25 Memorable Rock ‘n’ Roll Bust-Ups

It’s not easy, being in a band, and often tempers flare. Here’s 25 of the most memorable band bust-ups ever…

25 Guns N’ Roses

His most epic bust-up came with his bandmates. Substance issues finally in check, it was on their breakneck ‘Use your illusion’ tour that the cracks got properly wide. The show in Buenos Aires in July 1993 was the last time Slash and Duff McKagan would play live with Axl.

24 Blur

Take two best friends. Add alcoholism, drugs, money, fame and egos. Pour into a van, stir around the world for 12 years and voila! The perfect recipe for a relationship breakdown. That’s what happened to Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon: come the band’s seventh album, Graham was feeling “ganged up on” and started missing sessions and was subsequently asked to leave. There followed six years of ignored phone messages and internet sniping.

23 The Automatic

Alex Pennie became The Automatic’s most conspicuous member thanks to his habit of screeching like a banshee. “He put himself in the limelight wherever he could and then whinged about it no end”, said frontman Rob Hawkins after Pennie left in September 2007, following an announcement that he’d found his last year in the group “increasingly unenjoyable”.

22 Aerosmith

In later years, Tyler’s addiction to painkillers, combined with becoming a judge on American Idol, caused fresh band problems. After he broke his collarbone falling off stage in 2010, stalling the band’s tour, guitarist Joe Perry spoke of getting a new singer for Aerosmith. After Tyler fell offstage again in Toronto, speculation was that Perry backed into him deliberately.

21 The Libertines

The mother of all bust-ups for the Libs came in July 2003, when Pete Doherty, estranged from the band with his drug consumption reaching Belushi- like levels, broke into Carl’s flat and nicked a guitar, laptop, NME Award and £200 cash. Seven years of shit later, all was forgiven as they resumed awkward glances and puppy eyes at Reading and Leeds.

20 The Rakes

When The Rakes suddenly cancelled their upcoming US tour and called it a day in October 2009, industry insiders wondered whether the real reason they were no longer willing to take their middling indie-pop to the tippermost of the toppermost was the long-standing enmity between drummer Lasse Petersen and singer Alan Donohoe. It was a mutual dislike which manifested itself most humorously when Alan got up onstage at a gig in Germany and announced “Cheer as loud as you can if you think the drummer’s a cunt.”

19 Mclusky

In January 2005, Mclusky issued a brief statement. They were splitting up. The reasons, they said were “private. Though probably not as entertaining as you’d imagine”. Jon Chapple (bassist) and Andy Falkous (guitarist/singer) hated each other. Since the split was personal, it was assumed the brutalism in Mclusky’s records were a reflection of this. Falkous told NME: “It was more the gradual erosion of a relationship. There was a closing argument. A couple of hours. A few beers. That was it. I don’t bear any grudges.”

18 Smashing Pumpkins

“D’arcy [Wretzky, bassist] was fired for being a mean-spirted drug addict who refused to get help,” wrote Corgan on his blog in 2004. James Iha (guitar) in the same blog was blamed for the band’s original break-up. The pair haven’t spoken to each other in forever. Drummer Jimmy Chamberlin meanwhile was fired after OD’ing on heroin. “He used up all his chances plus five,” said Billy. “For everyone’s safety and mental health stability, we had to part.”

17 Metallica

Metallica’s 2004 rockumentary Some Kind Of Monster shows the band to be a dysfunctional bunch. Dave Mustaine of Megadeth had an early tenure with the group that was punctuated by violence. During one band ‘discussion’ he poured beer on Ron McGoveney’s bass and the electric shock blasted him to the other side of the room. He always had pitbulls with him to protect his parallel interests as a drug dealer and this once led to a five-way fight between Ron, Dave, James Hetfield and two dogs, after which he was shown the door.

16 Wavves

Later admitting to being strung out on ecstasy, Valium, Xanax and booze, Nathan Williams played his songs supremely lazily, before slagging off the crowd for being drugged-up hipsters. Rattled by Williams’ incompetence, drummer Ryan Ulsh poured a pint over his head. In a hailstorm of shoes, drumsticks and bottles, the stage crew started dismantling their equipment as Nathan pleaded through an unplugged mic.

15 NWA

Dr Dre allegedly beat up Pump It Up! host Dee Barnes in 1991 over an interview she’d conducted with his ex-bandmate Ice Cube. Elsewhere he invited Eazy-E around to the studio but instead of Dre greeting him, there were a load of hired goons waiting. They bundled Eazy into a dark room, told him they’d kidnapped his manager and mother and would murder both of them if he didn’t give them a signature. He duly signed. The hostilities between the three continued until Eazy’s death in ’95, although Dre and Cube both later apologised through the medium of rap.

14 Pixies

The feud between the Pixies’ two creative forces, Frank Black and Kim Deal, dated back to the recordings of 1989’s ‘Doolittle’, but it was at a show in Stuttgart that backstage tensions spilled front-of-house, when a frustrated Black launched his guitar in the bassist’s direction. ‘On tour with U2, the band reportedly travelled from show to show in separate vehicles, while in January 1993, Black announced the break-up of the band in a BBC radio interview, notifying Deal and drummer David Lovering by fax.

13 The Verve

It’s 1997 and, at Richard Ashcroft’s request, guitar visionary Nick McCabe has re-joined The Verve for the recording of ‘Urban Hymns’. Twelve months later, the drug-fuelled tensions that dominated 1995’s ‘A Northern Soul’ have returned. Following a show at Dusseldorf-Phillipshalle in June 1998, McCabe broke his hand via a very intentioned collision with Ashcroft’s face. “I had him against a bathroom wall and he was crying,” McCabe later told an interviewer, claiming the frontman has “no respect for anyone”.

12 Razorlight

Judging by reports from survivors, there have been few more traumatic experiences than being a member of north London’s arena rockers- ex drummer Andy Burrows left the band after a punch-up in the Hawley Arms and other members were quoted as saying they’d follow suit. The one time the tensions boiled over in the most public way was at a gig in Lyon, France. Midway through the set, an argument broke out between Johnny Borrell and bassist Carl Dalemo: punches were thrown and the band stormed offstage.

11 The Clash

While drummer Topper Headon was asked to sling his hook in 1982 thanks to his heroin use, it was the bitterness between frontman Joe Strummer, bassist Paul Simonon and guitarist Mick Jones that led to their demise. A year after Headon was ousted, Jones was also fired. Various reasons were mooted for the sacking, including his problems with punctuality, his habit of playing the big rock star and the way he had fallen out of step with the band’s original ideals.

10 Death From Above 1979

Toronto’s Sebastien Grainger and Jesse F Keeler burned brightly for one album before going their separate ways. Announcing their split on a forum in August 2006, Keeler wrote: “We decided to stop doing the band almost a year ago.” They couldn’t even bring themselves to hide behind the ‘musical difference’ platitude. “We both changed so much that the people we were by the end of it probably wouldn’t have been friends if they were to meet for the first time again… it’s not sad.” They’re back now, having patched things up for a new album. Hurrah.

9 The Eagles

This stemmed from ‘The Long Night At The Wrong Beach’, a benefit gig for Senator Alan Cranston. The band were uncomfortable about playing for a politician but singer Glenn Frey insisted. Before the gig, guitarist Don Felder made a comment about the senator’s wife that enraged Frey, and between songs he started hissing at Felder about the beating he was going to give him offstage. Felder sped away in a separate limo. Asked when The Eagles might reform, Henley replied: “When hell freezes over.”

8 The Smiths

As Morrissey put it, “The Smiths was a beautiful thing, and Johnny Marr left it, and Mike Joyce destroyed it.” When the band signed, only Morrissey and Marr’s names appeared on the contract. They claimed that it was understood that drummer Joyce and bassist Andy Rourke would receive 10% each, the singer and guitarists receiving larger shares as the songwriters. Rourke and Joyce assumed earnings were split four ways, Joyce took it to the High Court. Morrissey finally lost an appeal in 1998.

7 The Fall

Dave Simpson tracked down over 40 ex-members and interviewing them for his book The Fallen. Smith is legendary for keeping his band on their toes, and his management techniques include leaving members stranded abroad and starting fights in moving vehicles. An onstage punch-up in New York in 1997 saw three members walk out on him halfway through a set. The honeymoon period for the new line-up only lasted a couple of hours before there was another fight, and Smith got banged up and nearly sent to prison.

6 Crosby Stills Nash and Young

For a band who had set out to share equal billings, their explosive relationships led to three decades’ of spluttered history. Between them they oscillated different permutations of the foursome, the whole thing powered by a haze of drugs, guns and medical trauma. The ending of sorts came in 1999 with the ‘Looking Forward’ album regaining them critical acclaim and leading to the first full band tour since 1974.

5 The Kinks

The biggest inter-band bust-ups, however, were between Dave and drummer Mick Avory. The worst incident between the pair came onstage in Cardiff in 1965: Avory belted Davies with his drum kit as revenge for losing a drunken flight with Mick the previous night. Dave reportedly fled into hiding to avoid arrest for GBH. Afterwards, Avory would goad his rival by throwing his drumsticks at him when onstage. The pair could never reconcile, and Avory quit in 1984.

4 Jay Reatard

He broke the news on Twitter: “Band quit! Fuck them! They are boring rich kids who can’t play for shit anyways… say hello to your ugly and boring wife’s oops I mean life’s guys suck it”. Drummer Billy Hayes said, “The guy fucking attacked me multiple times!” Check out the clip on YouTube of Jay at Goner Fest 6: when his guitarist bends over to fix his pedals, Jay pulls out his penis and proceeds to piss all over him. The guitarist responds by kicking him square in the bell-end. Amazingly they finish the song while kicking and spitting at each other.

3 Moby Grape

Moby Grape’s biggest calamity was the breakdown of the frontman Skip Spence in a New York hotel during the recording of their second album in 1968, when he consumed so much LSD he became convinced he was the antichrist and ran amok with a fire axe, smashing through drummer Don Stevenson’s door in an attempt to kill him and “save him from himself”. Spence was eventually tackled, thrown out of the band and committed to Bellevue psychiatric hospital, where he was diagnosed with schizophrenia.


2 Mayhem

In 1993, Oystein ‘Euronymour’ Aarseth was guitarist in the Oslo-based band, and Varg ‘Count Grisnackh’ Vikernes was the bassist. There didn’t seem to be much bad blood between them. As a pair they’d been planning to blow up the church that appeared on their album cover. But on the night of August 10, 1993, Vikernes and a friend went to Euronymous’ flat. The guitarist was fatally stabbed 23 times in the neck and back. Vikernes’ claim that Eruonymous intended to torture him to death on film was rejected and he was imprisoned for 21 years.

1 Oasis

Precise details of their final flare-up at Rock en Seine remain sketchy. Liam turned up to the show complaining of feeling unwell, before being taken to task by Noel for acting unprofessionally, which had already caused the band to pull an appearance at V2009. Liam retaliated by picking up one of Noel’s guitars and smashing it. Two hours later, Noel brought the curtain down with a statement posted on their website: “The level of verbal and violent intimidation towards me, my family, friends, comrades has become intolerable… I simply could not go on working with Liam a day longer.”