The Eagles are one of the biggest-selling music acts in history — but they’re arguably just as well known for their internal squabbling as they are their incredible country rock ’n’ roll hits. Over the years fights, ego wars, and rivalries led to what felt like a constantly changing line-up. Hell, they even disbanded entirely for 14 long years! Let’s take a look at the behind-the-scenes drama that defined the Eagles — and eventually led to one of the most infamous band break-ups in music history.
The Eagles broke up in 1980 but reunited in 1994 for the album Hell Freezes Over…
The first Eagle to fly away from the band was Bernie Leadon. It was a case of “last one in, first one out,” as he was the final original member to join the group. The guitarist is often credited with being instrumental in shaping the country rock sound which first brought the band to the fore.
In 1975, though, after four and a half years of relentless touring and even more relentless partying, he found himself burning out. To him, the solution was obvious — take a breather.
Leadon shares a beer with Frey
In 2008 Leadon told Rolling Stone, “I just wanted some time to regroup. I suggested we take some time off. They weren’t excited about that idea.” The other guys wanted to forge ahead on their current path of success, so Leadon’s suggestion fell on deaf ears — and this frustrated him.
The disgruntled man wound up pouring an entire beer over Frey’s head during a backstage difference of opinion and quit the band entirely. He maintained, “I don’t regret any of it,” and then chuckled, “What’s funny is that a year after I left they did wind up taking a long break.”
Leadon pushes back on one rumor
Interestingly, people have often said Leadon fundamentally disagreed with Henley and Frey over the band’s sound evolving into the stadium-friendly rock and roll the Eagles became so synonymous with.
Leadon disputes this, though, saying, “That’s an oversimplification. It implies that I had no interest in rock or blues or anything but country-rock. That’s just not the case. I didn’t just play Fender Telecaster. I played a Gibson Les Paul, and I enjoyed rock and roll. That’s evident from the early albums.”
Meisner’s anxiety gets the best of him
The next member to seek greener pastures was Randy Meisner, who quit in 1977. He and Frey got into an altercation before the third encore of a gig one night — because Frey wanted him to take center stage to sing “Take it to the Limit.”
This was one of the band’s biggest hits and a song Meisner did sing on the record — in fact, his high-pitched vocals are an iconic part of the track. Unfortunately, Meisner was an introvert, and hated singing live as it made his anxiety flare up.
Then exits stage left
Meisner told Rolling Stone, “I was always kind of shy… I liked to be out of the spotlight. One night in Knoxville, I stayed up late and got the flu. We did two or three encores and Glenn wanted another one. I told them I couldn’t do it, and we got into a spat. That was the end.”
He would later tell Smooth Jazz Now, “At the time to me it was just like two guys fighting but it got really bad so at that point I just decided to leave because I just didn’t like what I was doing anymore.”
It was once a collaboration
The departures of Leadon and Meisner point to a growing feeling that a divide had formed in the Eagles. Leadon told Rock History Book that, on their first two albums, it was a real collaborative effort — but he claimed that wasn’t what Frey and Henley wanted going forward.
He said, “I’m glad there are some songs that we’re all credited with writing because that shows we really were a band. I mean, especially around Desperado, Glyn Johns was still producing it.”
The Don and Glenn Show
Leadon continued, “Glyn Johns, by the way, was very adamant that Meisner and myself should be pushed forward as well, and it not just turn into the Glenn and Don show immediately which is I think what they wanted. They were pretty pushy, honestly, but Glyn Johns kind of created the balance that exists on the first two albums.”
When Johns exited as producer, though, “the whole dynamic changed. And then pretty soon, Don and Glenn had written all the hits. So, it did become the Don and Glenn show.”
The membership merry-go-round
The Eagles’ membership chopped and changed quite a bit during this mid-to-late ’70s period. Guitarist Don Felder joined in 1974, the year before Leadon left. In ’75 Joe Walsh stepped in to replace Leadon, and over the years Walsh and Felder formed a truly iconic on-stage guitar duo. Then, when Meisner left in ’77, bassist Timothy B. Schmit stepped into the void.
Even with different members, though, the undercurrent of disharmony in the band continued — before it exploded during their period of biggest success.
The double-edged sword of success
Under normal circumstances, a band experiencing an all-conquering hit album like 1976’s Hotel California would be a good thing. But the Eagles weren’t a normal band, and success simply piled pressure upon their strained relationships. On top of that, it made writing a follow-up album seem like an impossible mountain to climb.
In 1992 Frey admitted to The Independent, “There’s only a handful of artists per decade that have success on that scale, but the underside of it is following it up…”
The Long Run proves incredibly difficult to put together
Frey continued, “The Long Run was the most difficult album I’ve ever been involved with. It was the same for all of us. We worked hard to keep it loose, but everything had to be right, and we spent three years on it, far longer than any other record.”
He added, “It had stopped being fun. We no longer trusted each other’s instincts, so there was considerable disagreement as we were for the first time considering what we ought to be doing.”
Working in close quarters
Indeed, recording the album in the studio was so fraught that Frey likened it to being forced to go to school! He confessed, “I simply didn’t want to go.” The band members were finding out that money and success didn’t necessarily marry well with creating worthwhile material — and when you throw drug habits and conflicting personalities into the mix, all bets are off.
The frontman admitted, “Working in close quarters for such a length of time without the distractions you get on a tour, we found out a lot about each other.”
What do we talk about now?
Interestingly, Frey also suggested that the band were worried they’d exhausted all their creative reservoirs on their previous opus. You see, it was such an artistic highpoint that they wondered if they truly had anything meaningful left to say within their music.
Frey explained, “Henley and I found out that lyrics are not a replenishable source. We, Don in particular, said a mouthful on Hotel California and a big part of the problem was ‘What do we talk about now?’”
None of us wanted to go through that again
The album eventually saw release in 1979 — and the band were glad to see the back of it. Frey revealed, “Towards the end, we just wanted to get the record finished and released. It is a very polished album, as well it should be after all that, and has some excellent moments, but none of us wanted to go through that again…”
The band toured in support of the release, but it wouldn’t be long before the barely functioning group saw the house of cards they’d built come crashing down around them.
Long Night at Wrong Beach
In Don Felder’s book Heaven and Hell, he detailed the infamous “Long Night at Wrong Beach” — an ill-fated concert which left the band on the verge of collapse. He wrote, “Glenn committed us to playing a benefit gig at the Long Beach Arena on July 31, 1980, for the re-election of the liberal California senator Alan Cranston…”
Right from the jump, this didn’t sit well with Felder, who noted, “Glenn knew I wasn’t comfortable with a rock band doing a show for politicians.”
Frey blows up at Felder
Therefore, when Cranston and wife Norma came backstage to introduce themselves, Felder admitted his response to her polite “Hello” was less than enthusiastic. He gave her a subdued “Hello. Nice to meet you,” but, “As she walked away, I added, under my breath, ‘I guess.’”
Unfortunately, Frey heard the low-key sarcasm, and wound up yelling at his bandmate in their dressing room. Felder claimed, “I don’t know if it was the drugs, or the fact that we’d been on tour for so long, but he just blew up.”
A long, angry night ensues
Felder confessed, “Just before we stepped onstage I turned to him and said, ‘You know, Glenn, what you just did back there? You’re an [expletive] for doing that.’ He replied, ‘That’s an honor, coming from you.’”
And so began an evening of barely restrained on-stage contempt between the two men, with Frey allegedly saying, “I’m gonna kick your [another expletive] when we get off the stage.” Felder revealed, “As the night progressed, we both grew angrier and began hissing at each other under our breath.”
Turning down the mics
As hard as it is to believe, the band’s road crew began to worry that Felder and Frey’s arguments would be heard by their adoring fans, so they actually turned down Frey’s microphone between verses! Felder claimed, “He approached me after every song to rant, rave, curse — and let me know how many songs remained before our fight.”
It was clear to everyone involved that the situation had gotten out of hand and, if nobody stopped it, the two men would be on a collision course as soon as the show ended.
Smashing a guitar in frustration
Felder revealed, “When we came offstage and were waiting to be called back for the first encore I stayed by myself, trying to calm down. Then I remembered something Joe Walsh would do to release tension.”
He asked one of the guitar guys to grab the cheap acoustic guitar he would play “Lyin’ Eyes” on and bring it to him. With the guitar in hand, Felder admitted, “I took a deep breath, picked it up — and smashed it as hard as I could against a concrete column.”
Last to leave the building…
By the time Felder had finished breaking the instrument into as many pieces as possible, he’d been able to work out most of the anger and frustration he’d been feeling throughout the show. That was something of a positive, right?
The rest of the band had already gotten the hell out of dodge in their limousines, as they had no desire to be around for any fireworks between Felder and Frey. With the object of his ire nowhere to be seen, though, Felder assumed he’d already gone home, too.
Frey and the Cranstons see the whole show
However, when Felder made a beeline for the back door, he saw “the Cranstons standing right behind me, their mouths agape. A few feet away stood a stony-faced Glenn.” They had all seen him smash his guitar to smithereens, and the politician and his wife didn’t quite know what to say.
Frey did, though. He believed Felder had done it in front of him on purpose, either as an intimidation tactic or as a final “screw you” to the Cranstons, whom Frey was trying to impress.
The damage is done
After the Cranstons had made their excuses and left, the two warring bandmates were left alone. Frey spat, “Typical of you to break your cheapest guitar,” which was like a red flag to a bull for Felder, who claimed, “Afraid of what I might do if I opened my mouth to respond, I jumped into my limo and sped off.”
On the one hand, it was good that they didn’t actually find themselves in full blown fisticuffs. But on the other, it was obvious that a ton of damage had been done to their relationship.
The Eagles were history
Felder went on to explain, “Within a few days, I’d cooled down. The phone rang. It was our producer, Bill Szymczyk.” Felder, seemingly thinking the argument would be chalked up to a couple of idiots blowing off steam, just like all the other arguments, asked, “What’s the schedule for the band?”
In response, Szymczyk simply said, “There is no band at this time.” Felder then knew this argument was a big deal. As he succinctly wrote, “It was 1980, and the Eagles were history.”
Frey’s perspective on the “Long Night at Wrong Beach” is very similar — although he claims Felder was the one threatening him more forcefully! He told The Long Run, “For me, it ended in Long Beach, California, at a benefit for Alan Cranston.”
“I felt Don Felder insulted Senator Cranston under his breath and I confronted him with it. So now we’re on stage, 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.’”
Seeing the writing on the wall
“We’re out there singing ‘Best of My Love,’” lamented Frey, “but inside both of us are thinking, ‘As soon as this is over, I’m gonna kill him.’ That was when I knew I had to get out.” Frey was adamant this was the straw that broke the camel’s back — but, in truth, he already knew the writing was on the wall long before it.
He told The Los Angeles Times in 1982, “I knew The Eagles were over halfway through The Long Run… I started the band, I got tired of it, and I quit.”
Things get legal
In the end, the band got back together in 1994 for a reunion tour named — in hilariously appropriate fashion — the Hell Freezes Over tour! They were subsequently welcomed into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but, in 2001, trouble reared its head once again.
Felder was fired from the band by Henley and Frey, and he went legal, suing them for alleged wrongful termination. A six-year battle through the courts ensued, with Henley and Frey counter-suing their former bandmate, and it was eventually settled out of court in 2007.
Felder can take it no more
In 2008 Felder told Rolling Stone, “I withstood the abuse until I could no longer tolerate it and stood up for myself.” He chafed at allegedly being treated like an employee by Henley and Frey, as opposed to a fully contributing band member.
He also claimed they made sure to pocket the lion’s share of touring money, with the rest of the band settling for leftovers. He spat, “You know, I admire a band like U2 who share a brotherly love and, despite the money, still care about the music.”
“That was never the case, and never will be, with the Eagles,” claimed Felder. “I find it ironic that a band with a name that stands for freedom in America is ruled with iron fists. When you can’t even have fun onstage without being accused of pulling focus, it’s time to question why you’re there. I wasn’t willing to do it for the money.”
This enmity clearly led to Felder penning his memoir, in which he sarcastically dubbed Henley and Frey “the Gods.”
A cheap shot
Henley summarily dismissed Felder’s claims in 2015, though. He told The Guardian, “A lot of people on the outside believe a lot of the bull… in Don Felder’s book and believe Glenn Frey and I are some kind of tyrants. The fact is, we are largely responsible both for the longevity and the success of this band.”
He continued, “Because we did it our way, and a lot of people didn’t like that. Felder’s just bitter because he got kicked out of the group, so he decided to write a nasty little tell-all, which I think is a really low, cheap shot.”
A band is not a democracy
Overall, Henley firmly believes drama and strife simply comes with the territory — and every band needs leaders. In 2014 he told News Corp Australia, “You cannot take four or five creative people who have egos and creative desires and expect them all to see things the same way all the time.”
He added, “Everybody can’t be on equal footing. If people play their positions and play their strengths everything turns out well. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. We always understood that. Some of the other people apparently didn’t understand that.”
Tensions bubbled over in most bands
Felder and Frey's Iconic rift and near blows are a dime a dozen among their rock star peers. While U2 might have maintained the love, almost every other infamous rock n' roll band has seen its members at each other's throats. With Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, tension was there from day one.
Stills and Young seemingly never saw eye-to-eye, but this was magnified when they reunited, and apparently no band member got along with any of the others! The band has separated and reconciled multiple times. Yet when the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette asked Nash about reunion plans in 2019 he simply said, “No, there’s none at all, and there won’t be.”
Nash went on to say that the source of all the issues was Crosby. In 2014 he voiced his reservations over Young’s then-girlfriend Daryl Hannah, though he did apologize for it a fortnight later on The Howard Stern Show.
“I’m sorry,” Crosby said. “I’ve apologized for [it] a couple of times publicly …and I said, ‘I’m really sorry I shot my mouth off about your girlfriend. I really am. But we’ve all been horrible to each other over the years.’” With the group’s past records with reunions though, who can really say for sure that future CSNY tours are off the table?
The Beach Boys
Although their lineup has changed over the years, when The Beach Boys first got together in 1961 the band was made up of four family members. Carl, Dennis and Brian Wilson were the bulk of it with their cousin Mike Love and family friend Al Jardine completing the set.
They rose to fame with their chilled rock sounds made famous in songs such as “Surfin’ U.S.A.” and “Good Vibrations.” They’ve stood the test of time, too: they’re set to tour again in 2023!
After being together for so long though, it can’t have all been smooth surfing. Mike Love and Wilson often disagreed on what direction the band’s sound should take.
They also disagreed on who should take credit for writing the songs, as Love wrote in his 2016 autobiography, Good Vibrations: My Life as a Beach Boy. “There was always the perception that my cousin Brian did all the writing as well as the producing and stuff like that,” he wrote. “That was not true. I was the co-author of so many big hits.”
When The Yardbirds formed in 1963 it introduced the world to three guitarists who would become super-famous: Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, and Eric Clapton. Although they started life as a blues group, The Yardbirds later branched out into various different styles throughout their rise to fame.
They had hits in the hard rock and pop genre, but they are arguably most famous for their contributions to psychedelic rock. Despite splitting up in 1968 the band reformed in 1992 and toured as recently as 2018.
So what was it that put The Yardbirds on edge? Apparently, there was a falling-out between Beck and the rest of the band. Initially, Beck had wanted the band to try out some experimental sounds instead of sticking to pop, but he also disagreed with the heavy 1966 tour schedule.
So he quit the band, a move which he announced decades later had been forced. “Someone told me I should be proud tonight, but I'm not, because they kicked me out,” he stated in his 1992 acceptance speech to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “They did!"
Ranking among the biggest rock bands of the swinging ’60s, The Kinks had many inspirations, and it showed in their music style. Ray and Dave Davies were the most consistent band members, and while they originated in London they rode the British invasion wave to the USA along with other big hitters like The Beatles.
Until a disagreement with their promoter led to a touring ban that is, but that’s another story! All the same, even though they couldn’t reach American shores in person, their music still did.
If you have a brother or sister yourself, you probably have at least a passing familiarity with sibling rivalry. Well, according to Ray himself, that played a part in their rough patches. He told Wales on Sunday in 2010, “We were battlers, but the very thing that makes a band special is what ultimately causes it to break up.”
The good news is that they’re getting along better these days. “We get on okay,” Dave told news website The Independent in 2022. We talk about football! We’re born-and-bred Arsenal fans… So, yeah, I’m optimistic about the future.”
The initially all-British band Fleetwood Mac formed in 1967 and extended their line-up to feature an American folk duo — Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham — in 1974. They’re one of the best-selling bands in the world with 120 million record sales under their belt and they were welcomed into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.
You MCU fans are probably already very familiar with Fleetwood Mac’s song “The Chain,” which was featured in the blockbuster Hollywood screen hit, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
“A living nightmare”
Despite appearances, tensions were running high behind the scenes for Fleetwood Mac. Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, for example, were in a relationship prior to joining the band. In 1990 Nicks spoke to Woman’s Own saying, “When we broke up, two years after joining Fleetwood Mac, it was like a living nightmare.
“He and I were about as compatible as a boa constrictor and a rat.” All the same, even after they “went their own ways” the group briefly reunited for President Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration.
Fleetwood Mac (again)
You have to admire how Fleetwood Mac separated their personal and professional lives, because even when they were at odds off stage they were making great music on it. They were writing and performing throughout their relationship breakups and even made three albums in the process.
They have an “Outstanding Contribution to Music” Brit Award, and the band isn’t just acknowledged for their contributions to music, either. The Recording Academy also granted them the 2018 MusiCares Person of the Year for their philanthropic work.
Taking a toll
Nicks and Buckingham weren’t the only Fleetwood Mac relationship, there were actually several going on at once. Christine and John McVie were married, but as she revealed in the book Fleetwood Mac on Fleetwood Mac it just didn’t work out.
“We were very happy for three years and then the strain of me being in the same band started taking its toll,” she explained. “When you’re in the same band as somebody, you’re seeing them 24 hours a day, and you start to see an awful lot of the bad side.”
Since the Band started life as a backing group for Bob Dylan and Ronnie Hawkins, they were originally called The Hawks but they struck out on their own in 1968. Obviously, this required a new name and “The Band” was as good as any other!
It was also the name of one of their 1969 albums. They were definitely unique-sounding, since they combined a bunch of different styles into one eclectic — but popular — sound: many consider them to be the pioneers of what we now call Americana.
So who was responsible for such an original sound? Well, that’s up for debate and it’s also the origin of a lot of the tension within the band, particularly between Levon Helm and Jamie “Robert” Robertson. The Last Waltz, a 1978 documentary filmed by Martin Scorsese, portrayed Robertson as The Band’s main songwriter and figurehead.
Yet Helm disputed this, and in Wiley Blackwell’s 2021 book A Companion to Martin Scorsese, the musician describes that notion as “the biggest… rip-off that ever happened to The Band.”
The Allman Brothers Band
Gregg and Duane Allman lent their name to the Allman Brothers Band, which laid the groundwork for Southern rock back in 1970. Their initial album got little traction, but then Eric Clapton set them up to record with Derek and the Dominos.
After that, the group’s new sound got a larger audience and its local flavor singlehandedly kicked off the Southern rock boom. Duane tragically passed away in a motorcycle accident a year later, so he never got to fully enjoy the band’s rise to fame.
Instead, Duane’s brother Gregg looked out for the band and that meant dealing with some unwanted behavior from another band member. Dickey Betts, the band’s guitarist, was about as stereotypical a rocker as you can imagine! Gregg didn’t approve and the resulting tension led to the band breaking up.
In an interview with Rolling Stone in 1976 Betts said, “There is no way we can work with Gregg again. Ever.” Yet he did — several times, in fact — until the band finally dispersed. When the magazine asked him in 2017 about the alleged clash though, he said, “That whole idea about me and Gregg not liking each other was… [trash]. I liked the old [rocker]!”
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Despite being dismissed in some quarters as a band which “only” churned out hit singles, Creedence Clearwater Revival, or CCR, were huge in ’60s and early ’70s, with classics such as “Bad Moon Rising” and “Proud Mary” still arguably as timeless today as they were at their height.
In fact, the album on which “Proud Mary” featured — Bayou Country — was a smash-hit across the globe. History attributes a lot of this success to John Fogerty, who founded the band with his brother Tom; the former wrote the band’s songs as well as performing them as lead guitarist and singer.
Unfortunately, disagreements between John and his brother came to a head and led them to fall out. Tom eventually left the band and they never truly made up before Tom passed away in 1990.
In 2000 John told The Guardian, “The best I can say in Tom's case is he was the older brother and the younger brother had a lot more talent, therefore he was [jealous].” CCR’s bassist Stu Cook added, “It’s the saddest story in rock, and one of the longest ongoing stupid feuds.”
When Deep Purple first formed in 1968 their sound was more progressive and psychedelic rock, but as time went on, their musical style evolved. In 1970 they released an album called Deep Purple in Rock, which marked the band’s change to heavier rock.
It cemented their reputation as one of the originators for the genre, alongside fellow British heavy-hitters, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. Deep Purple achieved a spot in The Guinness Book of World Records as “the globe's loudest band.”
Believe it or not, this shift was a point of contention among band members: specifically between Deep Purple’s guitarist, Ritchie Blackmore, and singer Ian Gillan. The latter abruptly left in 1973 under mysterious circumstances at the time, but he since revealed the reason to Classic Rock in 2020.
He said, “It was to be brave and bold and write from the heart. A hint of commercialism crept into the band, which is why I left in '73, anyway. Ritchie: brilliant, but he had an ear for a commercial tune. He had an ear for the more popular stuff.”
Initially performing in glam-rock makeup and adopting personas based on comic-book characters, Kiss debuted in 1973 with four band members: Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Peter Criss, and Ace Frehley. They quickly rose to fame not just on one stage but across multiple media.
Their flamboyant stage style became so popular they’re now ranked among the best-selling bands ever, with a whopping 75 million sales across the globe. That sounds like a recipe for success, but apparently behind the scenes, it was anything but.
Apparently, the band was split into two sides: Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley on one, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss on the other. Simmons and Stanley claimed the other two didn’t take the band seriously, and in his 2012 memoir, Makeup to Breakup, Criss admits to intentionally sabotaging songs during a live performance.
Simmons told Guitar World in 2019 that they’d both been fired multiple times “for drugs, alcohol, bad behavior, being unprofessional… You can’t be in a car with two flat tires,” he elaborated. “It’s not going to go anywhere.”
The Everly Brothers
Music ran in Phil and Don Everly’s blood, so it was only natural they’d follow the career path that they did. They formed a band together in 1957 and worked so well together they laid the pathwork for country rockers to come, such as Simon & Garfunkel and even The Beatles.
If you’re into classic rock music, you’ll recognize some of their biggest hits, which include “All You Have to Do Is Dream” and “Wake Up Little Susie.” Their success was meteoric but short-lived, lasting until about 1962 in the USA and a little longer on British shores.
The Everly Brothers had a very public break-up on stage, cutting the gig short and signaling the end of their duo and causing Don to announce to the crowd, “The Everly Brothers died ten years ago.” The good news is that they made up in 1986 and even began performing as a duo again!
Don in 2014 told The Los Angeles Times, “When Phil and I hit that one spot where I call it ‘The Everly Brothers’. “I don’t know where it is, ’cause it’s not me and it’s not him. It’s the two of us together.”
If you didn’t know already ,you could probably guess that Pink Floyd’s sound was largely psychedelia, which was big when they made their appearance in the mid-1960s music scene. It was experimental, and that meant fresh, so audiences looking for a new sound lapped up Pink Floyd’s eclectic offerings.
Some of their lyrics even referenced the mind-bending Lewis Carroll novels Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. In addition, Pink Floyd had a controversial hit debut with “Arnold Layne,” a song about someone from the LGBTQ+ community.
Tensions ran high with band members David Gilmour and Roger Waters, who bickered over the quality of the lyrics. On the subject of the others writing lyrics, in 1987 Waters informed Rolling Stone, “They'll never be as good as mine. Gilmour's lyrics are very third-rate. They always will be.”
The situation hit boiling point in 1985 and Waters left. He made an unsuccessful attempt to sue Pink Floyd, though they have since made up and even got the band back together in 2005. “I was wrong,” Waters told BBC’s HARDtalk in 2013. “Of course I was. Who cares?”
If you’re looking for the band that pioneered rock opera, you need look no further than the mid-1960s British band, The Who. Part of the reason they became famous was because they had no interest in sugar-coating feelings of anger and frustration.
This, of course, was at a time when a lot of other bands were singing about unison, peace, and love. Their aggressive style appealed to many people who felt out of place, and of course the edgy guitar-smashing antics were the epitome of rock and roll.
A disagreement over lost practise time almost came to blows between Roger Daltrey and Pete Townsend, as the former revealed in his memoir, Thanks a Lot Mr. Kibblewhite. “Pete, fueled by the best part of a bottle of brandy, went off like a firecracker,” Daltrey wrote. “He was up in my face, prodding me.
“‘You’ll do what you’re… told.’ This is not the way to talk to me, but I still backed off. The roadies knew what I was capable of, so they sprang into action and held me back.” It was a passing clash though, and all was forgotten later that year.
Although technically not related, all members of The Ramones took the band name as their surname for performances when they got together in 1974. It’s thanks to them that punk rock became as popular as it did, with the titular musicians sporting the iconic rebellious style and going against the grain with their fast-tempo tunes and intentionally nonsensical lyrics.
They were even more popular with people across the pond in their 1976 British tour! The Ramones enjoyed success until 1996 when they disbanded, though they did get a lifetime achievement Grammy in 2011 for their contributions.
Fuel to the fire
Does sibling rivalry extend to people who aren’t actually siblings? Regardless, tour stress got to Johnny and Joey Ramone and culminated in the 1980s with rumors that Johnny’d had an affair with Joey’s girlfriend at the time, Linda.
Whatever the truth of the matter, Linda and Johnny did actually marry, fuelling the theory that the band’s hit “The KKK Took My Baby Away” is actually a jab at Johnny. Whatever went down, it wasn’t enough to break the band though, and they weathered the hard times like champions.
The Rolling Stones
When it comes to rock bands, there are few with reputations as big as The Rolling Stones, who got together in 1962. Although they started out playing covers, they soon graduated to performing their own tunes.
They soon enjoyed much greater success and had a string of hits including “Paint It Black” and “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.” It was the beginning of a long and illustrious career as one of the best-selling bands of all time, with roughly 200 million sales to their name.
When The Rolling Stones performed the song “All About You” in 1980 the lyrics Richards sang were misinterpreted as a jab at Jagger, who quit the band soon after. Yet they did make up several years later and Jagger rejoined — they even toured together in 2022!
So were those lyrics deliberate? “I never really thought about it in terms of how it was going to be interpreted,” Richards told SongFacts in 2019. He said the song was actually about love and loss. “I know that when I was singing ‘All About You’ I was certainly not thinking about Mick.”
Simon & Garfunkel
Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel actually performed as a duo called Tom and Jerry before they made their name as Simon & Garfunkel in 1963. Perhaps the former name was more appropriate though!
Their initial attempt at the big time was a commercial failure, but they hit the spot with their now-famous song, “The Sound of Silence.” It paved the way for greater creative control, and that in turn led to more success. A string of hits followed which featured on best-selling albums including Sounds of Silence and Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.
Hot on the heels of their initial success in 1957 Simon signed a solo deal as well, which rankled with Garfunkel throughout the years. In his 2017 memoir, Is It All But Luminous, Notes from an Underground Man, Garfunkel said “I concluded in an eighth of a second, and the friendship was shattered for life… I never forget, and I never really forgive.”
On his side of things, Simon wrote in his 2018 biography Paul Simon: The Life, “[Garfunkel] let us all down. I was tired of all the drama. I didn’t feel I could trust him anymore.”
You’ll need no introduction to The Beatles, who from the 1960s onwards have become a household name and cemented themselves in history as the most successful band of all time, as well as the most influential.
Much of what we know of popular music today is thanks to their influence on one level or another; their music includes elements of hard rock, psychedelia, beat, rock n’ roll and even Indian pipe music! The two remaining Beatles — Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney — are still active musicians to this day.
Apparently though, all was a bit tense off-stage. Take Paul McCartney and George Harrison, for example. Harrison disputed McCartney’s place as a joint figurehead for The Beatles, and it led to some tension.
In the 2015 book George Harrison: Behind the Locked Door Pattie Boyd — Harrison’s wife at the time — said, “They would tolerate each other, but I think George basically didn't like Paul's personality… Like a little brother, he was pushed into the background. He would come home from recording and be full of anger. It was a very bad state that he was in.” Harrison even briefly quit at one time!
The Beatles (again)
As huge as they were, all things must come to an end, and that time arrived for The Beatles in 1970. Of course, John Lennon’s wife Yoko Ono was — widely but unfairly — believed to be the cause of their dissolution, but there were plenty of factors in their split that had nothing to do with her relationship to Lennon.
He himself indicated that tensions involving McCartney had been the real cause; by his account his fellow musician’s attempts to control the band had allegedly rubbed the other three up the wrong way.
“Got fed up”
Lennon elaborated on the subject to Rolling Stone in 1971. He said it had all been to do with the 1970 documentary film, Let It Be. “That film was set up by Paul, for Paul,” he revealed. “That is one of the main reasons The Beatles ended. I can’t speak for George, but I pretty damn well know we got fed up of being sidemen for Paul.”
They may have had their differences, but they did make up a couple of years later. In fact, in one of his last interviews, Lennon said of McCartney, “He's like a brother. I love him.”