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Why did famous rock bands break up?



It is a collective dream that sees a group of individuals come together to play music of common interest. A lot of time, hard work, artistic ability, and luck decided whether the rock band will perform at a sold-out stadium tour or languish in anonymity. When things don’t go right, ways are parted. But when everything seems to be going great, the music is selling and so are the shows, fan base is swelling, what triggers a split in a band in such a scenario. These ‘brothers’ or ‘sisters’ suddenly can’t stand each other and go their separate ways. There can be lots of reasons behind it, creative disagreements, personality clashes, desire to go solo, ego etc.

Let’s look at some of the famous rock band breakups in history

Guns N’ Roses

rock band

The rock band was basically exhausted, musically and of each other. When they were invited to cover Rolling Stones’ ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ for the movie ‘Interview With The Vampire’, Axl Rose and Slash were not even on talking terms. Slash agreed to do the cover hoping it can bring the band together but that didn’t work.
Slash has always blamed this as the reason for the band’s demise.

“If you’ve ever wondered what the sound of a band breaking up sounds like,” 

wrote Slash,

“listen to Guns N’ Roses cover of ‘Sympathy for the Devil.’ If there is one Guns track I’d like to never hear again, it’s that one.”


This was a rock band featured a line up of heavyweights. The group consisted of bassist Jack Bruce, guitarist Eric Clapton, and drummer Ginger Baker. Bruce was the primary songwriter and vocalist, although Clapton and Baker also sang and contributed songs. It was the world’s first Supergroup and so ego clashes and musical differences were to be expected. This wasn’t entirely the case. They were just too loud!

Baker even went on record to say,

“By 1968, I was just the poor bastard stuck in the middle of three incredible noise-making things. It was ridiculous. The incredible volume was one of the things that destroyed the band. Playing loud had nothing to do with music. There was, in fact, one gig where Eric and I stopped playing for two choruses. Jack didn’t even know. Standing in front of his triple stack of Marshalls, he was making so much noise he couldn’t tell.”

Apart from this, Baker and Bruce were unable to resolve their differences.

The Beatles

It wasn’t only Yoko Ono. By 1970 the Beatles were neck deep in financial, legal, and personal problems. Paul McCartney was about to release his new solo album, McCartney, around the same time the Beatles were about to release ‘Let It Be.’ The simultaneous release of two albums would have been counter-productive for the sales. The rest of band wrote a letter to McCartney, hand-delivered by Ringo Starr, asking him to delay the release of his solo album. McCartney threw a fit and also messed up his friendship with Starr and the rest of his band mates.

Disagreements amongst the band members are not rare. But for the Beatles, who were thick friends, to fallout in this manner was something the fans didn’t dream of. Plus maybe Yoko pushed John Lennon to go solo too.

Pink Floyd

Just one reason – Ego! The band comprised of 4 creatively brilliant members whose musical prowess are next to none. But so was their ego. The situation developed during the making of ‘The Wall’ album. Roger Waters and David Gilmour couldn’t see eye to eye at times and would frequently clash over creative differences. This frustrated the other two, Richard Wright and Nick Mason.  Waters felt his creative needs would be fulfilled only by a solo career, subsequently quit. Pink Floyd did release the hugely popular albums ‘A Momentary Lapse of Reason’ and ‘The Division Bell’ after Waters quit. The only time Waters ever deigned to return was for a Pink Floyd reunion show at Live 8, the 2005 climate change awareness concert. With Wright’s death, a possible reunion is off the cards.

The Eagles

The Eagles just imploded. A case of too much proximity and suppressed frustrations. The band was almost constantly on road touring or in the studio recording. Unlike their soothing music, behind the scenes things were hardly filled with peaceful, easy feelings. Though the band later regrouped with Don Henley famously quoting,

“For the record we never broke up, we just took a 14 years long vacation.”

The Tragedies

Some big rock bands split due to the death of one or more of its members. Nirvana broke up after front-man Kurt Cobain shot himself. The death of drummer John “Bonzo” Bonham, stopped the Led Zeppelin juggernaut. The demise of Lemmy Kilmister spelled the end for Motörhead as Lemmy was Motörhead.

While there have been some tragedies too. The death of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, in a plane crash was been documented in music history as ‘The Day The Music Died.’ Lynyrd Skynyrd’s tour plane crashed during a failed emergency landing attempt, killing band-members Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines and Cassie Gaines as well as the band’s assistant road manager. Apparently Aerosmith were supposed to rent the same plane but decided against it.

And how would you feel if you were kicked out of a band you co-founded? Ask Dave Mustaine who was officially fired from Metallica because of his alcoholism, drug abuse, overly aggressive behavior, and personality clashes with founding members James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich. Mustaine refers to the incident as “no warning, no second chance.” To rub salt in the wound, when Mustaine asked what time his flight back to California was, he was told he wasn’t flying. He was taking a four-day bus ride.

Though the members make be close friends or even brothers, many things can go wrong in a rock band. Egos and personalities issues, drugs and alcohol abuse, jealousy or fight over monetary issues. Though music has evolved over the years, the reasons bands split up seem to strangely be the same.

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