The Peculiar Gustatory Habits of Rock and Roll Gods

Elvis Presley – A Little More Calories 

The King was one of the most exuberant performers to ever grace the stage, and this was propped up by his calorie-heavy diet, and he ate as he did as a child. His gustatory love, though, was a peanut butter, banana, and bacon sandwich (PB&B) that became so famous that it is now known as The Elvis.

The tale goes that Elvis liked to eat it on grilled Hawaiian bread with caramelized onion and crispy bacon. Another story claims that Elvis fell in love with this concoction when he heard about the Colorado Gold Mine Company’s “Fool’s Gold Loaf” sandwich in Denver, which combined peanut butter, bananas, and bacon in a hollowed-out loaf of French bread, loaded with at least 8000 calories per sandwich! The dish sounded so heavenly that Elvis flew everyone to Denver from Memphis on his private jet. The King was so impressed that he bought the recipe from the restaurant owner and asked his personal chef to have one ready at all times.

Bob Dylan – Tangled Up in Dishes

That Bob Dylan is the only person to win a Nobel, Oscar, Pulitzer, and Grammy is impressive, but what’s even more remarkable is the fact that he did so with a body of work that included a song in which he rhymed house with mouse (But then they took him to the jailhouse, Where they try to turn a man, into a mouse).

Looking at Dylan, one would imagine he survives on coffee and cigarettes and the tears of his exes. The octogenarian Dylan is no chubbier than the 20-year-old freewheeling boy who dazzled New York City, but at least 12 of his songs deal directly with food, most memorably Country Pie which goes: “Raspberry, strawberry, lemon, and lime. What do I care: blueberry, apple, cherry, pumpkin, and plum. Call me for dinner. Honey, I’ll be there.”

A lifetime of touring meant that he often had to take his repast on the road, but that didn’t stop him from giving out extremely lyrical dinner orders. As a 1986 interview with Interview Magazine recalls that when asked what’s for dinner, Dylan replied: “Grilled corn on the cob, black-eyed peas beetroot salad spinach, and pilaf deep-fried cauliflower French-fried chicken and gravy French-fried cabbage pinto beans and rice cocoa angel cake.” Amazingly, even his meal orders are more poetic than most people’s songs. Greatest songwriter indeed.

John Lennon – Working Class Cream

Imagine there's no weight gain,                         

It's easy if you try.

No healthy food below us,

Above us only fries

Imagine all the people

Whatever your views on the man’s politics, John Lennon was a song-writing genius, as evidenced by his post-Beatles discography epitomised by the success of Imagine, a crypto-communist anthem sung by children around the world that so simple that it could lend itself to a variety of spoofs including terrible ones like the one you just read.

Despite being more famous than Jesus, Lennon continued to have a working-class diet with a weakness for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and Bird’s Custard, toast, and tea. Before the Beatles’ vegetarian turn, Lennon was a huge fan of steak and chips.

While some have claimed that Lennon suffered from bulimia, Yoko Ono junked those rumours pointing out that: "He was always on a very healthy diet…His diets included a vegetarian diet, macrobiotic diet and, very rarely a juice-only diet. All of the above are internationally approved health diets.”

But perhaps the most endearing food story is that he was a huge fan of cornflakes with cream. The cream was in short supply during WWII when Lennon was growing up, so as an adult, he couldn’t get enough of it. Lennon’s preference for cream is perhaps also a window into the peculiar eating habits of current Britishers, who eat like they are still being bombed by the Luftwaffe. Why else would a civilised country think that beans on toast is an actual meal?

Freddie Mercury – I Want Dhanskar Curry 

Even among a pantheon of peculiar characters, Freddie Mercury stood out for his peculiar behaviour, which wasn’t so much an act but the very essence of his character. From mocking new-age punks like Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten to saving Billie Jean King during a pub brawl, Freddie’s mercurial character was matched by his tastebuds.

As an established rocker, he loved Moet and Chandon champagne and the Belgian chocolate of Godiva. A fan of spicy food, he had his chef prepare a traditional roast every Sunday. His other favourite was an English meat pie and sausage rolls. His comfort food spoke of his Parsi roots, and his favourite dish was chicken dhansak, a classic Parsi offering served with lentils and vegetables with a side of chicken meat.

Sadly, after he was diagnosed with AIDS, his tastebuds could no longer handle heavy spices, which meant that the only condiments he was allowed on his deathbed were salt and pepper.

Keith Richards – Sympathy for Shepherd’s Pie

If there’s anyone whose diet should be studied for its preventive powers, it would be Keith Richards’, who, according to an addiction expert, must have the “constitution of an ox”. From surviving on speedballs – a cocktail of heroin and cocaine – to walking down Oxford Street with a slab of hash, Richards’ longevity has often flummoxed scientists and rock fans alike. In recent years, he has cleaned up his diet, eating pasta, chicken, whole grain bread, potatoes, fish, and avocados. The man who could down a bottle on his own, also drinks a lot of smoothies nowadays and even gyms and cycles every single day. And he rarely touches alcohol or smokes, which seems almost sacrilegious.

However, in his younger days, Richards had a far more British approach. His first favourite was bangers and mash, which he would cook at home. His other love was shepherd’s pie, a dish he loved so much. The story goes that when the Stereophonics performed with the Rolling Stones, the former’s drummer, Stuart Cable, had a scoop backstage before Richards. Jagger recalls that the pie had to be “re-crusted,” so Richards would be the first to break bread. This didn’t fool the man who inspired Captain Jack Sparrow, who later tacked down Cable and asked: “You ate my shepherd's pie, didn't you?"

And he even has his own recipe to improve the dish: “Before you spread the spuds on the top, you chop up some more onions, because the onions you've used to cook with the meat have been reduced, and he was damn right.”

Ozzy Osbourne – The Prince of Curries

Based on his onstage antics, one would’ve imagined that Osbourne would be a fan of rare and bloody winged meat, but the Prince of Darkness actually has a soft corner for curry, well, the British version of what passes for it anyway. During Covid-19, Osbourne went on a curry-fuelled trip. As his son said, during Covid-19, Osbourne was convinced not to order takeout, perhaps to ensure that the bats didn’t get their revenge. Instead, he developed a taste for Trader Joe’s curries. His son Jack recalls: “So to put a wall of safety around him, we told him to try Trader Joe’s curries – and he loves them with french fries he makes. “Here’s the thing – I’m not letting a disease started by bats kill my dad. And this is not some giant revenge plot from bats to get him back. He’s on the ultimate calorie-packed ‘I’m at home f***-it diet’. He’s really happy about it, and this will hold him over for quite some time.” His curries included chicken tikka masala and butter chicken, which he usually had with homemade fries.  

Osbourne also has a bizarre obsession with ice cream, consuming two tubs of Haagen-Daz in one go.

He said once in an interview: “I cannot stop eating it. I like eating two at a time. I have all this junk in my body, drugs, alcohol and all the rest of the sh**. So I am trying to keep my wits and stay fit, so I exercise every day. To be honest I should be dead.”