Eric Burdon & the Animals, Japan, 1968
In 1968 Eric Burdon & the Animals were busy touring the world with their brand of British blues rock. The band's management booked a tour of Japan that was meant to take place in September. After some kind of mix-up with the travel visas, the tour had to be postponed until November.
The band flew to Japan and had a few great nights of big halls and big crowds, with the kind of rock star treatment they were used to. After the first few shows, the band's schedule suddenly changed.
The Animals were now expected to play two shows a night for two weeks at a much smaller venue. They hadn't signed up for this sort of thing and not so politely refused to play.
At this point, the promoters became personally involved in the negotiations: they were none other than the infamous Yakuza. A menacing group of men in dark suits grabbed the Animals' tour manager, blindfolded him, and dragged him into a hotel room. He was forced to sign a cheque for $25,000 in order to cover losses from the change in tour dates. With payment received, the terrified manager was unceremoniously dumped out on the street.
The 222s, Montreal, 1981
Montreal has long been home to a vibrant music scene and vibrant criminal underbelly.
The 222s were one of the earliest punk/glam bands on the Montreal scene in the late 1970s. They struggled to find a place between square audiences who thought they were too weird and punk audiences who thought they were too pretty.
By 1981, the band was still playing shows but had begun to suspect they were going nowhere. That's when the band's manger cut a deal with some local gangster who wanted to play “record producer”. The shady new production team wanted to turn the band in a new direction, with the goal of selling them as a teeny bopper bubblegum act.
When it was time to record, the 222s found themselves in the basement of one of the gangster's homes in suburban Laval.
Guns, Goons & Rock N' Roll:
Tales of Organized Crime
The band received word that they were in danger and immediately ran for the airport, leaving behind luggage and tens of thousands of dollars in instruments and gear. The Animals lodged an official complaint with the Japanese consulate once they were safely out of the country.
Weird Fact: One of the guitarists in this version of The Animals was Andy Summers, who would go on to greater fame with The Police.
They argued with the thugs/ wannabe producers for a few days until, one day, the band was brought into the kitchen and a loaded gun was dropped in the middle of the table.
The band was reminded who was in charge and quickly knocked out a cover of the French pop song “La Poupee Qui Fait Non”. The awful sounding single came out on Gamma Records and featured one of the gangsters and his sister singing the choruses.
The song still managed to become a minor hit thanks to the encouragement of the producers and their associates. Singer Chris Barry later remembered, “they would use their influence with radio stations – in other words 'Play this record or we'll kill you'.” The band hated the song and, feeling a lot of pressure from their new pals, broke up shortly after.