At some stage in our lives we’re all guilty of falling out with people, whether it be family, loved ones or co-workers. And our favorite musicians have proved no different in this regard, with a series of bitter spats, lawsuits and even physical altercations involving bandmates littering the history of popular music.
Here’s a look at ten of the most legendary rock band member rivalries, complete with creative tensions and outright hatred – which, it should be added, didn’t compromise the making of some seriously awesome music. In fact, if the achievements of these bands are anything to go by, then people getting along with each other may be ever so slightly overrated.
10. John Lennon vs. Paul McCartney – The Beatles
They’re arguably the most legendary songwriting partnership of them all, yet the relationship between the foremost creative forces in perhaps the world’s best-known band famously turned sour toward the end of The Beatles’ existence. In the heady early days, though, John Lennon and Paul McCartney were considerably more cordial toward each other; in fact, they initially made a point of always sharing songwriting credits, regardless of who had the greater input into a composition. Moreover, as the band’s longtime record producer George Martin noted, the tension between the pair “made for the bond” – and yet while this may have worked for a time, things eventually boiled over.
Image: Oli Gill
The death of The Beatles’ famous manager Brian Epstein in 1967 led to McCartney reportedly gaining greater influence over the band and in the process seemingly taking control away from Lennon. Further resentment grew when Lennon signed up Allen Klein to manage the band’s record company, Apple, a move very much against McCartney’s wishes. And just as tensions were peaking at the beginning of the ’70s, McCartney released his first solo album – a precursor to a split if ever there was one. However, McCartney has subsequently said that the pair had reconciled by the time of Lennon’s murder in New York a decade later.
Image: Eva Rinaldi
9. Bryan Ferry vs. Brian Eno – Roxy Music
Musical differences marked the tensions between Roxy Music’s foppish crooner Bryan Ferry and androgynous producer-turned-performer Brian Eno. Eventually, the English art rock group would seemingly prove too restrictive a space to incorporate the two musicians, who despite sharing a – differently spelled – first name had very divergent ideas about where the band’s sound should go. Still, the full-length records that Roxy Music created while Eno was in the band – that is, their self-titled debut and the celebrated “For Your Pleasure” – may have made the struggles all worth it.
The crux of the feud was that Ferry was keen to guide Roxy Music into radio-friendly pop rock waters, while Eno wanted to explore his avant-garde tendencies within the band. The difference in opinion eventually became too much for Eno, who left Roxy Music in 1973. “I don’t want to damage Roxy [by talking about differences with Ferry],” he told The Telegraph four decades later. “I mean, I really like the other members, and I… really like Bryan in a funny way.” Despite this, though, the pair did join forces again for Roxy Music’s 2001 reunion tour.
8. Joey Ramone vs. Johnny Ramone – Ramones
Credited by many for spearheading the nascent punk rock movement of the mid- to late-1970s, the Ramones boiled rock ‘n’ roll down to the basics: a handful of chords, rudimentary but effective melodies, and lyrics that verged on the banal but were nevertheless hard to resist. All the band members also took on the surname “Ramone,” giving them the air of rock brothers-in-arms – and like many brothers, the Ramones didn’t always get along.
The main schism in the band was between singer Joey and lead guitarist Johnny, and this was prompted in part by the pair’s seemingly polar opposite outlooks on life. Johnny was an ardent Republican and conservative in his views, while Joey was something of a liberal-leaning bohemian. Things came to a head, though, when Johnny wooed and subsequently wedded Joey’s former girlfriend Linda Danielle, inspiring the latter band member to write “The KKK Took My Baby Away.” Johnny passed on Joey’s funeral in 2001, and he himself succumbed to prostate cancer three years later.
7. Mick Jagger vs. Keith Richards – The Rolling Stones
Given the astonishing longevity of The Rolling Stones, it’s perhaps no surprise that guitarist Keith Richards and charismatic, snake-hipped frontman Mick Jagger have had the odd disagreement. In fact, they’ve fallen out rather a lot – and over everything from creative control to musical priorities. In his autobiography, Richards even joked about the size of Jagger’s penis.
Inevitably, Richards’ assertion in his book that Jagger – known for his success with the ladies – had a “tiny todger” didn’t go down well, and nor did the guitar slinger’s boast of sleeping with Marianne Faithfull, Jagger’s one-time flame. Further tension arose in 2003 when Jagger accepted his knighthood, a decision Richards criticized as “ludicrous.” In an interview with Uncut magazine, Richards elaborated by saying that his long-time bandmate’s agreement to get the award “sent out the wrong message,” adding, “It’s not what the Stones is about, is it?”
Image: Eli Hamann
6. J Mascis vs. Lou Barlow – Dinosaur Jr.
The bitter fall-out between Dinosaur Jr. head honcho J Mascis and the band’s original bassist Lou Barlow has virtually become rock folklore. Just as the Amherst, Massachusetts group were making some kind of commercial breakthrough and had finished touring their well-received third LP, Bug, long-haired guitar wizard Mascis essentially kicked Barlow out of Dinosaur Jr. by, rather incredibly, lying to the bass player that the band had split up. By that point, though, the pair were barely speaking to one another.
Image: Rodrigo Quezada
And Barlow didn’t hide his anger at this state of affairs while penning songs for new band Sebadoh – in particular, by skewering Mascis in the Sebadoh track “The Freed Pig.” Fortunately, however, this particular feud has a happy ending. Back in 2005 Barlow surprisingly rejoined a reformed Dinosaur Jr., and after a few reissues of old material, the band – complete with Barlow – released three new LPs, in 2007, 2009 and 2012 respectively.
5. Black Francis vs. Kim Deal – Pixies
One of the American underground’s most celebrated bands, the Pixies have nonetheless had their fair share of creative tensions. The friction in the 1986-formed outfit has largely been between frontman Black Francis and bassist/vocalist Kim Deal. Apparently frustrated at not being allowed to include more of her own tunes on Pixies records, Deal went on to form breakaway group The Breeders, whose debut album was released in 1990. The Pixies released Bossanova – their first album minus any of Deal’s songwriting – the same year.
Tensions in the band are thought to have reached a head during a U.S.-wide tour in 1992, following which the indie outfit took a break. Not long afterward, though, Francis announced on British radio that the Pixies were splitting – a development that he informed his bandmates of via fax. And while 11 years after disbanding the Pixies eventually reformed with Deal in tow, she opted to leave the group permanently in 2013.
4. Bob Mould vs. Grant Hart – Hüsker Dü
Minneapolis alt-rock trio Hüsker Dü were one of the most influential bands of the ’80s – and this despite the considerable hostility between the outfit’s guitarist/vocalist Bob Mould and drummer Grant Hart. Nevertheless, the pair showed off both their pop nous and abrasive hardcore punk-influenced sound to considerable effect in writing songs for albums like 1984’s heralded Zen Arcade.
Image: Bill Wilcox
However, the already strained relations between the duo began to deteriorate further by the time of 1986 album Candy Apple Grey; while Mould managed to start beating his demons, Hart’s drink and drug addictions intensified. The unexpected death of Hüsker Dü manager David Savoy also had a devastating effect on the relationships within the band. And with Hart’s problems worsening, he was eventually fired and the group disbanded. Hart and Mould have remained distant ever since.
Image: Greg Dunlap
3. Jeff Tweedy vs. Jay Farrar – Uncle Tupelo
The relationship between the main creative influences in groundbreaking alt-country band Uncle Tupelo had turned sour by the time of the group’s swansong, 1993’s Anodyne. Guitarist Jay Farrar and bassist Jeff Tweedy – who went to high school together – were the source of the tension. In fact, the animosity got so bad that Farrar eventually couldn’t bring himself to sing tunes penned by Tweedy.
Image: Neff Conner
Tweedy claimed that Farrar became resentful of his growing influence on the band’s musical direction. Farrar admitted the intra-band tensions, too, but has also stated that Tweedy hit on his girlfriend and called him a “pussy” for quitting. The rivalry continued post-Uncle Tupelo as well, with Tweedy’s new band Wilco forming intense opposition to Farrar’s Son Volt. And with bitterness still lingering, don’t expect an Uncle Tupelo reunion anytime soon.
2. Brian Wilson vs. Mike Love – The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys are renowned for their vocal harmony-laced songs, but it’s fair to say that the band haven’t always been so sweetly in sync outside of the studio. Indeed, internal struggles over musical direction and a bevy of lawsuits involving band members have meant life inside the group has been more of a bitch than a beach.
The main battle has been between Brian Wilson and his cousin Mike Love. Wilson – viewed by most people as The Beach Boys’ guiding creative talent – has been both sued and booted from the band by Love, who has largely assumed control over the outfit’s name. Things took a turn for the better when the group’s three surviving original members reunited for a 50th anniversary tour in 2012. However, despite this jaunt coinciding with a new Beach Boys record, Love subsequently decided to tour it exclusively with former band collaborator Bruce Johnston and a group of hired players.
Image: Ed Vill
1. Axl Rose vs. Slash – Guns N’ Roses
The bitter feud between Guns N’ Roses’ egomaniac singer Axl Rose and the band’s bushy-haired former guitarist Slash is one of the most infamous in rock history, although the reasons for it have long been shrouded in mystery. The seemingly unhealable schism between the pair – who enjoyed monster success with singles such as “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Sweet Child o’ Mine” – culminated in the axe-wielder leaving the band permanently in 1996.
However, a recent revelation from former band manager Doug Goldstein may have provided the sought-after answer as to why the pair fell out. Speaking to the Brazilian version of Rolling Stone, Goldstein revealed that Slash’s 1991 decision to perform for Michael Jackson – who would then soon be facing allegations of child abuse – seriously irked Rose, who as a toddler was molested by his own dad. Despite all bridges apparently being burned between the duo, Guns N’ Roses have continued to perform, albeit without Slash’s input.