Friendships can be fragile, but when you add fame, fortune, drugs, groupies and rock and roll, even the best friendships can turn toxic. Rock music history is full of bands that rose to great fame, only to see band members turn on each other in sometimes very public fashion. In some cases, bitter disputes that began 40 years ago continue to this day. Here are five of the most divisive breakups in classic rock music history.
5. Journey and Steve Perry
Journey existed for several years before lead singer Steve Perry joined the group in 1977, but the band enjoyed its greatest success with Perry out front on nine albums, encompassing most of the band’s best recordings: Infinity, Evolution, Captured, etc. Journey is still touring today, many years after the group and Perry went their separate ways in 1998. At that time, Perry needed surgery for a hip injury, but the band was eager to begin a tour. Although the band waited more than a year, Perry refused to have surgery and resented being pressured about his personal medical issues. The end was not pretty. As Perry noted in an interview with MelodicRock.com, he got a phone message telling him to, “‘go out and do whatever you want to do, but do not call it Journey.’ That fractures the stone to me; that breaks it. I was given an ultimatum and I don’t respond well to ultimatums.” Perry and his former band mates are not on speaking terms, working out licensing agreements for the use of Journey songs through representatives.
4. The Beatles
There isn’t much that can be said here that hasn’t been dealt with at great length in numerous books and other media accounts about the breakup of the Fab Four in 1970. Several factors came into play, notably the struggle between Paul McCartney and John Lennon over artistic and financial control of the band’s material. Perhaps the most telling event to define the long-term relationship among the surviving members — Lennon was murdered in 1980 — was McCartney’s refusal to join Ringo Starr and George Harrison for The Beatles’ induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. McCartney issued a statement at the time saying he’d feel like a hypocrite participating in such a joyous occasion when the band still had so many unresolved financial issues. However, McCartney and Starr have mended their relationship in recent years (Harrison died in 2001). As Starr told London’s MailOnline in 2011, “We are good friends. We don’t live in each other’s pockets, but if we’re in the same country, we get together. He’s singing and playing on my latest album and I played on several of his. We’re just pals.”
3. Pink Floyd and Roger Waters
Pink Floyd’s artistic and commercial heyday came in the 1970s, with epic releases such as The Dark Side of the Moon (1973) and The Wall (1979). By the mid-1980s, founding member and bassist/vocalist Roger Waters concluded the band had become a “spent force creatively.” Waters, the chief songwriter and creative leader of the group, took his band mates to court, unsuccessfully suing in a bid to stop them from using the Pink Floyd name. The rift took almost two decades to heal. Waters finally reunited with the band for a 2005 charity concert, and he has collaborated with surviving Pink Floyd members David Gilmour and Nick Mason on a couple of occasions since.
2. Credence Clearwater Revival
Creedence Clearwater Revival found fame in the late 1960s, but some of their most popular songs transcend generations. Even younger music fans are familiar with such classics as Bad Moon Rising, Born on the Bayou and Proud Mary. Behind the scenes, the group began quarreling even as those iconic songs reached the charts, with band members resenting lead singer and guitarist John Fogerty’s tight control of CCR’s songwriting and finances. Fogerty’s brother, Tom, left the band in 1971, and the remaining members officially split in 1972. John Fogerty embarked on a solo career that found some success in the mid-1980s, and he’s still touring and recording today. Meanwhile, former CCR bassist Stu Cook and drummer Doug Clifford formed Credence Clearwater Revisited in 1995, playing classic CCR songs (which Fogerty tried but failed to stop with legal action). The animosity between the former group members remained for some 40 years, although that may be changing. When asked about a possible CCR reunion, John Fogerty told Rolling Stone magazine in late 2011 that, “[I've] lost so much of my anger from those times. In some ways, I kind of just scratch my head and go, ‘Wow, look at all that happened!’ … If you feel good and you get busy, especially if you’re in love, your heart heals. You’re not carrying a bunch of baggage.”
1. The Eagles and Don Felder
The best-selling American music group of the 1970s, The Eagles were famous for feuding behind the scenes. That divisiveness erupted in public at a concert in July 1980 in Long Beach, California. Throughout the show, guitarist Don Felder threatened fellow guitar player Glenn Frey, and after the concert Frey and Felder tangled backstage, starting a mini-brawl. That fight essentially ended the Eagles’ first incarnation — the band provided one more album to fulfill their recording contract, then called it quits. Surprisingly, Felder, Frey and the rest of the band reunited in 1994 for their “Hell Freezes Over Tour” — the name a tongue-in-cheek reference to earlier statements by Don Henley about whether the band would ever reunite. After several years of touring, and playing together at their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, the group fired Felder in early 2001. Since then, the group’s dirty laundry has been revealed in several lawsuits and in Felder’s 2008 book, Heaven or Hell: My Life in the Eagles (1974-2001).