Rockers Smash Guitars

How much did you pay for the chunk of his guitar
The one he ruthlessly smashed at the end of the show?
And how much will he pay for a brand new guitar
One which he'll ruthlessly smash at the end of another show?
And how long will the workers keep building him new ones?
As long as their soda cans are red, white, and blue ones
CAKE, "Rock and Roll Lifestyle"

A rock star gets so into the hardness of the music that he/she actually destroys instruments. Typically this is smashing a guitar (hence the trope name) on the stage as hard as possible, pounding it to fragments with a few whacks. Some rock bands take it Up to Eleven and set their instruments on fire. And these aren't fictional works trying to make rock seem bad. This is Truth in Television.

Now this might seem like a waste of a perfectly good instrument, and sometimes it is, but smashing a guitar is much harder than you'd expect from seeing this trope in fiction. Many a young guitarist has gotten frustrated with his instrument in the middle of a show and decided to smash it, only to find out that his instrument is Made of Iron (or plywood). When the instrument destruction is more planned and theatrical, bands will often rig the instrument to smash apart easily in order to please the audience.

Although this was common in Real Life a few decades ago, it is now more often found in fiction.

Compare Great Balls of Fire, Can-Crushing Cranium, Dramatic Shattering. At times they can push it further with Trash the Set as well.

Despite the name, this is not limited to guitars. The page image, for example, is a bass.


  • A PBS promo ("Be more passionate") featuring a string quintet (playing the scherzo from Brahms op. 34) finishes with the performers trashing their instruments.

  • In the original Back to the Future, Marty McFly ends his guitar performance in the year 1955 by kicking over an amplifier. His audience, who had been enjoying the new (to them) kind of music up until that point, reacted with shock.
  • Jeff Beck, with The Yardbirds, does this in the movie Blow Up.
  • Happens in the movie Top Secret. At the end of Nick Rivers' rendition of the song Tutti Frutti, an octogenarian orchestra player smashes his electric guitar.
  • Parodied in the opening scene of Wrongfully Accused, to make violin concerts seem awesome.
  • After performing the solo of his (un)life on the roof of his old apartment building, Eric Draven of The Crow smashes his guitar.

  • In Soul Music, the only time the band variously known as Insanity, Suck, and Supporting Bands got a positive reaction from their audience was when one of them smashed his guitar on-stage. But only because he'd smashed it on another band member.
    • Later Death, with all the style Supporting Bands wished they had, smashes The Guitar. It explicitly does not destroy The Music, but it does limit its power.

Live-Action TV
  • Kids in the Hall spoofed this with Dave trying to play folk on a standard acoustic guitar, the strings kept breaking, and in the end, Dave said "What the hell. Long live Rock & Roll" and smashed the guitar.
  • A Mystery Science Theater 3000 invention exchange featured "The Rock & Wreck Guitar," a guitar which could be reassembled after being smashed, for garage bands who can't afford to keep buying new equipment.
    • Another invention exchange had the Mads create guitars made from squeeze toys. After playing a hard-rocking, squeaky song, Forrester and Frank smash the guitars.
    • Another time Brain Guy pulled the whole burning the guitar bit a la Jimi Hendrix, until Bobo wrecked the mood by roasting marshmallows over it.
    • In Pod People, Joel's invention exchange is a new guitar chord designed particularly for ending concerts. It's so complicated that it takes two hands for Joel to fret it, and when strummed it causes the guitar to explode in his hands.
  • This happens with Tommy in an episode of 3rd Rock from the Sun. But the guitar isn't his.
  • Parodied during one of the musical games on Whose Line Is It Anyway? At the end of a song, Wayne Brady begins to do this with an Air Guitar - before putting it gently back on its stand instead.
    • In another game, Ryan does it straight (just also with an air guitar).
    • In a game of "Props", Colin and Ryan's props were two large lollipop shaped props. One scene they act out is them pretending to be rock stars using the props as guitars. They then proceed to bang their "guitars" against the floor and Ryan actually breaks his by accident.
  • Horrible Histories has the Luddites perform a song in the style of the Sex Pistols. Naturally, they smash their instruments at the end.
  • Spoofed in an episode of The Monkees. At an art gallery, Mike wanders into a room where it looks like a high-class piano recital is about to take place. Liberace walks in and, instead of playing the piano, takes a sledge hammer out of a case and smashes the piano to pieces.
  • Scrubs: Dr Cox smashes Colin Hay's guitar after he spends most of the episode playing guitar in the hospital. Also, it's an acoustic.

  • Jimi Hendrix: Once put his guitar on fire during a show.
  • John Hiatt's "Perfectly Good Guitar" is about the singer's reaction to seeing this.
    Oh, it breaks my heart to see those stars
    Smashing a perfectly good guitar...
  • Non-stage act example: Meat Loaf's "Wasted Youth" is all the singer recounting how he (supposedly) smashed his first guitar against all sorts of things as a teenager just to tease ever-new notes out of it.
  • The Plasmatics: This infamous punk band did not only smash their guitars, but cut them in half with a chainsaw as well!
  • Nirvana: They too enjoyed smashing their instruments after shows.

  • In Monster Bash, Dracula smashes his guitar against the stage when you get the replay.

Video Games
  • Discussed in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney. Trucy asks Klavier if he'd ever smash his guitars, and he says he wouldn't because he thinks of them as his lovers. He's also extremely upset when one of them (albeit one with high sentimental value) gets burned during a performance.
  • One of Nikki's Personal Techs in Chrono Cross has him smash his guitar over an enemy's head.
  • Some of the "You Rock!" animations in the original Guitar Hero games are this (a good example is Judy Nails in GH2).
  • Rock Band: the guitarist and bassist may bash their instruments during a Big Rock Ending. If the ending goes long enough, one of them may drop an elbow on their axe.
  • In Smite, during Apollo's victory animation, he sets his lyre on fire in a nod to Jimi Hendrix.
  • The King of Town needs to be maneuvered creatively into this as part of the final puzzle of the "Baddest of the Bands" chapter of Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People. Strong Bad's comment? "Whoa, check out the King of Townshend!"
  • According to Cave, 5pb tried this once in Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2. It made her very upset afterwards and she tried to glue it back together.

Web Comics

Western Animation
  • Happens on Jimmy Two-Shoes, when Jimmy is having a dream of being a rocker.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "The Camping Episode", Spongebob smashes his guitar at the end of "The Campfire Song Song". Then for good measure, Patrick smashes the drums that he had been playing over Spongebob's head.
  • In the Animaniacs episode "Woodstock Slappy", Slappy the Squirrel's new summer tree-house turns out to be on the same farm where Woodstock is being held. In her efforts to shut up the concert so she can get some peace and quiet, she smashes Pete Townshend's guitar, apparently inspiring the Who to include this in their act.
  • Scooby and Shaggy do this at the end of an episode of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated.
  • Johnny and Dukey in the opening titles of Johnny Test.
  • Beavis And Butthead: In one episode the two decide to start a band. They go to Mr. Van Driessen's house who lets them borrow a guitar of his and offers to have them practice in his garage. Beavis's idea of playing music is to yell "YOU'RE GONNA DIIIIIEEEEEEE!" while smashing the guitar against the ground. Butt-Head thinks it's awesome.
  • My Dad The Rock Star: In one episode, the Zillas visit the college Rock attended. There, he smashed a guitar he left behind back when he was a student.
  • Regular Show: In "Guitar of Rock" Mr. Maellard does this to an autographed guitar that Mordecai, Rigby, and Benson almost died trying to replace.

Real Life
  • The Who are the Trope Codifier, if not the Trope Maker. One story has it that the band were playing on a stage with a low ceiling and Pete Townshend unthinkingly raised his guitar whilst playing, driving the headstock into the ceiling and snapping it off. He proceeded to destroy the rest of the guitar, Keith Moon followed suit with the drums, and the audience liked it so much that the band started regularly smashing their gear—even when it got to the point where they did more damage than their shows paid for.
    • Their musical destruction probably reached its apotheosis during a 1967 appearance on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, in which Moon's bass drum was rigged with explosive in order to blow up at the end of the set. During rehearsal, the effect was unimpressive, so Moon "convinced" the SPFX technician to double the charge, without telling anyone. So, during the actual take, the explosion knocked Moon backwards and scared the daylights out of everyone. In addition, Townshend (who was standing in front of the drum when it blew) had his hair singed and suffered permanent damage to his hearing. (The whole performance can be seen here, with the destruction beginning around the 7:20 mark.)
      • Just after the explosion, the practice was spoofed when Tommy Smothers, carrying a guitar, walked over to the band. Townshend took Smothers' guitar (actually a breakaway prop) and smashed it to pieces. Cue Tommy asking Dick if he could borrow his bass for a moment.
  • Pictured atop this page is Paul Simonon of The Clash. It's a bass guitar variation. It happened at a 1979 concert at the Palladium in New York, and the photo was later used for the cover of the album London Calling. It is worth noting that Simonon immediately regretted destroying the instrument, because it was his best-sounding bass.
  • Jimi Hendrix would do this, but only after setting the guitar on fire first.
    • Hendrix first did this in 1967 at the Monterey Pop Festival. Aware of The Who's use of this trope, the organizers wanted them to close the festival, but Pete Townshend refused to play after Hendrix. Hendrix simply took Townshend's signature trope Up to Eleven and burned the guitar before smashing it.
  • Nirvana were well known for this. Cobain would actually have a stash of cheaply made, low-quality guitars for this purpose. When you saw him switch to the cheap Stratocaster copy, you could tell that instrument wasn't going to make it to the end of the show.
  • Variation: Yoshiki Hayashi of X Japan does this to his drum kit.
  • Roger Fisher of Heart did this in the famous "El Kabong" incident where he smashed his guitar and walked offstage in the middle of a concert. He was kicked out of the band for it.
    • Of course, the reason he did it was because he and girlfriend/fellow guitarist Nancy Wilson had recently split up.
  • A few good Weezer examples:
    • Rivers Cuomo's first guitar in the band was a holdover from his metal days, a Charvel. It was smashed to bits, but the dismembered headstock can be seen littering the practice area pictured in The Blue Album's liner notes.
    • Rivers' second guitar after forming Weezer was a red Stratocaster. It was eventually given to some friends in another band, Justin and Adam of Shufflepuck. One night, Adam was having trouble with his main guitar staying in tune, so halfway through the last song, he switched to the red strat, but found it was even more out of tune. He got so upset, he started swinging the guitar around and smashing it. The crowd enjoyed themselves, but he noticed a look of horror on his friend Kevin's face. Turns out Justin sold the red guitar to Kevin right before the show started.
  • Paul Stanley from KISS usually smashes an Ibanez guitar to the repeating slow beat that comes at the end of their song "Black Diamond". The beat keeps going until the guitar is in pieces, no matter how many tries he needs.
  • The Dillinger Escape Plan are quite fond of smashing guitars, setting guitars on fire, smashing microphones and PA equipment, setting drumkits on fire...
  • Older Than Radio: Niccolò Paganini is probably the Ur example of instrument destruction. After some claimed his skill was only due to his Stradivarius, he played a concert with a cheap violin without anyone noticing it, and smashed it afterwards. Paganini would often not replace worn-out strings on his violins, because if a string broke in concert it would just give him a chance to complete the piece with the remaining strings, thus letting him show off his virtuosity.
  • Possibly parodied in "Weird Al" Yankovic's video for "You Don't Love Me Anymore", where the (filled with Lyrical Dissonance) ballad ends with Al smashing his acoustic guitar to pieces (and apparently not only it was an expensive instrument, but it was also hard to break). He does this in concerts after singing "You Don't Love Me Anymore" as well. Additionally, the opening of The Compleat Al shows Al destroying his accordion with fire a la Jimi Hendrix.
  • Muse's performance at Reading Festival 2011 saw Matt Bellamy repeatedly throwing his guitar at the drums before finally hurling it into the air. The drums were probably hurt worse than the guitar.
    • Matt also seemed to do it a lot during the Absolution tour, usually to his Ibanez Destroyers.
  • Emilie Autumn sometimes smashes her violins.
  • During their first tours in support of Pretty Hate Machine and Broken, Nine Inch Nails drew attention because they would attack all their instruments, not just guitars. Trent Reznor would frequently use his footwear to smash off the keys of very expensive Yamaha DX synthesizers.
  • Mocked by Tripod in one of their songs where they retell their big rock moment and ruin the effect by mentioning how they had it insured and told the audience to stand back.
  • Keith Emerson just loved to stab, slam, step on and swing around his Hammond L-100 organ. Remarkably, it held up for years, but its scars were often covered with metal patches.
  • Inverted by Ritchie Blackmore; he threw his guitar up in the air, it came back down and actually smashed his finger.
    • At their 1974 Cal Jam performance, Ritchie smashed his guitar against a TV camera, then threw his amp off the edge of the stage.
  • When Skrillex's equipment ceases to function during live performances, his first solution is to destroy it.
  • Prince did this during a 2013 appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. To a guitar he'd borrowed from Captain Kirk Douglas of The Roots. Without Douglas' permission. After Douglas had asked Prince to autograph said guitar — a rare '61 Epiphone Crestwood — and Prince had refused. Prince, ladies and gentlemen.
  • When Industrial/Aggrotek band Straftanz had their final act, the band members looked like they were going to smash their base guitars but ended up not doing that, saying it was a waste. They did, however, smash their laptop to symbolize the death of the band.
  • In a hilarious inversion, a reviewer from the NME once went to a gig by an obscure 80s rock band called Lightning Strikes who swaggered all over the stage and generally played up the sticking-it-to-the-man rebelliousness — and at the end, not only did they not smash their guitars, they carefully placed them back on their stands, and then unplugged their guitar jacks from their distortion pedals so as not to waste the batteries.