Messy band breakups are about as inevitable as hair loss, alcoholism, lawsuits and the eventual cash-in reunion. Whether it's to do with creative differences, petty in-fighting, jealousy or ambition - every band's days are numbered.
Some part ways amicably, but most end in acrimony and horrendously misguided solo careers. So, we've taken a look at the nastiest, most painful breakups and the exceptional bands that just had to end.
Guns N’ Roses
When you lump a bunch of egomaniacs and junkies in a band together, it’s never going to end too rosily. For Guns N’ Roses an unceremonious end would come after their breakthrough Appetite for Destruction in 1987 - when they pushed out original drummer Steven Adler due to his severe drug addiction. The band persevered but Axl Rose started showing up for shows ridiculously late. According to Slash and Duff McKagan, he even refused to go onstage one night and so they signed away the rights to the band's name – though Axl refutes this. When the group went their separate ways in 1993, things got pretty bad. Axl called Slash a "cancer" and refused to even attend the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction because didn’t want to be in the same room as his ex-bandmates.
The Everly Brothers
The brotherly love between these brothers finally reached breaking point after 20 years, and boy did they. When Don showed up drunk to a show in Hollywood in 1973 he kept screwing up the lyrics until Phil smashed a guitar over his head and stormed out. The only time the brothers spoke during the next decade was at their father's funeral. Though the brothers patched things up in 1983 enough to embark on a lucrative reunion tour, things were never quite the same again. Sadly, in 2014 Phil passed away.
Doherty's infamous, increasing drug use made him end up in prison after burgling Carl Barât's flat when he failed to turn up to a reunion gig. The pair worked hard on their fractured relationship, writing their most successful music to date on their second album, which included the hit ‘Don't Look Back into the Sun’. Predictably, it wasn’t meant to last, despite the fact they got matching tattoos. In 2014 they did however return, to many fans’ delight. It's all going pretty well for them right now.
The Eagles breakup is easily one of the most infamous of all time. Having reached the top of the music world their talent was fast becoming outshone by their immense egos. In 1980 tensions boiled over, and Glenn Frey told Rolling Stone the band were close to coming to blows. “We’re onstage, and Felder looks back at me and says, ‘Only three more songs till I kick your ass, pal.’ And I’m saying, ‘Great. I can’t wait.’ We’re out there singing ‘Best of My Love,’ but inside both of us are thinking, ‘As soon as this is over, I’m gonna kill him'”.
(One of the very few pictures of the brothers not arguing)
The Gallagher brothers fought just about the majority of the time in their early days, but they always seemed to manage to pull it together before things became irreparable. In 2009, however, twenty years of frustration came to a head backstage at a festival in Paris. Accounts vary, but the story goes the brothers were arguing fiercely backstage when Liam smashed one of Noel’s guitar. And, that was that. Afterwards Noel simply stated, "It is with some sadness and great relief to tell you that I quit...People write and say what they like, but I simply could not go on working with Liam a day longer".
The Smashing Pumpkins
The Pumpkins held it together till 1996, when touring keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin died of a heroin overdose. That night, their drummer Jimmy Chamberlin also overdosed and was thrown out of the band. And, The Smashing Pumpkins called it a day in December of 2000, after some more turbulent band changes. Four years later, Corgan explained what happened, writing online, "The truth of the matter is that guitarist James Iha broke up the Smashing Pumpkins...Did it help that bassist D'arcy Wretzky was fired for being a mean-spirited drug addict, who refused to get help? No, that didn't help keep the band together, not at all”. Iha left the final show without saying a word to Corgan – to which he sadly responded, "He didn't say goodbye to the two people he had won and lost and traveled the world with".
The Pixies’ tragic too-soon ending occurred for two distinct reasons. When Kim Deal met Black Francis they had no real relationship outside the band, and so when fans fell in love with the bassist Francis got jealous. After freezing her out of their later albums, she started the Breeders as a side project. Once they began to experience some success, it was too late. The final nail in the coffin came when the Pixies agreed to open for U2 on their Zoo TV tour. It was an endless, unsatisfying slog where the band played to uninterested U2 fans, and the following year Francis faxed the rest of the band to say it was over. Across the next decade, he didn’t speak to Deal once.
The Allman Brothers
The beginning of the end came for the band when the group ousted guitarist Dickey Betts in 2000. Although founder Gregg Alman begrudgingly gave Betts credit for helping the band following the deaths of both his brother Duane and their bassist Berry Oakley in the early 1970s, Allman made it clear that he considered Betts a manipulative bully in his book My Cross to Bear. Things came to a head later that year, when Betts was allegedly (and inevitably) drunk and ruined a concert: “It was a total trainwreck, and just embarrassing to the rest of us”. The group ordered him out of the band until he had kicked the habit, but it all ended in a breakup anyway. The band did come back to perform in the 2000s with a different line-up, but officially retired once again in 2014.
Violent Femmes ended up calling it quits in 2009 due to a squabble between lead singer and songwriter Gordon Gano and bassist Brian Ritchie over Gano’s decision to license their biggest hit, “Blister in the Sun” to Wendy’s, An american fast-food chain, without the approval of the rest of the band. In a statement after the commercial’s release, Ritchie stated: “You can thank the greed, insensitivity and poor taste of Gordon Gano, it is his karma that he lost his songwriting ability many years ago, probably due to his own lack of self-respect as his willingness to prostitute our songs demonstrates”. Miraculously, as of 2013, they have become active again.
Black Sabbath were one of metal’s pioneering bands with hits like ‘Paraonid’ and ‘War Pigs’, but things began to sour after time. Ozzy Osbourne told The Guardian that the band members were barely talking to each other by 1979, and their shows became worse and worse, negatively impacted by the band’s extreme drug and alcohol use. Osbourne recalled, why the band’s end felt unavoidable, “We tried to manage ourselves for a while, but we were always at the bar...We were sick of each other [it was like] you don’t even want to be around your wife all the time and you married her”.
Though it was never violently ugly, the Beatles break-up certainly resulted in its fair share of bickering, sly digs, and petty lawsuits. Paul McCartney announced he was leaving the group in 1970, yet reportedly John Lennon had already announced his departure from the band, with all four members growing tired of their inhibiting roles. McCartney’s ‘Too Many People‘ and Lennon’s ‘How Do You Sleep’ were cutting tracks produced after the incidents with both sharing all their frustration.
The Verve broke up at least three times over the course of their 13-year run. Bitter bandmate fighting, substance abuse problems, trashed hotel rooms, and massive creative differences were just some of their numerous problems. In 2007 Richard Ashcroft said “You’re more likely to get all four beatles on stage” before the band’s final reunion, which barely lasted a year and was slammed by most critics.
Was there ever a time when everything was going swimmingly for Fleetwood Mac? Maybe not, though, they were only officially broken up for a few weeks in the mid-nineties. Their constantly changing line-up probably didn’t help, and a marital fall-out between Christine and John McVie and also Nicks and Buckingham – apparently led to a physical fight in 1987. Since then the band have performed in many different guises, with Mick Fleetwood the only constant member.
Conflicts between Johnny Marr and Morrissey reached an all-time high in 1987 when Marr was forced to take a break from the band, suffering from exhaustion. Marr then left the group when he thought an NME article entitled ‘Smiths to Split’ was planted by Morrissey when in fact it was not. Though, the band didn’t have much chance of staying together, regardless. In Morrissey’s autobiography it was revealed he was made to feel Marr was the “master” and Morrissey “the servant”. And, Morrissey admitted in 2007 in various interviews, that he “"would rather eat [his] own testicles than reform The Smiths”. In truth it was probably never meant to last.
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