The Top 10 Most Iconic Stage Moves of All Time
As hard as it is to get a record deal or write a hit song, the most elite group of musicians are those who are instantly recognizable based on a move they execute onstage. From Pete Townshend’s dramatic windmills to Michael Jackson’s awe-inspiring moonwalks, it’s impossible to separate these ten musicians from their stage moves — many of which will continue to live on long after these artists’ musical heyday is over.
Elvis’ Hip Shuffle
Although it may seem innocent now, when Elvis Presley burst on the scene with his hip shuffle it was a turning point in the history of rock and roll — and the fact that he was purposely filmed from the waist up during his performance on The Ed Sullivan Show has become the stuff of legends. The clip below shows Presley in his hip-shaking and parental-unit offending prime in case, like most of us, you weren’t around to experience it firsthand.
Pete Townshend Windmill
Pete Townshend has written some of rock’s most famous anthems like “Tommy” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” however he’ll undoubtedly be remembered for the swooping windmills he used to strum his Les Paul. In fact for many of us who got our start playing air guitar in our bedrooms, imitating Townshend was almost as memorable as the first time we strummed an open G chord on an actual guitar.
The Axl Rose Snake Dance
Guns N’ Roses’ frontman Axl Rose’s Snake Dance is similar to Elvis’ hip shuffle, however it occurs higher up on his torso and has more emphasis on the shoulders. Say what you want about Rose these days, but back in the day there was nothing cooler than seeing him sway back and forth as he crooned now classic songs like “Patience.” In fact, check out the video for the song yourself.
The Michael Jackson Moonwalk
Like Rose, Michael Jackson’s legacy has shifted over the past decade — but we still think that ultimately he’ll also be remembered fondly for giving the world the moonwalk. Check out this clip of “Billie Jean,” where the fedora-clad Jackson seemingly defies logic (and gravity) as he slides across the surface of the stage like he’s on an invisible conveyor belt.
The Slayer Headbang
Metallica may have penned the song “Whiplash,” but for our money the band with the strongest neck muscles has got to be Slayer. In fact, the band’s brutal brand of metal called for a stage move that was as intense and cathartic as their music — and watching the band’s mops spin in circles is the perfect physical manifestation of tracks like “Reign In Blood.”
The Kurt Cobain Gear (And Body) Smash
Pete Townshend may have made a name for himself by smashing his guitars, however Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain did him one better by literally smashing everything put in front of him: from amps to drums to guitars to his own body parts. Check out this montage of some of his more destructive onstage moments for evidence.
Bruce Springsteen’s Dance In The Dark
Looking back the Boss doesn’t look his coolest while he’s executing his signature finger-snapping, hip-shaking routine to “Dancing In The Dark,” but the video for the song — which features a cameo from actress Courtney Cox — is one of Springsteen’s most famous moments and is also responsible for embarrassing moments at high-school dances during the eighties everywhere.
Frankly if we never saw anyone “vogue” again it’d be too soon, however it’s hard to deny the cultural impact Madonna was able to achieve by framing her hands with her face and uttering a one-syllable word. You can watch her strike a pose in the video below, just please don’t do this yourself if you’re out in public and don’t have easy access to a time machine.
Chuck Berry’s Duck Walk
Although many people learned about the duck walk through AC/DC guitarist Angus Young, the move was pioneered by rock icon Chuck Berry, who used to hop across the stage as he performed rock anthems like “Johnny B. Goode.” No offense to Angus, but we can’t get enough of this next clip — and we’re betting you won’t be able to, either.
Billy Gibbons’ Guitar Twirls
Next to their beards and brand of blues-fueled rock n’ roll ZZ Top are probably best known for the effortlessly easy 360-degree guitar twirls with they implement live and in their videos. While this move may seem simple enough, we don’t recommend practicing it on your best guitar because it takes a lot of practice to get the right amount of torque for a full spin — and unlike ZZ Top, we’re guessing your axe isn’t covered in fur.