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Podcast / Disgraceland

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Rocka Rolla.
[opening theme music]

The stories about famous figures in popular music, as told on the Disgraceland podcast, are insane.

These stories and more are told by Jake Brennan, a lifelong music lover and songwriter, who was in a time of creative frustration, until he learned that his friends and family agreed that what he was best at was telling stories. As a new father, Brennan wanted to reconcile his love of these famous figures in music, despite the fact that he "wouldn’t leave any of these creeps alone with my kid." Voila - Disgraceland was born.

The show is a combination of true crime and musician biography, with a focus on a different musician or band in each episode, told by Brennan with exhaustive research through books and the internet. As Brennan often notes, his podcast is for adults only, and give a dramatized version of the chaotic lives and often criminal conduct of the musicians in question. Needless to say, this show contains a lot of content that's not for the faint of heart - there’s lots of physical and sexual violence, drug abuse and even murder. But every episode, no matter how ugly, depressing or deplorable, has one thing in common - the musicians in each episode made great music.

That link at the top? That wasn’t great music. That was a demo video for the Mellotron M4000D Mini. We gave you that link, because we can’t afford to stream “God’s Plan” by Drake.

And why would we play you that slice of pop-rap, mumble-rap cheese, could we afford it?

Because that was the number one song in America, on February 13, 2018, when the first episode of this podcast went live - an episode that surrounded the extremely suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of Jerry Lee Lewis' fifth wife, in 1983, after only 77 days of marriage.

In this podcast, car chases on PCP, crack binges, torture, murder trials, and holy shit, how are Mötley Crüe still alive?! Your narrator is Jake Brennan, and this? Is Disgraceland.

Season 5 began in March 2020. Brennan has also released a Disgraceland book and started two more pods under his Double Elvis Media: The 27 Club, where each season focuses on one artist who died at that notorious age (Jimi Hendrix being season one, and Jim Morrison season 2); and Blood On The Tracks, with fictionalized voices of celebrities telling the story of Phil Spector.

Tropes associated with Disgraceland include:

  • The Alcoholic: Mick Mars from Mötley Crüe... well, everyone in that band indulged to their heart's content, but Jake Brennan singles Mick's drinking out in particular. After all, a multiple day bender convinced Mick that it'd be a great idea to just walk into the ocean, under Vince Neil's house. The ocean eventually washed him back up to shore.
  • Anything That Moves:
    • Mötley Crüe, every member. As in, they'd just grab a girl each the minute they got off stage, and get right to it.
    • Little Richard's sexcapades (with men and women) are notorious, and they take up a good chunk of his episode.
  • April Fools Episode: In which Jim Morrison was the Zodiac Killer. It apparently fooled so many that they pulled it and reuploaded it as a “normal” episode with some editing a few months later.
  • Arc Number: The 27 Club has...well, guess.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: GG Allin at birth was named Jesus Christ Allin by his delusional, abusive father. Leading to this tidbit:
    Jake: And GG’s older brother couldn’t pronounce Jesus. Because some supreme being tied his tongue so as not to allow such blasphemy be spoken - that a Messiah could possibly come from New Hampshire. So the cute little sibling nickname, Je-Je - baby talk for Jesus - stuck.
  • Book Ends: The book starts with an article on Fat Elvis and ends with Skinny Elvis.
  • Broad Strokes: Brennan claims the show isn’t so much journalism as it is entertainment; entertainment inspired by true events. For dramatic purposes, the stories may have a little bit of fictionalization - for example, it sounds much more triumphant to say that GG Allin went on stage for his last show with the anthemic “Shoot, Knife, Strangle, Beat & Crucify” than the quick, thrashy number "Highest Power" he actually started with.
  • Content Warning: If an episode - or a particular scene - is especially disturbing, Jake Brennan will provide one of these ahead of time. Of course, there's one obvious candidate for this treatment...
    Jake: In this episode, the subject's behavior and the language used to describe it is highly offensive. So this is a warning. It goes without saying that this isn't for kids. And if you, yourself, aren't constitutionally inclined to handle the highly transgressive world of GG Allin, then this episode isn't for you, either. But, if you're the type of sick bastard to slow down and look at a car crash on the side of the road, then pull over right now! Unbuckle your kids from the car seats, and throw them out on the street! Step on the accelerator and turn it the fuck up, like GG Allin would!
  • Control Freak: A recurring theme in the Prince episode. Prince, of course, is one of pop music's most notorious/respected examples of this.
  • Couch Gag: Mimicked in this article's intro.
    • “I can give you 27 reasons why that statement is true.”
  • Courtroom Episode: Snoop Dogg's episode surrounds his murder trial from the mid-90s - you know, the one that inspired "Murder Was The Case."
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: The fate of Spade Cooley's wife. By Spade Cooley.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms:
    • Faced with nothing to do in jail, GG Allin spent much of his prison sentence (well, he had over 50, but the long one is alluded to in his episode) playing with himself, multiple times a day. Apparently, this was constant even after he got a scab on the end of his doodle.
    • Apparently, Little Richard liked to watch, amongst many other things.
  • A Day in the Limelight: By nature, each episode deals with one artist (although admittedly it’s a bit lopsided with The Rolling Stones, but with how long they’ve been around...). An entire season, though? Welcome to the Club.
  • Domestic Abuse:
    • The Ike & Tina Turner episode is obviously rife with this, and not an easy listen, even by the standards of this podcast.
    • And then there's Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, who suffered this at the hands of Andre Rison, her then-boyfriend and wide receiver for the Atlanta Falcons. Left Eye, as some of you know, got her revenge.
  • Downer Ending: A lot of the subjects of these episodes don't survive their turbulent lifestyles. Episodes concerning John Lennon, Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston and XXXTentacion (to name a few) can only end one way.
    • 27 Club. If it didn’t end that way, they wouldn’t be in it.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • GG Allin played with this, saying he planned to kill himself on stage as the ultimate sacrifice to rock & roll. That is definitely not how his death happened.
    • The two-part Kurt Cobain & Courtney Love episode. Kurt's personal demons with nausea, heroin addiction and suicidal tendencies are well-documented, including on this very episode, so the Downer Ending is, of course, inevitable.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Slick Rick got this, after years of dealing with the fallout with his (incredibly unstable) former bodyguard, and his infamous immigration struggles, both of which left him in jail multiple times.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Brennan has said he won’t cover stories involving child abuse.
  • Flush the Evidence: One story Jake Brennan tells in the Ozzy Osbourne episode is when a panicked Ozzy - hearing police sirens - did this with all the drugs in the house, during the recording of Black Sabbath Vol. 4. Leading to, of course, a toilet helplessly clogged with weed and coke.
  • Gangland Drive-By: What Snoop Dogg was taken to court over.
  • Glorified Sperm Donor: Brian Jones? Pretty well known. Jimi? Surprise.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: A lot of these musicians had this. XXXTentacion's, Spade Cooley's, and Ike Turner's are some of the worst of the lot.
  • Hot Pursuit: What a drugged-up James Brown lead the police on, through multiple states. It didn't end well for him.
  • House Fire: After Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes' boyfriend abused her one too many times, she started burning all the fancy new shoes he bought in their bathtub. The fire spread, and the next morning, Left Eye and the smoldering ashes of their house were all over the news.
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction: Once an Episode, in the intro, Brennan will admit that despite the troubled, sometimes downright ugly, career of the musician(s) in question, they made "great music." He does the same in the GG Allin episode and cracks a joke about it, but a moment later, he walks it back a bit and admits that "okay, there's a lot of shit to sift through."
  • Intercourse with You: This was apparently Johnny Cash's interpretation of The Beatles' "Ticket To Ride."
  • Karma Houdini: Quite often, a lot of the musicians in question get off without any jail time for their misdeeds. Spade Cooley is an interesting case - through circumstances or possibly connections, Cooley was sentenced to an asylum for killing his wife, rather than jail. That said, he died there soon after.
  • Lighter and Softer: The Run–D.M.C. episode focuses not so much on a gritty, dangerous lifestyle, but rather the enormous influence the group had on popular music in The '80s. At least, until the Downer Ending (RIP, Jam Master Jay).
  • Madness Mantra: "The phony must die, said the catcher in the rye."
  • Motor Mouth: Brian is having dinner with his friends after a few snorts of coke, but gets lost in thinking about his drug and sex-fueled past and how far he’s fallen. Frank asks him what’s on his mind. 4 minutes of this trope follows. This turns out to be his Final Speech.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Dr. Dre in the N.W.A episode. Reflecting on the incident where he drunkenly attacked Dee Barnes in the early 90s, a couple of decades after, he showed remorse for his actions and a hope that he's a better person nowadays.
  • Named For The Song: There is an Alice Cooper track called "Disgraceland", a very unflattering take on postmortem Elvis (possibly where the logo comes from). A more definite example with Blood On The Tracks.
  • Near-Death Experience:
    • Multiple in the Mötley Crüe episode. Those womanizing boozehounds just would not die.
    • Johnny Cash, at the depths of his addiction to pills, was found unconscious and nearly dead. He was eventually revived by his entourage, just prior to a show.
  • Network Decay: The podcast’s focus has expanded to rap artists, John Denver and even Joe Exotic (though more episodes were made to fill time during the notoriously musicless COVID pandemic, and the Denver one was an April Fools Episode.)
  • Nightmare Fetishist: GG Allin was one, and you'd better have a strong stomach because Jake Brennan doesn't shy away from the details.
  • Offing the Offspring: The horrible fate of Marvin Gaye.
  • Proscenium Reveal:
    • The Cardi B episode begins with Cardi doing a striptease on a pole, getting ogled by the men around her, before an announcement informs the passengers that the subway has reached Cardi's stop. (Yes, Cardi really did this.)
    • The Rape as Backstory, Downer Beginning of the Madonna episode. A year after the incident, she had to play a rape victim in a movie.
  • Parental Incest: Spade Cooley was a seriously messed-up individual. He didn't just murder his wife - no, he then immediately put the moves on his own daughter (who would later testify against him in the court case).
  • Police Brutality: The N.W.A episode begins with a truly grisly look at the aggressive tactics of the LAPD circa-1985.
  • Prison Rape: X’s cellmate built a rep for this, and Jahseh protects himself accordingly.
  • Rags to Riches: Brennan details quite a few of these. Eminem's rise to infamy, for example.
  • Rape as Backstory: Let's just say Madonna isn't just a pop icon; she's a survivor.
  • Real-Person Fic: Technically, everything is historical speculation (the ethics of which are up to some debate). However, the April Fools Episode|s are explicitly Alternate History, or at least revealed to be.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Madonna, GG Allin, N.W.A and many more episodes.
  • Sanity Slippage: The John Lennon two-parter. Mark David Chapman’s mental health deteriorates something fierce leading up to his infamous crime.
  • Self-Harm: Iggy Pop would frequently do this on stage to his own chest, amongst many, many other things. His episode begins with him in a jail cell, still bleeding from the show last night.
  • Shock Rock: No surprise that guys who invoked this would show up on this podcast. As such, GG Allin and Iggy Pop provide memorable episodes.
  • Shout-Out: Brian’s story toward the end of his episode is a near-perfect adaptation of Victor’s trip in The Rules of Attraction.
  • Significant Birth Date: Jimi Hendrix’s birthday was November 27th. Many have died at the age matching their birthday, but not many become almost synonymous with their age.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Every episode begins proper with an intro loop from Jake Brennan's Mellotron. He even identifies which loop. Since the Mellotron loops are often very pretty, pleasant, and even jaunty, it sure is jarring to go into such dark subject matter.
  • Speak Ill of the Dead: Artists like Amy Winehouse are shown as the flawed, resistant and sometimes violent persons they were that led them to their graves. Special mention for Brian Jones, who Brennan flat out calls the weak link that needed to be dropped for the Stones to thrive, and responsible for his own death (misadventure or otherwise).
  • Split Personality:
    • A recurring theme in the Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes episode. Specifically, Left Eye claimed hers came out while drunk.
    • Eminem famously invoked this, and vented his frustrations from his life in the gutter and messy family struggles, using a persona we now know as Slim Shady.
  • Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll: Right up the wazoo. Hell, the Mötley Crüe episode alone is so excessive, younger listeners would be forgiven for thinking Brennan made all this up. (Not that younger listeners should be listening to this podcast in the first place.)
  • Technology Marches On: Invoked once by Jake Brennan. If Johnny Cash had made an intoxicated, on-stage spectacle of hooting and hollering at June Carter - while Johnny was married to someone else, mind you - crawling on his hands and knees trying to lick her ankles, in this day and age, word would spread like wildfire and his career would be tarnished. Luckily, this happened in the 60s, and merely got a passing mention in a newspaper.
  • Tragic AIDS Story: Briefly alluded to in the N.W.A episode. RIP, Eazy-E.
  • Two-Part Episode: Not something done often, but the unfortunate tales of Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, John Lennon, and N.W.A, needed two episodes each to fully delve into.
  • Waxing Lyrical: Brennan is fond of quoting lyrics of the subject of each episode, to underscore the chaos of their personal lives.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Marvin Gaye was a deconstructed version, because his life got ugly without the love he needed from his father. In fact, his differences with his dad is what led to his premature death.
  • Would Hit a Girl:

"He’s a bad, bad man!"