman later admitted she had made up a lot of her accusations.

So when Lil Wayne rapped “Beat that pussy up like Emmett Till” on his guest verse of Future’s ‘Karate Chop’ remix, it caused great anger.

The rapper promised never to perform it live and apologised to Till’s family, and, as did his record company Epic, which pulled the remix.


Burger King paid Mary J. Blige $2 million

What went wrong: Pissed off her audience.

In 2012, Burger King paid Mary J. Blige $2 million to star in an ad to promote its new chicken wings.

However the African American community condemned her for playing up racial stereotypes like “a buffoon”, with her dancing and eating chicken.

Blige defended herself the ad was different from the concept she was sold on (it was to be a dream sequence).

Burger King whipped the ad off air citing “music licensing issues” and apologised to the singer for changing the concept.


What went wrong: Pissed on their Wonderwall.

Noel Gallagher told CNN that Oasis didn’t break America because they “got off on the wrong foot” with US fans.

“Four tours in a row were either never started or never finished,” he said ruefully.

One time in August 1996 Liam Gallagher didn’t front at the airport for the flight over because he had sold his house and his wife had nowhere to stay in.

Noel had to take over vocals until Liam joined three days later, but the tour was cancelled after two weeks.


What went wrong: Didn’t believe musicians should starve.

Sydney band Electric Pandas got off to a good start in 1984 with the Top 10 hit ‘Big Girls’, penned by frontwoman Lin Buckfield, and released through Regular Records.

A year later they recorded a Coke ad for use on TV and in RCA/Columbia Pictures/Hoyts cinemas and video slots.

The Sydney inner city set screamed “sell-out!” and their records never hit the heights again.

The Pandas broke up in 1987and Buckfield went on to become an executive producer on TV’s Four Corners.

Watch the clip for ‘Big Girls’ below:


What went wrong: Talked rubbish, put on whiteface.

In 1976, Britain was in the midst of race riots and fascists were gaining support.

At a show in multi-cultural Birmingham, up plonked Eric Clapton, then at his deepest and darkest alcohol and drug hell, to yap, “Enoch (Powell, rightwing politician) was right … we should send them all back.”

The rant saw the bluesman go on to say: “Keep Britain white … This is Great Britain, a white country. What is happening to us, for fuck’s sake?”

Years later he apologised profusely on TV, saying, “I sabotaged everything I got involved with.

“I was so ashamed of who I was, a kind of semi-racist, which didn’t make sense.

“Half of my friends were black, I dated a black woman, and I championed black music.”

His career was never the same in the UK after but in the stunned reaction to that outburst came the formation of Rock Against Racism.


What went wrong: “Hey y’all, say hi to my honeychile bride”.

There was a time when 1950s rocker Jerry Lee Lewis was playing 10,000 seat shows and the media loved the man who dubbed himself The Killer.

In 1958 The Killer made the decision to take his new bride Myra with him on a tour of the UK.

Journalists greeting him at the airport asked about the lil’ missus – and Jerry Lee proudly introduced her as his 15-year-old cousin.

It was an acceptable custom in his southern neck of the woods but radio DJs frothing at the mouth refused to play his songs again and TV banned him – more so when it was discovered that Myra was only 13.

Jerry Lee plummeted to 100-seat venues in the UK and the hits stopped.


The Screaming Jets

What went wrong: Spread the love.

The story goes that early in their career a UK record company was enthusiastic over Screaming Jets’ chances there, and flew them over and threw a media reception for them.

Alas one of the members was found batter dipping the corn dog with an executive’s wife, and that was the end of them in the UK for that time.


What went wrong: Destiny waved the red, white and blue.

Sometimes musicians can’t be blamed for mishaps, when they no longer control destiny and destiny controls them.

The September 11 2001 multiple plane attacks in America took place about 5,993.90 km from the Australian east coast.

But it had career-impacting decisions here.

Major US radio network Clear Channel banned 164 songs, among them Savage Garden’s ‘Crash And Burn’ and seven AC/DC songs including ‘Safe In New York City’, ‘Shot Down in Flames’ and ‘Highway to Hell’.

Bachelor Girl’s ‘I’m Just a Girl’ was affected as it came with a video shot at an airport (in Melbourne).

Shihad, who named themselves after David Lynch’s 1984 sci-fi film, Dune, were told the name was too much like ‘jihad’, the Arabic word for holy war, so they changed it to Pacifier, which fans thought was dismal.

Thankfully in September 2004 they changed it back, and the Pacifier name was raffled on triple j by Jay and the Doctor and was claimed by Tasmanian band Theory of Everything.

At the time the Australian government was warning folks not to gather in large crowds and especially at places displaying US symbols.

What more symbolic than the man who sang ‘Born in the USA’ and many stayed away from three Bruce Springsteen dates that followed 18 months later and the tour company went belly-up.

However the worst backslap came for Lee Ryan of the British boyband Blue.

A month after the attacks and while most of the world was in sympathy with the US, the 17-year-old whined to the Sun newspaper, “Who gives a fuck about New York when elephants are being killed?”

Animal rights activist might have high-fived him, but there weren’t enough of them or record-buying elephants o save Blue, and within years they were all bankrupt.