The Top 10 Geekiest Rock Stars

March 18, 2009

One of greatest things about idolizing geeky musicians is the fact that you will have no problems relating to them. It can be very annoying dedicating yourself to a rock star who gets all the chicks, does all the drugs, and leaves a good looking corpse. I would much rather commit to someone who pokes fun at popular culture, loves Lord of the Rings, and writes songs about writing songs in their parent’s basement.

By Dustin Sussman

The following article does not represent the opinions of Spike TV or its affiliates.

10. Rivers Cuomo


Source: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

I’m not really that into the new and improved Rivers, but I still have a special place in my heart for the obsessive-compulsive dork who wrote songs about fellow geeks like Buddy Holly and playing Kiss songs in your parent’s garage.

Rivers’ classic horn-rimmed glasses and early ‘90s bowl cut also provide the perfect formula for any random dude trying to make his geek flag fly.


9. Ronnie James Dio


Source: Paul Natkin/Getty Images

Definitely a curveball, but for a guy who invented the metal "devil's horns", Dio is one of the geekiest rock stars to ever hit the stage. Needless to say, there are a lot of weird and wacky metal frontmen who could have made this list, but it’s Ronnie’s Middle Earth-inspired lyrics and intellectual soft spoken persona that stand out here.

I do love me some Dio, but if you go back and watch the video for “Holy Diver” it’s really hard to believe that people even considered this heavy metal in the first place. When Ronnie starts waving around that giant sword, I can’t help but lose my s***. It’s bigger than him!


Such a big voice, such a tiny man. Ride the tiger!

8. Brian Wilson


Source: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Only a brain this big could have put together one of the most groundbreaking records ever created.

Although Brian became a reclusive rock star cokehead in the late-'60s, he was still a giant geek at heart. His ability to absorb music and melody was even apparent at a very young age. Brian's father Murry told of how Brian had unusual musical abilities prior to his first birthday. Legend has it that baby Brian somehow was able to repeat the melody from "When the Caissons Go Rolling Along" after hearing a few verses sung by his father. Now that’s pretty f***ing impressive.

7. Thom Yorke


Source: Shirlaine Forrest/Getty Images

For being the frontman of one of the biggest bands on planet earth, Thom Yorke is a pretty big goober. The combination of his awkward facial expressions and uncoordinated dance moves proves that he is and always will be a giant geek. His wicked googly eye is also another key factor.

Thom’s notorious hate for "mythology" within the rock genre is also something most popular musicians choose to embrace instead of battle against. Thom’s overly intellectual take on the media and worldly issues also makes Bono look like a freakin’ lab monkey. 

Mr. Yorke had to be an outcast in grade school as well. I can totally see him sitting in the corner reading a book by himself and humming a high-pitched lullaby.

6. David Byrne


Source: Roberta Bayley/Getty Images

Do I really need to justify this pick? Just watching David dance throughout the entirety of Stop Making Sense makes me giggle in dorky delight every single time.

If every so-called "rock star" was more like David and the Talking Heads I would totally be okay with that. If you go back and watch the band perform on The Old Grey Whistle Test in 1979, it felt like David just rolled out of his Grandma’s basement, strapped on a guitar, and went right into “Psycho Killer.”

Did you know David won an Academy Award for his collaboration with composers Ryuichi Sakamoto and Cong Su on Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor? I love it. What a dork.

5. "Weird Al" Yankovic


Source: Ron Galella/Getty Images

Some may not consider this man a rock star, but I beg to differ. Al has sold over 12 million albums worldwide and was as big as any rock star could be throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s.

Al is so proud to be a dork it hurts. When he blew up in the ‘80s after his years on The Dr. Demento Show, he had no problems with showing off his huge accordion, geeky glasses, and Hawaiian print shirts. And even though he was labeled as a parody/comedy act, Al is an extremely talented musician and producer. His skills at reproducing classic hits should not be taken lightly. 

Al is like the inner-dork in all of us just crying out to a world full of low I.Q. imbeciles. 


4. Frank Zappa


Source: Tom Hanley/Getty Images

Few musicians, let alone normal people, could match the immense intellect of Frank. His highly complex song structures and wacky lyrical content easily make him one of the biggest brainiacs in the history of popular music. I personally love Frank’s unrelenting attack on the ridiculousness of popular culture. Frank also somehow took his music seriously without taking it seriously. He always refused to believe that music could change anything. I assume his consistent sobriety and ripping rational thought had something to do with that.

How many rock stars do you know that can conduct a f***ing orchestra? Not many.

3. Devo


Source: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

I can only imagine what it was like when Devo first stepped on the scene back in the ‘70s. It was like a bunch of lab partners from Kent State just decided to keep on their scientific uniforms and start a band as some kind of random experiment. I guess in all actuality, it kinda was. Well, needless to say, the experiment was a giant success.

Now I do know that Devo went out of their way to be weird and wacky, but I don’t really think they were exaggerating all that much. Even the idea behind their band name is geeky. Saying that Devo comes from their concept of devolution, which means that mankind is actually regressing instead of evolving, is a pretty brainy way of choosing a trademark. I don’t think bands like Fleetwood Mac were putting this much thought into their band name.

2. Geddy Lee


Source: Jon Sievert/Getty Images

If Geddy grew up in the United States he probably would have got his ass kicked every single day of his young life. Lucky for him, he grew up in the quaint town of Willowdale, Toronto and ended up being the frontman in of the geekiest bands of all time.

Progressive arrangement aside, his lyrical content and extremely high vocal range give Mr. Lee the "geek" status with no questions asked. Even if you haven’t heard any of Rush’s music, being in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame should be enough of a red flag to let you know how deep this dork river flows. When Geddy and the guys dropped A Farewell to Kings back in 1977, Dungeons & Dragons fans were salivating in their parent’s basements just waiting for a new 10-minute Rush track that uses Greek mythology to explain the title’s double meaning.

I still can’t believe that they have a song called "Cygnus X-1."

1. Buddy Holly


Source: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The king of all rock ‘n’ roll geeks! Buddy totally made it hip to be square.

Now I honestly don’t know if Buddy was a total dork, but his clean-cut appearance and classic spectacles made it seem like he was truly a gifted songwriter with a big brain to boot. I truly understand that Buddy’s geekiness might have been more of a style issue, but his swagger and attitude onstage influenced every single nerdy musician that came after him.

RIP Buddy.