Alice Cooper’s admission that his band previously got into a bar brawl with Kasabian in Transylvania might all be founded on a drunken misunderstanding, but some rock star beefs are made of sterner stuff. Here are 29 of music’s fierest spats…
Blur vs Oasis The Battle Of Britpop started with a chart war (Blur’s ‘Country House’ beat Oasis’ ‘Roll With It’ to Number One) and then turned nasty. “I hope they get AIDS and die,” Noel Gallagher said of Damon Albarn and Alex James at the height of their rivalry –although he and Damon have now kissed and made up, with reports claiming they’ve discussed making an album together.
The White Stripes vs The Von Bondies Old Detroit pals The Stripes and The Von Bondies fell out when White was allegedly snubbed as The Von Bondies sought a producer for ‘Pawn Shoppe Heart’. A scrap in a Detroit bar ensued which left Bondies frontman Jason Stollsteimer battered and bruised. White claims he was defending himself, Stollsteimer says it was an unprovoked attack.
Courtney Love vs Dave Grohl This rivalry has now run its course, with Grohl and Love having a nice hug at the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame awards in April. It wasn’t always sweetness and light. They’ve spent two decades arguing about cash and image rights – particularly over the use of Kurt Cobain’s likeness in videogame Guitar Hero 5. Yep, it’s never been less than classy.
Razorlight vs The Kooks It was 2006 and indie heavyweights Razorlight and The Kooks were slugging it out somewhere near the top of the charts. It wasn’t a clean fight. “It sounds like the band are literally rolling over, sticking their arse in the air and begging Radio 1 to fuck them,” Johnny Borrell observed. “So fuck The Kooks. Fuck ’em!”
Kanye West vs 50 Cent When Def Jam moved the release of West’s ‘Graduation’ to 11 September 2007 it went right up against 50 Cent’s ‘Curtis’. Fiddy got excited. “Let’s raise the stakes – if Kanye West sells more records than 50 Cent, I’ll no longer [perform] music. Kanye sucks. I’m going to be honest – he sounds like a robot, he has a robot record.” Kanye sold double, Fiddy reneged.
The Beatles vs The Rolling Stones The first great British rivalry was a trumped-up affair, but they did compete for the brass tacks of chart positions. They were pals – witness the shout-out to the Stones on the ‘Sgt Pepper’ cover and John Lennon’s appearance in their Rock and Roll Circus film – although in 1980 Lennon derided the ageing Stones for still being “16 in the head”.
Brian Wilson vs The Beatles/Phil Spector When Beach Boys genius Brian Wilson was really getting stuck into his sandpit phase he saw threats everywhere, but it spurred him on. ‘Rubber Soul’ prompted ‘Pet Sounds, but then ‘Sgt Pepper’ made him lose faith in ‘Smile’. He was also obsessed with another pop visionary, Phil Spector. ‘Pet Sounds’ deliberately shares his initials.
Notorious BIG vs Tupac Shakur America’s east/west rap rivalry saw gang warfare overflow onto the streets in the early ’90s. Influential rappers Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur were prominent figureheads, and used their records to taunt each other for not “keeping it real”. In the end both rappers were shot and killed – it was very real. Real stupid.
The Kinks vs The Kinks Yes, The Kinks’ biggest beef was with themselves – or, to be more precise, it boiled down to childish sibling antipathy between Ray and Dave Davies. Always at each other’s throats, the best bit of niggle was when Ray stabbed Dave in the chest with a fork because his brother had nicked one of his chips. Or when Ray stamped on Dave’s 50th birthday cake. Fiftieth.
Smashing Pumpkins vs Pavement It all started in 1994 when Pavement’s ‘Range Life’ imagined life on the road with Smashing Pumpkins: “They don’t have no function… I could really give a fuck”. Billy Corgan took it badly and allegedly had Pavement removed from the 1994 Lollapalooza tour. As late as 2010, he was still smarting, calling them “sell-outs” for embarking on a reunion tour.
Nirvana vs Guns ‘N Roses They were never going to get on – old guard being shunted out by the new breed. Things got nasty at the 1992 MTV Awards when Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love (with tongues in cheek) asked Axl Rose if he fancied being the godfather of their child. “You better keep your wife shut, or I’m gonna take you to the pavement,” was Rose’s witty rejoinder.
The Dandy Warhols vs The Brian Jonestown Massacre A rivalry so deep and splenetic, they made an entire movie about it. Actually, the two bands started out buddies, but 2004’s Dig! shows relations at an all-time low, possibly down to the ‘Massacre’s Anton Newcombe being all jealous of his peers’ success. He shouldn’t worry too much now. He certainly needn’t send any more bullets.
The Flaming Lips vs Arcade Fire While it’s hard to imagine happy-go-lucky ray of sunshine Win Butler getting in mither with anyone, let alone peace sword-wielding hippie Wayne Coyne, this one went sour when Coyne called Arcade Fire “pricks” for how they behaved on tour. Butler fired back a sniffy reply but Coyne soon apologised with the effusive “I like enough of their music”. Heartfelt.
Trent Reznor vs Marilyn Manson “I think fame and power distort people’s personalities,” Manson said of one-time buddy Reznor, who had produced Manson’s 1996 ‘Antichrist Superstar’ album. Reznor was quick with the olive branch. Sort of. Actually, not at all. “He’s become a dopey clown,” he said in 2009.
Spacemen 3 vs Loop Two psych/drone bands of the late 80s should have stuck together, no? No. Spacemen 3’s Sonic Boom was adamant that Loop leader Robert Hampson was always hanging around nicking his ideas. “They really ripped us off!!” he told Lime Lizard in 1989. “Their first record sleeves, their sound, their live shows, just about everything.”
Nicki Minaj vs Lil’ Kim Never backwards in coming forwards when it comes to dissing her peers, Lil’ Kim attacked Nicki Minaj with particular relish in 2010, accusing her of jagging her, um, swag. This year, she released the track ‘Identity Theft’, really driving home the point by slapping a picture of Minaj on the cover art.
The Black Keys vs Nickelback “Rock’n’roll is dying because people became OK with Nickelback being the biggest band in the world,” Black Key Patrick Carney told Rolling Stone in 2012. “So they became OK with the idea that the biggest rock band in the world is always going to be shit.” Within weeks Carney was (slightly) contrite: “There’s much worse bands than Nickelback, maybe.”
Duran Duran vs Spandau Ballet Spandau Ballet were the hip Soho Blitz kids, Duran Duran the Brummies in eyeliner. There should have only been one winner, but the ‘Ballet just didn’t have the songs and Duran Duran conquered the world. The final showdown came on BBC One’s Pop Quiz in 1985, with DJ Mike Read asking the questions. Duran Duran won that one too.
Jay Z vs Nas If you’re sitting comfortably, it all started in 1996… Nas dissed Jay, then Jay sampled Nas, then they exchanged barbs about who was “King of New York”, then Nas cast aspersions on Jay’s sexuality, then Jay ripped Nas a new one on ‘The Blueprint 2’, then Jay retired, then he came back and he and Nas recorded ‘Black Republican’ and everyone lived happily ever after.
The Black Keys vs Justin Bieber They might have been able to handle Nickelback, but when it came to Bieber, The Black Keys bit off more than they could chew. When Patrick Carney explained Bieber’s lack of Grammy success with “Grammys are for, like, music, not for money,” Bieber tweeted, “the black keys drummer should be slapped around haha”. The fight’s yet to go down.
Drake vs Chris Brown These two modern R&B singers got in each other’s faces about Rihanna, of course, but have soon learned there’s room for more than one playa in the game. Earlier this year, they even hooked up in an LA studio. Still, the good news is it’s all gone to pieces again, with Drake hearing Chris Brown’s ‘Loyal’ and scoffing, “That shit sounds like a car commercial!”
Mick Jagger vs Keith Richards Despite more than 50 years in the same band, collaborating on the peachiest rock’n’roll to come out of Dartford, Mick and Keef still have a love/hate thing going on. It wasn’t helped enormously by Richards joking about the size of his singer’s manhood in his autobiography. It probably wasn’t helped by Jagger forming Superheavy either. Swings and roundabouts.
Metallica vs Megadeth Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine was Metallica’s original lead guitarist but was bundled out in 1983 for persistent substance abuse, and he’s still less than ecstatic about that. “He tried to get brilliant sometimes,” James Hetfield said, “But it would sound awful.” Mustaine’s response? “They’re dicks who really don’t know as much as they think they do.”
Madonna vs Prince Two out of the three biggest stars of the 80s had a thing going for a while in 1985 but when it all turned to worms there weren’t many fond words. Madonna compared Prince to “a little troll” and took the piss out of the way he drank tea – vicious stuff. Only seven years ago, Prince was still getting digs in at his O2 residency: “I got more hits than Madonna’s got kids”.
Eminem vs Ja Rule Well, it all started when Eminem and Dr Dre signed up 50 Cent, an artist Ja Rule despised. Ja cut a track called ‘Loose Change’ insulting the lot of them, but also working in swipes against Eminem’s ex Kim and their daughter Hailie. Obviously this got Em a little peeved and he hit back with ‘Doe Rae Me’. To be honest, they’re probably exchanging diss tracks to this day.
Robert Smith vs Morrissey Moany-voiced 80s heroes Bob and Moz share little other common ground. In answer to a zany “Smiths” question, Morrissey once said he’d line up and shoot Mark E, Patti and Robert. The Cure frontman batted back, “If Morrissey says not to eat meat, then I’m going to eat meat. That’s how much I hate Morrissey.”
Lady Gaga vs Madonna Tragic stuff, this. Once upon a time, Madonna was Lady Gaga’s hero, but perhaps she took that worship too far? Madge certainly thought so when Gaga’s ‘Born This Way’ appeared to bear more than a passing resemblance to her own ‘Express Yourself’. Madonna’s live mash-up of the two tracks with her own ‘She’s Not Me’ was, to be delicate, rather pointed.
Tyler, The Creator vs Tegan and Sara Not so much a rivalry as a fully fledged war of words, this one blew up in 2011 when Sara Quin took Tyler to task on the Tegan and Sara website for his homophobic lyrics, calling him “sickening” and a “bully”. Tyler’s response? His tweet, “If Tegan And Sara Need Some Hard Dick, Hit Me Up!”, really defused the situation.
Steve Albini vs Amanda Palmer Legendary producer Steve Albini wasn’t wildly impressed with Amanda Palmer’s 2012 call for tour performers to work for the love of it. “You are an idiot,” he fulminated. Then he apologised. Palmer took it all well, saying Albini was “a grumpy fuck”, possibly with affection. Albini later clarified his apology by calling Palmer “exploitative”. So that’s OK.