20 Facts You Probably Never Knew About Robbie Williams' Rock DJ

Robbie debuted the controversial music video for the song in 2000.

With graphic depictions of gore, cannibalism and nudity (not to mention those tiger-emblazoned briefs), pop videos don’t come much more shocking and memorable than Robbie Williams’ Rock DJ.

The video for the lead single from Robbie’s third solo album, Sing When You’re Winning, debuted on 6 July 2000, creating nearly as much conversation as when he walked out on Take That five years earlier.

Robbie’s video proved to be hugely controversial, with the last third seeing a brief moment of full frontal nudity from the singer, who then pulls off his skin and gouges flesh from his body, before yanking out his internal organs and throwing them at the video’s blood-spattered models. They then begin gorging on his organs, leaving Robbie as a dancing skeleton.

Subtle it was not, but the daring video helped further cement Robbie as one of the UK’s most exciting male solo artists at the time.

As part of HuffPost UK’s Pop! Goes The Millennium series, we’re looking back at the classic video with 20 facts you didn’t know...

1. The video was released way before the song

While music videos these days tend to debut either at the same time or after a song is released, you’ll remember that back in the 2000s, it was a different ball game completely.

The video for Rock DJ debuted on 6 July – three and half weeks before the track was actually released physically on 31 July 2000.

2. It debuted in front of a shocked celebrity audience at Top Of The Pops

The video was unveiled in front of a celebrity audience at the recording of Top Of The Pops on 6 July, and according to then-TOTP producer Chris Cowey, it left many of the other artists on the show shocked.

He told NME in 2000, that Victoria Beckham, Mel C, Dane Bowers and Destiny’s Child were left with their “jaws on the floor” after seeing it for the first time.

Robbie Williams pulled off his skin in the Rock DJ video
Robbie Williams pulled off his skin in the Rock DJ video

3. But they were not actually the first famous people to see it

The video’s director Vaughan Arnell revealed he’d given then-Radio 1 Breakfast Show DJ Sara Cox – who was a huge Robbie fan at the time – a sneak peek at the video, noting that was left “pretty shell shocked” after watching it.

4. There was a huge amount of controversy about at the time

The Rock DJ video was met with a wave of controversy due to its explicit depictions of gore, cannibalism and nudity.

The video was cut by most music channels around Europe, including VIVA, MCM, The Box and VH1 Europe, often ending around two thirds of the way through the song.

5. One station found a nifty way of playing a longer version

With the help of some editing, The Hits played the song in full by cutting from Robbie dancing in his pants to dancing as a skeleton, slicing in some other footage from the video to fill in the gap.

Robbie's tiger-emblazoned pants became iconic
Robbie's tiger-emblazoned pants became iconic

6. The BBC almost banned the Rock DJ video

TOTP producer Chris Cowey fought BBC bosses to let him show the clip on the chart show.

He told NME in 2000 that he wasn’t confident it would get the go-ahead, but he ended up being able to show the first two minutes on the show that aired 7 July 2000 – with the full version airing during a late-night repeat.

Chris said at the time: “When people watch it, they go ‘Ugh, gross!’ but they keep watching it. We decided we could show it up to the point where he whips his drawers off (on the 7.30pm show). But I decided this (the full version) is exactly what the late-night repeat should be about. It’s a ground-breaking video.”

Top Of The Pops producer and director Chris Cowey
Top Of The Pops producer and director Chris Cowey

7. It was completely banned in the Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic’s National Commission of Broadcasting and Radio had concerns it promoted Satanism.

According to BBC News, it said it was “against the moral and religious customs of the Dominican people” and the video “under no circumstances would be permitted” to be broadcast.

8. The video even came with a warning on Robbie’s own website

The full-length, uncensored video carried a 15-certificate warning when it was uploaded to Robbie’s official website.

9. You might recognise one of the video’s models

One of the models in the video was Elizabeth Jagger – daughter of Rolling Stones legend Mick and model Jerry Hall.

Elizabeth Jagger appeared in the Rock DJ video
Elizabeth Jagger appeared in the Rock DJ video

10. Robbie actually went out in public wearing the prosthetics during the shoot

The director revealed that Robbie decided he liked the make-up so much that “he popped to the local garage wearing it for a packet of fags and then to the pub for a quick pint” during the shoot.

11. The video’s director is one of the pop greats

Vaughan Arnell had previously worked with Robbie on his videos for Angels, Let Me Entertain You and Millennium.

He has an incredible back catalogue of other great pop videos, including Dead Or Alive’s You Spin Me Round (Like A Record), Jamiroquai’s Space Cowboy, Take That’s Back For Good, Spice Girls’ Say You’ll Be There, All Saints’ Bootie Call, Geri Halliwell’s Look At Me and One Direction’s Kiss You.

He collaborated with Robbie on many of his later videos too, including Somethin’ Stupid, Radio, Bodies and more recent hits Party Like A Russian and The Heavy Entertainment Show.

12. Robbie recreated parts of the video for a TOTP performance

When Robbie debuted the video during the Top Of The Pops recording on 6 July 2000, he also recorded two performances of Rock DJ to air at a later date, one of which included him recreating the scene where he drops his trousers to reveal his tiger-print pants.

13. Despite the controversy, the Rock DJ video won critical acclaim

It picked up the British Video Of The Year at the 2001 Brit Awards, where the track also won Best British Single.

It also won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Special Effects in 2001, while in 2006, MTV viewers voted it as the seventh Most Groundbreaking Video Ever.

In 2010, it also finished third in 4Music’s 50 Greatest Pop Videos poll, just behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Toxic by Britney Spears.

It’s also racked up over 64 million views on YouTube.

14. And the track was also a massive chart success

Rock DJ was Robbie’s fourth number one, and his seventh consecutive top 10 hit. He made it to 20 in a row, until this run was broken by Sin Sin Sin in 2006.

15. It toppled another classic 2000s hit from the top of the chart

Upon entering the chart, Rock DJ toppled Craig David’s 7 Days from the top spot, which fell to number two.

Robbie knocked Craig David off the top spot
Robbie knocked Craig David off the top spot
Brian Rasic via Getty Images

16. It went on to become Robbie’s third-best selling single

This was just behind – somewhat surprisingly – 2012’s Candy and arguably his trademark hit, the million-selling Angels.

Rock DJ sold over 674,000 copies – nearly 200,000 of which came in its first week of sales alone – thus certifying it as a Platinum record in the UK.

17. Rock DJ actually has a sample you might not have noticed

While many people believed that Rock DJ’s base-line sounded similar to Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Relax, producer and co-writer Guy Chambers revealed it is actually a sample from the Barry White song It’s Ecstasy (When You Lay Down Next To Me).

18. However, this is not the only nod Rock DJ makes to another song

The line where Robbie asks “can I kick it?” is supposedly a reference to US group A Tribe Called Quest’s song Can I Kick It?, which reached number 15 in the UK in 1991.

19. Rock DJ was making fresh controversy in 2018

Robbie was invited to perform at the World Cup opening ceremony in Russia, where he changed the lyrics on the fly.

Instead of singing “Pimpin’ ain’t easy, most of them fleece me every night”, he changed the words to: “Pimpin’ ain’t easy, most of them fleece me, but I did this for free”, before flipping his middle finger at the camera.

The incident was cut from UK broadcast and streaming, but it can still be seen online.

20. And 20 years on from Rock DJ, Robbie was recently back in those famous pants

Robbie dug out the tiger-emblazoned pants back in April, as he and wife Ayda shared an Instagram workout inspired by Tiger King’s Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin.


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