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Rockers Smash Guitars

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Sometimes, gods of rock demand sacrifice.

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"

Rock stars often get so into the hardness of their music that they actually destroy instruments. This most often takes the form of 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 set their instruments on fire. The drums and other instruments might get smashed, too. And these aren't fictional works trying to make rock seem bad. This is Truth in Television. So much so that it has its own page on the other wiki.

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. Or a musician will deliberately buy cheap junk instruments so he can smash them. There have been a number of incidents where a guitar company repaired a shattered instrument. And at least one country-rock star was challenged in a letter from a little boy too poor to buy his own guitar, saying "If you don't want it, why not give it away?" That musician has done so ever since.

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 or to rock music.


    open/close all folders 

  • A PBS promo, "Be more passionate," featuring a string quintet (playing the scherzo from Brahms op. 34) finishes with the performers trashing their instruments.
  • The Zac Brown Band psych up Houston Texans star J.J. Watt in a Bose commercial. The spot climaxes with Brown smashing a guitar against Watt's locker.
  • Budweiser beer had a series of commercials in the 90s with a rock band holding auditions for a new guitarist, and they'd pass over talented musicians for disliking or disrespecting Budweiser. In one commercial, the guitarist plays a Jimi Hendrix inspired solo and ends it by setting his guitar on fire—then puts out the fire before it damages his instrument. But since he did this by pouring Budweiser onto the flames, the band decides not to hire him.
  • Parodied by ESPN in a 1996 promo. Soccer defender Alexi Lalas, wearing New-Age Retro Hippie attire and talking to anchor Gary Miller about destressing, Strumming an acoustic guitar, he gets about a line and a half into "Michael Row Your Boat" before Keith Olbermann charges out of nowhere, grabs the guitar, smashes it against the cubicle wall and hands the fretboard back to Lalas. note 
    I remember enjoying doing this so much that I asked them for the front of the body of the guitar and I had Alexi sign it to me on the spot. It hung, framed, in my various offices for about fifteen years.

  • Zombie Land Saga Revenge: In episode 4, Kotaro finishes his pep talk to Junko by offering her his favorite electric guitar and telling her to smash through her fears and self-doubt. In Franchouchou's opening number at the Iron Frill concert, she takes his advice a bit too literally and smashes Kotaro's guitar at the end of the song, much to his shock and horror.

    Comic Books 

    Comic Strips 
  • Hi and Lois: At a musical instrument store with Chip, Hi wonders how they can sell guitars for as low as $10. An employee informs him that they're just props for rockers to smash at shows.

    Films — Animated 
  • At the end of Minions Stuart gets an electric guitar and goes on an Epic Riff that ends with him smashing the guitar from getting so caught in the moment.
  • Barbie in Rock 'n Royals: Princess Genevieve asks Erika if she ever smashed a guitar on stage and says she once saw it in a movie. Later, Genevieve is about to smash a violin but is talked out of it.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Monterey Pop, a documentary film of the 1967 Monterey Pop festival, Trope Codifier Pete Townshend smashes his guitar as he always did. Later, Jimi Hendrix sets his guitar on fire. See more info in the Real Life section below.
  • Animal House has a famous scene where John Belushi is so annoyed at a crooner that he grabs his guitar and smashes it on the wall.
  • Downplayed in the original Back to the Future. At his (future) parents' prom in 1955, Marty McFly gets so carried away with a screaming guitar solo that he kicks over an amplifier. He stops short upon realizing that everyone else in attendance (including the band he's sitting in with) has stopped enjoying this new sound and is staring at him in utter shock.
  • Jeff Beck, with The Yardbirds, does this in the movie Blow Up. Jeff did not enjoy it, but it was in the script.
  • 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 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, during the Mike Teavee song, one of the rocker Oompa-Loompas smashes his guitar.
  • The lead of the 2010 action film Command Performance (basically Die Hard in a Rock Concert Stadium) is a retired Special Forces soldier-turned-rock musician, and when a band of terrorists took the entire stadium hostage, the protagonist managed to kill one of them by smashing an electric guitar on his cranium.
  • In Ghostbusters (2016), after the team catches a ghost attacking a rock show Holtzmann grabs the guitarist's instrument and smashes it.
  • There was an incident on the set of The Hateful Eight where a century-old antique guitar was mistaken for a smashable instrument. This incident led the guitar makers of C.F. Martin & Co. to stop lending their instruments to film productions.
  • Justified in Airheads. The Lone Rangers get signed to a record deal and are about to perform when they realize that their guitars aren't actually plugged in, because the contract is contingent on lip-syncing in public. So, they proceed to smash up the place and incite a riot.
  • The cellist at the ball in Cinderella (2021) does this with her instrument at the end of "Whatta Man/Seven Nation Army", which she'd started strumming like a guitar partway through the number.
  • Happens at the end of Hard Core Logo, as a sign of the band completely breaking down. Tensions between frontman Joe Dick and guitarist Billy Tallent completely boil over at the last show on the tour, and they get into a fistfight on stage. This ends with Joe grabbing Billy's guitar and smashing it to bits. (Making the scene extra painful, the guitar is a vintage Fender Stratocaster, and a prized gift from the band's mentor Bucky Haight.) Then their drummer completely misreads the mood and destroys his own drum kit just to fit in.

  • ''Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Diper Överlöde: Metallichihuahua would destroy their guitars at the end of every live performance.
  • Discworld, Soul Music:
    • The only time the band variously known as Insanity, Suck, and Supporting Bands got a positive reaction from their audience is when one of them smashes his guitar on-stage. But only because he 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 
  • The Kids in the Hall spoofed this with Dave trying to play folk on a standard acoustic guitar, the strings kept breaking, (because he is retuning it, even though it started in tune), and in the end, Dave said "What the hell. Long live Rock & Roll" and smashed the guitar.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000:
    • An invention exchange features "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.
  • One episode of Prank Patrol features a teenager who pranks his dad into believing he has been discovered by a record label and will begin his career as a professional rockstar. At the end of his concert (staged by the show), he smashes his guitar.
  • This happens with Tommy in an episode of 3rd Rock from the Sun. But the guitar isn't his.
  • Whose Line Is It Anyway?:
    • Parodied during one of the musical games: 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 sledgehammer out of a case and smashes the piano to pieces.
  • One episode of My Wife and Kids has Michael play his son's guitar in front of him and his friend... then he proceeds to download Jimi Hendrix's soul unto himself, smashes the guitar and sets it on fire. He does buy a new guitar for Junior in the following scene though.
  • 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.
  • The Wetten daß..? show in Vienna in 1997 featured Roger Daltrey as one of the guests (the other guests weren't necessarily any less mind-boggling). He lost his bet and had to play and sing "My Generation" with host Thomas Gottschalk and former Federal Secretary of Finance Theo Waigel as backing singers. Once he was done, he took over his bandmate Pete Townshend's tradition and smashed the acoustic guitar he had been given against the ground.
    This show was also Jean-Michel Jarre's first actual performance in a TV show (save for when he just played a barrel organ). Later on, he said he would have joined in in the impromptu performance with Daltrey, but he had no keyboard to smash.
  • At the beginning of the Full House episode "On the Road Again", Viper does this to his own guitar at the end of their band's rehearsal.
    Jesse: Hey, Viper, save that for the actual performances.
    Viper: Sorry, Jesse, but I really loved the song.
    Stephanie: *whisper to Michelle* What happens if he hates it?
  • On Sister, Sister, a classmate of Tia and Tamara's does this with his guitar...when performing Old MacDonald. As with Viper above, he does this during rehearsal, only belatedly realizing the problem when asked if he has another guitar.
  • Glee: Puck sets fire to his guitar at the conclusion of his performance of "School's Out".
  • In Family Ties episode "Have Gun, Will Unravel," the Keatons return home after watching A Hard Day's Night out at a movie theater. The kids are unimpressed by The Beatles.
    Jennifer: I can't believe you guys used to listen to that music. It was so boring. They didn't even break any guitars.
    Steven: Hey, is that how you judge music today? By how many guitars get broken?
    Jennifer: No, that's how you know when the song is over.
  • Phil from Phil of the Future once described a legendary rock show where the lead guitarist not only smashed his guitar but apparently mixed the pieces into cake, which he then fed to the hungry as an act of charity. Granted, the story might have become exaggerated over time...
  • Mad About You has a more erudite version, as once Ryan gets fed up at a recital, he smashes his violin.
  • Sesame Street: Little Chrissy does this to a piano after performing "Eight Balls of Fur". The keys start visibly coming loose from his frenetic playing from about half way, until finally the whole thing collapses.
    Little Chrissy: Hey, Mac, bring in the next piano, will ya?
  • The Muppets (2015): At the end of "Going, Going, Gonzo", Animal and Dave Grohl have a drum-off that ends with both of them knocking over their drum kits and declaring the other the winner.

See the "Real Life" folder for examples of this happening on stage.
  • 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.
  • At the end of Carolina Crown's 2011 "Rach Star" show, a guard member smashes a (fake) guitar.
  • Vocaloid's Rin Kagamine begins her live performance of "The Lost One's Weeping" by smashing her guitar and tossing it aside alongside the microphone stand. At the end of the song, she tosses the mic as well. Her theatrics carry over into the Project Diva X version of the song.
  • Happens in-song on The Young Ones' version of Cliff Richard's "Living Doll", when Vyvyan does this to a piano, violin, didgeridoo, and the heads of Rick, Neil, and Cliff.
  • Parodied in The Corrs' video Would You Be Happier, where, in an attempt to change the band's image, one suggestion was to turn them into a punk rock band who ended up trashing their instruments by the end of the show.
  • Loudon Wainwright III's song "Red Guitar" is all about this.
    I used to have a red guitar
    Till I smashed it one drunk night
    Smashed it in the classic form
    As Peter Townshend might
    Threw it on the fireplace
    I left it there awhile
    Kate she started crying
    When she saw my sorry smile
    • It goes on like this and then he buys a blonde guitar to replace it, which leads to a twist ending that won't be revealed here.
  • 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.
  • Cake's song "Rock and Roll Lifestyle" is a long critique of The Man sticking it to The Man. Thus there's a whole verse about a rocker smashing his guitar at the end of every show, and how it's an act of consumerism more than anything else—ultimately supporting the system he claims to be rebelling against.
  • Kuba Sienkiewicz parodies the trope in the video for "Dilemmas" by smashing a guitar into the stage with all his might... except it's not a real instrument, but a plushie.

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

    Video Games 
  • You're supposedly a rock singer in 77p: Eggwife, as seen with the amount of Grammies you have in your room. Your default melee weapon? An electric guitar.
  • One of the enemies in Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is Tamako Death, a rocker chick complete with (firebreathing) electric guitar. Defeat her, and she'll spend the last second of her life bringing her guitar down.
  • Happens off-screen before the game proper in Brütal Legend's intro cutscene. The lead guitarist for wannabe metal band Kabbage Boy says he's "sorry" for smashing Eddie's guitar Clementine, then after receiving it fixed up like new, he says he won't smash it "so much" this time.
  • 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).
  • According to Cave, 5pb tried this once in Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2. It made her very upset afterward and she tried to glue it back together.
  • In Pokémon Sword and Shield, the Gigantamax version of Toxtricity, the Poison/Electric Punk Rock salamander Pokémon, does this in one of its attack animations, generating a guitar made of lightning just to smash it.
  • 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 both this and the Guitar Hero case, the instruments are Made of Iron.
  • In Smite, during Apollo's victory animation, he sets his lyre on fire in a nod to Jimi Hendrix.
  • Space Rangers 2: In one of optional text quests you must create a band for participation in a musical contest. During the concert proper, you can smash your guitar in order to fire up the crowd. It does get you a lot of fan support, but not only does It Only Works Once (because the show's team has no more spares), it also degrades the quality of your music, because of an unfamiliar and quite crappy guitar you have to use after destroying your own.
  • Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People: The King of Town needs to be maneuvered creatively into swinging his guitar around as part of the final puzzle of "Baddest of the Bands". Strong Bad's comment? "Whoa, check out the King of Townshend!"
  • Tick Tock Isle: Somewhere between 2009 and 2010 the Masked Luchador got himself a guitar and retired for health reasons, then later wrote on the guitar "loser" and broke it. After the time traveller fixes his life, the guitar is intact.
  • An official CD of the soundtrack to Undertale recreated on a piano has on its cover art Undyne, the captain of the royal guard, seated to a classical piano surrounded by the game's cast. This can be traced back to how in-game, Undyne does own a piano and can be heard playing it in her house at one point... but Toby has claimed that if Undyne really performed a full-length concert, the piano would not survive.

    Visual Novels 
  • 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.
  • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice, Peeslub'n Andistan'dhin plays a guitar riff and smashes his guitar on the witness stand after being revealed as the real killer behind the first case.

    Web Animation 


    Western Animation 
  • The Ur-Example is from 1936 and surprisingly involves jazz. Cartoon short The Old Mill Pond, which involves frogs giving a jazz concert, sees the bassist in the four-frog combo smash his standup bass to smithereens at the end. Older Than They Think.
  • Animaniacs:
    • IN "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 Jimi Hendrix's guitar, apparently inspiring the Who to include this in their act.
    • In "Piano Rag", a short-tempered pianist smashes his piano, which Yakko calls "very Pete Townshend-esque".
    • Wakko breaks his violin with his head after performing "Wakko's America".
  • An episode of Arthur has DW going to see a Yo-Yo Ma concert, and she asks whether he "jumps around and smash his instrument." When grandma tells her that he doesn't, she says "And he calls himself a musician!" She ends up liking the concert, though.
  • 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.
  • Happens on Jimmy Two-Shoes, when Jimmy is having a dream of being a rocker.
  • Johnny and Dukey in the opening titles of Johnny Test.
  • The Loud House:
    • Luna has done this several times with her guitar.
      • A flashback in "Hand-Me-Downer" shows Luna smashing her guitar offscreen and then giving it to Lincoln as a "hand-me-down".
        Lincoln: And strings. And a neck. And a body.
      • In "The Loudest Yard," she does this after her performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner" on guitar while dressed like Jimi Hendrix.
      • Parodied in "Driving Ambition", wherein Luna smashes a harp after playing it in a fancy concert.
    • Lynn Sr. does it at the end of a guitar training session with Luna in "Health Kicked."
  • 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.
  • In the My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Rainbow Rocks music video "Friendship Through the Ages", Rainbow Dash does this as part of her rock-centered portion of the song.
  • Subverted in the Phineas and Ferb episode "The Baljeatles"; at the end of Baljeet's rock number, it looks like he's about to smash his guitar, but instead he just neatly throws it back into its case.
  • Regular Show: In "Guitar of Rock" Mr. Maellard does this to an autographed guitar that Mordecai, Rigby, and Benson almost died trying to replace.
  • In Scary Larry, Larry and Carnage have a rock contest and one round involves smashing guitars. Carnage, who is rich, smashes several, but Larry, who isn't, refuses to destroy his.
  • Scooby and Shaggy do this at the end of an episode of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • In "Naughty Nautical Neighbors", SpongeBob smashes a double bass.
    • In "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.
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks: Downplayed in "Temporal Edict" when Ensign Beckett Mariner throws her electric guitar just after she finishes playing; the instrument is still in decent shape, although the strings have snapped.
  • Trolls: TrollsTopia plays this trope straight as an arrow with most Rock Trolls. An added bonus is that when Val Thundershock does it, the impact is explosive and the pieces spontaneously transform into bats.
  • Total Drama: During the guitar play-along challenge in "Rock 'n Rule", Duncan puts in minimal effort and hits only a small percentage of notes. After that disinterested performance, he smashes his guitar in two on a stage box. For all of his apathy, he wins the round.
  • Total DramaRama: Wendel challenges Courtney to a live musical performance in "Way Back Wendel". He opts for a vaudeville one-man band, while she goes for hard rock backed by a mountain of speakers. It literally blows Wendel away and Courtney finishes the act by smashing her guitar into pieces while laughing maniacally.

    Real Life 
  • The Ur-Example is probably Jerry Lee Lewis, who would set his piano on fire from time to time for shock value.
  • 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 the damage they did totaled to more than they were being paid. It eventually got to a point where they didn't have a choice but to smash. Townshend once stated in an interview that if he tried to finish a show without destroying his guitar, fans would get irate.
    • 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 explosives in order to blow up at the end of the set. During rehearsal, the effect was unimpressive, so Moon bribed a stagehand to load in a much bigger charge without telling anyone. During the actual take, the explosion knocked Moon off his drum riser, left him with shrapnel wounds to one arm, singed Townshend's hair and permanently damaged his hearing, destroyed a camera and a studio monitor, and scared the daylights out of everyone (save for John Entwistle). 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.
    • Inverted by John Entwistle. In an interview with Conan O'Brien, Entwistle said he once tried to smash his bass, only for it to bounce back and hit him in the face.
  • Second only to The Who are Nine Inch Nails.
    • During their first tours in support of Pretty Hate Machine and Broken, Trent Reznor and his early touring bands were a madhouse onstage, playing with a reckless intensity that matched the chaotic industrial metal sound. Needless to say, when there were equipment failures, Trent and company didn't take it very well, and they drew attention because they would attack all their instruments, not just guitars. Trent would frequently use his footwear to smash off the keys of very expensive Yamaha DX synthesizers. At one point, ten guitars were being wrecked per night. Trent Reznor, everybody.
    • In one interview, Trent reportedly said "any malfunctioning instrument is mocking you, so it needs to be destroyed."
  • Green Day went right to town with this trope back in their 90s heyday. Typically, sets would end with Mike Dirnt smashing his bass while Tré Cool burned his drums with gasoline. Then Billie Joe would finish by playing "Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)" in front of the fire.
    • One particularly infamous example was during the 2012 iHeart Radio Music Festival: When the band's setlist was unexpectedly cut short, Billie Joe interrupted their set in the middle of a song and went on a drunken rant that cumulated in him angrily smashing his Les Paul Junior. Mike Dirnt joined in and smashed his Precision Bass to make the incident look staged. Billie Joe would check into rehab shortly after the incident.
  • Paul Simonon of The Clash, 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 looked at Townshend's signature move and burned the guitar before smashing it. note 
  • Nirvana were well known for this.
    • Kurt Cobain had 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.
    • You can hear Kurt destroy his guitar midway through "Endless, Nameless" on Nevermind.
    • Another example would be their performance of the aforementioned song at the Paramount Theatre in 1991, where Kurt just goes psychotic and smashes microphones and even a cooling fan down with his guitar, breaking the guitar in half and leaving Krist Novoselic to play "baseball" with the parts using his bass. Viewers of Saturday Night Live and in the UK, the Jonathan Ross Show, both got to see this trope in action when they played "Territorial Pissings" as musical guests.
    • On the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards, Krist threw his bass guitar up in the air instead of smashing it, and when it came down it hit him in the head. Stunned, he wandered off stage, only to have Kurt kick him in the ass for leaving early — he hadn't seen the accident. It inspired the John Hiatt song "Perfectly Good Guitar" (see above in the "Music" folder).
  • The Plasmatics: This infamous punk band did not only smash their guitars but cut them in half with a chainsaw as well!
  • In the early days of Oasis, Johnny Marr lent Noel his nice, shiny Les Paul—the one he'd written "Panic" on, in fact. Naturally, a few months later he got a panicky phone call after Noel had used it to clock a stage-invading fan over the head, wrecking it irreparably.
  • 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 that 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 afterward. 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.
  • 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. Also keep in mind that he holds a world record.
  • Emilie Autumn sometimes smashes her violins.
  • 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 bass 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 New Musical Express 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. (Although see the page description; a real Three Chords and the Truth outfit wouldn't treat their very expensive kit badly because they can always buy a new one, right?)
  • For a scene in The Hateful Eight, Kurt Russell's character was supposed to grab a guitar from Jennifer Jason Leigh and smash it, eliciting a horrified reaction. However, due to a mix-up when it came time to shoot the film, Russell accidentally grabbed and smashed the actual guitar, rather than waiting for it to be replaced by a prop. To make matters even worse, it wasn't just any guitar but an irreplaceable one-of-a-kind original Martin guitar from the 1870s that was on special loan for the film from the Martin Guitar Museum. Well, he got a horrified reaction all right. Martin was understandably very disappointed.
  • You've heard of rockers smashing guitars, but what about a rocker smashing a venue? That's exactly what Japanese noise rock band Hanatrash's frontman Yamantaka Eye did, driving a bulldozer through the wall at a gig. One suspects Keith Moon would have wished he thought of that.
  • Curiously enough, Neil Young is able to create all kinds of bizarre sound effects without once smashing a guitar. He used to play with Pearl Jam who did this, however, along with their microphones, which they then gave away to the adoring crowds. Stunning example here.
  • Charles Mingus once smashed a $20,000 upright bass during a performance in New York City because he got mad at the audience for heckling him.
  • Even Beethoven himself was known for this trope. The pianos of Beethoven's day were much flimsier and quieter than modern-day grand pianos, and he hated it. In order to get the sound he desired, he was known to play so forcefully that he broke them entirely!
    Beethoven: One often thinks that one is merely listening to a harp.
  • Bill Hunt of English glam rock band Wizzard would smash up pianos during shows. According to bassist Rick Price in a radio interview, "At one gig they said, 'Oh, go on, smash it up; it's only worth a fiver.' So Bill smashed it up, and we got a bill for a hundred and ten quid!"
  • Sufjan Stevens has smashed banjos in concert.
  • Linkin Park do not usually do this; however, during the touring cycle for their second album Meteora, starting from the Summer Sanitarium 2003 tour up until 2004, it became a frequent (though not always) tradition for lead guitarist Brad Delson to brick his guitars after the song "A Place for My Head". In one notable instance (as chronicled in the Live in Texas DVD), he threw his Ibanez guitar down onto the stage after the song, but didn't fully break it as usual, so lead singer Chester Bennington then picked up the guitar Delson had just thrown and smashed it down twice on the stage before throwing it aside. After their final song "One Step Closer", Joe Hahn also smashed his sound mixer and turntables on the stage.
  • Phoebe Bridgers attracted controversy after smashing her guitar at the end of her performance on Saturday Night Live in 2021. David Crosby called the destruction "pathetic" and a waste of a perfectly good instrument, but Bridgers countered that the Danelectro guitar company was okay with the stunt (even wishing her luck because their guitars are tough to break) and SNL built her a fake monitor to smash it into.
  • Rammstein: Perhaps surprisingly, given their penchant for explosions and destruction during their stage shows, the guitars pretty much stay intact (albeit occasionally with some charring from the pyrotechnics). That said, Flake will occasionally go to town on his keyboard, and Till usually smashes a mic stand at least once a show.
  • Midnight was guestlisting people on the 2017 Decibel Tour in exchange for being provided with shitty old guitars to smash onstage.
  • Brazil had a Never Live It Down case with Sérgio Ricardo, who in a 1967 song festival was so booed by the audience (which started even before he hit the stage, as they heard his song would be presented with a diferent arrangement) he shouted "You won!", smashed his acoustic guitar and threw the remains at them.
  • Invoked by the Hard Rock Cafe, which christens every new location by smashing a guitar at the grand opening.


Video Example(s):


Instrument Of Destruction

An emote named "Instrument Of Destruction" has the player smashing up a guitar

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Main / RockersSmashGuitars

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