A (Not So) Complete History of Band Tattoos

As long as there have been rock stars, there have been fans willing to brand their bodies in tribute, which completely makes sense considering both outlets have long represented rebellion. Though tats and rock have taken on a tamer tone since their inception several decades ago (Avril Lavigne even sports some, though we’re pretty sure they come off with water), the two remain joined at the hip. Rock stars have lots of tattoos, and fans tattoo their favorite rock stars.

Whether you think Elvis, the Beatles or Buddy Holly was the first true icon of rock, it matters not. Each of these unique artists has been honored in skin:

Hell, Elvis is even honored without skin. Dig the King’s zombie-fication:

The ’60s was a great era for rock stars. Before tributes took the form of the laser light show, there was the tattoo:

But who was the ’60s poet laureate of rock, Dylan or Morrison? Jim might be better looking, but we’d go with Dylan in a second, even though his face looks ridiculous tattooed on people’s arms:

Dead rock icons from the ’60s make for a popular portrait. Hendrix looks fucking rad while Marley looks fucking sad:

Also emerging in the ’60s is the legendary Johnny Cash, a hero to millions of rock and country fans alike. Perhaps the success of “Walk the Line” will inspire a new generation of fans to tattoo The Man in Black’s iconic image on their bodies (though hopefully without the harelip):

In the late ’70s, punk rock burst from the underground and ushered in a new kind of rebellion, though it wasn’t until the next decade that punks seriously starting inking their skin with the logos of their favorite hardcore bands:

But its not just old school bands that have found a home on their fans’ skin. New bands get the tattoo treatment too:

Green Day seems to be a popular choice with the kids:

However, the Misfits are the ultimate in punk tattoo-dom. Their ghoulish imagery seems to jive perfectly with the modern tattoo aesthetic:

Then came the ’80s (and a whole slew of silly tattoos):

But the 80’s also welcomed heavy metal to the top of the pop charts. Oh metal, sweet metal, how we love thee… and your rockin’ tats:

There are even several sub-genres of metal tattoos. This group shows their love for metal’s madman:

And these all portray Eddie, Iron Maiden’s main man:

And let’s not forget the ’90s with it’s grunge, alternative and nu-metal sounds:

And that pretty much brings us up to the present represented by the Gorillaz, My Chemical Romance and Radiohead tats shown below.

What’s next, scarification in the shape of Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas? A portrait of Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentzweiner? Tattoos of Weird Al’s accordion? Oh wait, someone already did that.

Many thanks to the fine folks at BME Zine for letting us republish lots of these images. Please check their site out for yourself.

Related posts: A (Not So) Complete History of Cinematic Tattoos | A (Not So) Complete History of TV Show Tattoos | A (Not So) Complete History of Corporate Tattoos



  1. mannythedog says:

    OMG – does this count for a band tat? No? It’s funny anyway…

  2. Emerson says:

    This was cool. Thanks for all the pics.

  3. Judi says:

    I’d love to see a montage of the so not punk jam band tattoos–a la Phish and Ween–to be specific.

  4. casio says:

    i’m feeling a little left out…

  5. The Manticore says:

    I have three band tattoos so far. lol.
    I have a Chiodos logo, the echelon symbols on 4 koi (30 Seconds to Mars), and an Adair logo.

  6. Rebels with musical ink stainzzzzzz!!!!!!! « Tattoomyidentity’s Weblog says:

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  7. Ellie says:

    I want to see a blink-182 logo.

  8. tribal tattoos says:

    Is that river phoniex second one up?

  9. Pattaya, Thailand says:

    Wow this is awesome. Well I still don’t have any tatoo but I’d like to. http://selo-banya.com/pg/razlog-55

  10. Tribal Tattoos says:

    Is that green Elvis P… That looks great…

  11. snapback hats says:

    Tattoos of Weird Al’s accordion? Oh wait, someone already did that.