When Girls’ Christopher Owens first revealed, circa the release of the band’s debut album, Album, that he’d grown up in the Children of God cult, you could almost hear the collective intake of breath from music journalists everywhere (and, we suspect, from the band’s publicists, too). After all, it makes great copy: musician grows up in cult, overcomes weird childhood, makes great album, lives happily ever after. But really, when you read them, the truth is far more complex and less facile — and Owens’ stories of his early years are genuinely disturbing. Plenty of other musicians over the years have arrived at their music via lives that have been unconventional, to say the least. And so, with Girls’ new album due next week and streaming now at Hype Machine, here’s a selection of weird and compelling musician back stories.
A five-year-old Courtney Love famously appears on the back cover of The Grateful Dead’s Aoxomoxoa, which gives a good idea of the sort of company her parents kept. She may or may not have been given acid by her father at the age of three, spent much of her childhood bouncing around the world, and was working as a stripper by the age of 16. She decamped to England shortly after, in search of the burgeoning post punk scene, and ended up forming unlikely friendships with Ian McCulloch and Julian Cope before overstaying her visa, stripping in the far East, and winding up back in the US to front an embryonic version of Faith No More. Say what you like about Love, but she’s lived one hell of a strange life.