The world of commercial music is cut-throat at best, and the chances of getting signed to a record deal for any band are slim-to-none.
As a result, countless musicians have resorted to various self-promotion tactics, ranging from the straightforward, like having an attractive singer, to the downright weird, like cutting your body with broken glass (look up the name GG Allin: I promise you’ll waste a whole afternoon finding out about the biggest nutcase rock has ever spawned).
Still, even the most jaded music industry veteran will tell you it’s easy to market a bunch of freaks in costumes. So in the spirit Halloween, let’s look back at some of the most interesting masked musicians.
The Original Freaks: the Residents
Not much is known about these avant-garde musicians, as they have never permitted interviews with the media. In fact, the band has remained anonymous by only appearing in public wearing their trademark costumes, consisting of tuxedos, top hats and, wait for it, masks shaped like a giant eyeball.
Despite the odd costumes, the residents have managed to retain a strong underground following since their formation in the late 60s, allowing them to release over 60 albums!
Their approach to the media-band interface is a precursor to Daft Punk, the French electronic duo who has also managed to maintain member anonymity by dressing up as robots.
Disco’s Macho Men: the Village People
This collaboration between a police officer, a construction worker, an American-Indian chief, a biker, an army G.I. and a cowboy led to some of the most iconic hits of the disco era, such as “Y.M.C.A.” and “In the Navy.” Though their on-stage costumes looked ridiculous by any standard, they managed to sell over 85 million albums and singles and it is safe to say their legacy should be preserved for a long time, judging from how often their hits are played at sports events.
Glam Rock Glitter: David Bowie
While Bowie began his career as a folk pop singer in the late 60s, it wasn’t until 1972’s release of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars that he attained worldwide fame. Adopting an androgynous persona in the character Ziggy Stardust, Bowie wore a red wig, elaborate face paint and colourful sequined outfits, as he brought T.Rex’s glam rock stylings to the masses.
Bowie’s one year stint as Ziggy Stardust has made him the most iconic of all glam rock artists, inspiring acts like Kiss and Marilyn Manson to dabble in face paint and weird outfits.
Metal Madness: Slipknot
Wearing jumpsuits and individualized fetish masks, the nine-member band Slipknot are arguably the most popular band in costume today.
Their music is overtly dark and aggressive and their lyrics have been a source of controversy in the media.
They have also garnered lots of publicity because of their live performances, which are all-out physical affairs that often lead to members of the group injuring themselves. In many ways, they are descendants of the band GWAR, who are the pioneers of aggressive metal band in costume, albeit without GWAR’s obsession with fantasy and aliens.