Rockers Smash Guitars

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Rock the Casbah!.

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 was, but smashing a guitar is much harder than you'd expect from seeing this trope in fiction. Many a young guitarist have gotten frustrated with their instrument in the middle of the show and decided to smash it, only to find out that their instrument is Made of Iron (or plywood). Bands where the instrument destruction is more planned and theatrical will often rig an instrument to smash apart easily in order to please the audience.

Although it was a few decades ago, so this is now more played with in fiction than showing up in Real Life bands.

Compare Great Balls of Fire, Can-Crushing Cranium, Dramatic Shattering.

Despite the name, this is not limited to guitars.

Examples of Rockers Smash Guitars include:

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 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. Apparently at least twice as much charge as was meant to be used was placed in the drum and it exploded. (The whole performance can be seen here, with the destruction beginning around the 7:20 mark.)
  • Pictured above: Paul Simonon of The Clash. It's a bass guitar variation.
    • It is worth knowing that he immediately regretted doing so, because it was his best sounding bass.
  • Jimi Hendrix would do this, but only after setting the guitar on fire first.
  • 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.

Oh, it breaks my heart to see those stars
Smashing a perfectly good guitar...

  • An Mystery Science Theater 3000 invention exchange featured "The Rock & Wreck Guitar," a guitar which could be reassembles after being smashed, for garage bands who can't afford to keep buying new equipment.
    • Another time Brain Guy pulled the whole burning the guitar bit ala 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.
  • Yoshiki Hayashi of X Japan does this to his drum kit.
    • Yoshiki is known to be a very passionate player, so it's only to be expected. He once headbanged so hard that he dislocated his neck.
  • Rock Band 2 has this sometimes during a Big Rock Ending.
  • 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.
  • A PBS promo ("Be more passionate") featuring a String Quintet (playing the scherzo from Brahms op. 34) finishes with the performers trashing their instruments.
  • 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: 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.
  • 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, ala Jimi Hendrix.
  • Muse's performance at Reading Festival 2011 features 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.
  • Emilie Autumn sometimes smashes her violins.


  • 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.
  • In the original Back to The Future, Marty McFly ends his guitar performance in the year 1955 by kicking over an amplifier. His audience of audience, who had been enjoying the new (to them) kind of music up until that point, reacted with shock.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "The Camping Episode", where at the end of Spongebob's campfire song, Spongebob smashed his guitar, while Patrick smashed the drums that he had been playing.
  • This happens with Tommy in an episode of 3rd Rock from the Sun. But the guitar isn't his.
  • Discussed in Apollo Justice. 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.
  • Parodied in the opening scene of Wrongfully Accused, to make violin concerts seem awesome.
  • Jeff Beck, with The Yardbirds, in the movie Blow-Up.
  • One of Nikki's Personal Techs in Chrono Cross has him smash his guitar over an enemy's head.
  • 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).
  • Happens on Jimmy Two-Shoes, when Jimmy is having a dream of being a rocker.
  • 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.
  • In Soul Music, the only time the band variously known as Insanity, Suck, and 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.