Gordon Smart on why getting injured is part of being a rock star

9 April 2020, 12:31 | Updated: 29 April 2020, 12:23

Dave Grohl takes the weight off his broken leg onstage in Amsterdam, 2015
Dave Grohl takes the weight off his broken leg onstage in Amsterdam, 2015. Picture: Paul Bergen/Redferns/Getty Images
Gordon Smart

By Gordon Smart

In the first of his Isolation Diaries, Gordon explains why he's out of action at the moment and how doing yourself a mischief is an occupational hazard for a rock star.

Enforced silence is not ideal for a radio presenter.

You would normally find me on Radio X every night from 7-10pm but I have succumbed to the singer’s curse - vocal nodules.

I have a wee lump on my vocal cord that has made me sound like Robin Williams’ brother in Mrs Doubtfire.

For the Radio X music lovers, I sound like a cross between Joe Cocker and Louis Armstrong after 40 fags and a bottle of whisky each.

We’ve all been in isolation for a couple of weeks now, but it has been 32 days for me - not that I’m counting. I was referred for a career-saving operation in early March, but the bloody Billy Rae Cyrus meant all ENT surgery has been postponed indefinitely.

So, I’ve decided to turn my hand back to my old trade, writing some Radio X Isolation Diaries.

Every Friday, I’ll distract the Radio X family from everything else that’s going on.

Rock’n’roll injuries seem like a sensible place to start. And while we’re talking voice woe, I thought I’d share one of my favourite stories ever.

Harry Nilsson, part of the notorious Hollywood Vampires drinking club, is right up there as one of the greatest hell raisers ever.

John Lennon kisses girlfriend May Pang as Harry Nilsson quaffs another Brandy Alexander during a night out in Hollywood, March 1974
John Lennon kisses girlfriend May Pang as Harry Nilsson quaffs another Brandy Alexander during a night out in Hollywood, March 1974. Picture: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Nilsson was known as “The American Beatle” because he was the Fab Four’s favourite artist. He would go on marathon drinking sessions with Ringo Starr and John Lennon. He even introduced them to their favourite cocktail - a "Brandy Alexander”. Let’s just say it didn’t do any of them any good.

Keith Moon used to hide from Nilsson when he went round for a drink. That’s quite a reputation.

Anyway, after one particularly wild drinking session with John Lennon (who was producing his album Pussy Cats), they decided to have a screaming competition. The person who could make the loudest noise, won.

As the story goes, it got so out of hand in the studio, there was blood left on the microphone when they finished. And sadly, Harry’s voice was never the same again. He once said the top end of his three-and-a-half octave vocal range was “donated to whisky”.

Over the last four years on Radio X, I’ve used Nilsson’s song Jump In The Pool as the theme to rock’n’roll stories. It’s a brilliant song, from the Goodfellas soundtrack. Remember the bit when Ray Liotta is being followed by a helicopter?

We’ve heard some great stories over the years on the Evening Show.

Royal Blood’s Mike Kerr arrived in the studio with drummer Ben Thatcher in a “delicate condition”. It was the day after their first gig back on How Did We Get So Dark? Mike had broken ribs from diving into a drum riser. He showed us the damage - it was a brutal, purple bruise. So fresh, unlike Mike.

Joshua Homme arrived in the studio back in 2018 supported by an old-fashioned cane. He hobbled in and explained how the meniscus in his knee was knackered from a few rock’n’roll incidents over the years. The latest injury picked up during an incident in a revolving door at the hotel he was staying in. He was relieving himself at the time.

Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody explained how he broke his ankle falling through the stage at a gig. And there’s the incredible tale of Dave Grohl’s broken leg onstage at a show in Gothenburg, Sweden.

He made the most if though, building a rock’n’roll throne to keep him upright on the rest of the tour. He then loaned it out to Guns’N'Roses frontman Axl Rose, when he had broken a limb.

I’ve witnessed a few spectacular injuries as they happened. Vampire Weekend’s drummer was run over in front of me in Hoxton after the NME Awards. He made a full recovery. Eventually.

I was standing on the side of the main stage watching Oasis at V Festival in Toronto in 2008 when Noel Gallagher was attacked. He broke ribs and damaged his back. It looked bad at the time, but when you see it on YouTube now, it makes your teeth hurt watching it. Brutal.

At the NME Awards in 2006 I saw Ryan Jarman from The Cribs accept an award that wasn’t his. He went onstage with Peter Hook and Kaiser Chiefs, then stage-dived onto a table full of drinks, puncturing a kidney on a glass on the table in the process. He was hospitalised twice that night, the first time to get stitches. And then later that night, he was taken back in to stop the bleeding.

And after another awards show, Kelly Jones from Stereophonics got in a scrap with a bouncer and very nearly ended his career when his arm was sliced open by a broken bottle in 2007.

It just wouldn’t seem right to finish an article like this without the mention of Keith Moon. He didn’t just injure himself, but he played his part in the start of Pete Townshend’s life long hearing problems. Detonating TNT in his kick drum during a TV Show in 1967? That should do it.

And remember, that was a man who hid from Harry Nilsson.

I’ll be back next week. In the meantime, please STAY AT HOME and we’ll be back to normal service soon.