Musicians have long had reputations for not being the easiest people to get along with. Although music is, in many ways, the great unifier, bringing people together from every walk of life under the same room of a venue, or in a muddy field in the middle of nowhere, it is ironic that many of our musical heroes are actually very stubborn individuals, with a propensity for belligerence.
In a sense, this is understandable as music is a musicians brainchild, something stemming from the soul that is deeply connected to its author. Apart from financial gain, this is just one of the reasons why we have seen countless cases of lawsuits delivered from one artist to another claiming plagiarism, either consciously or subconsciously.
Outside of the courtroom, off-stage, musicians are typically free-spirited individuals who can’t and won’t be tied down by any social construct or rules. This stereotypical character of a musician has long been established, stemming from the ’50s and the excessive behaviour of rock ‘n’ roll’s original bad boys, Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley, to name but a few.
If one was to think of your favourite musician, it is likely that their life would have been a tale of run-ins with the law, hedonism and ample amounts of excess. Thankfully, this is a stereotype that has long since been proven futile, with musicians these days opting to live a cleaner, more laid back lifestyle, rather than one marred with depravity, as so many of music’s icons of days gone by did.
However, given the fact that the most successful musicians have got legions of unwavering fans, the economic might of a major record label behind them and the absence of anyone to tell them “no”, the 21st century’s musical landscape is still full of characters who are largely centred around “the self” and an ample amount of narcissism.
Musicians from every walk of life fit into this category; popstars, rockstars, DJ’s and even your local covers band will all share this same trait to an extent. Russell Brand’s brilliant character of Aldous Snow in Get Him to the Greek and Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a brilliant example of the lack of self-awareness that musicians can have.
There can be no surprise then that some of the most notorious and hilarious tales in pop culture history have come at the behest of the actions of musicians. Keith Moon‘s alleged Lincoln Continental in the swimming pool, John Lennon claiming the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus”, and Ozzy Osbourne chewing the head off a live bat are just some of these outrageous instances.
However, there is another set of bizarre occurrences that often happens to our favourite musical artists, when band members leave citing “irreconcilable differences” et al. It usually takes a while for the dust to settle after their departure, and if the genuine reasons are made clear, they’re normally nothing short of ridiculous.
So, join us as we list the ten most outrageous incidents that made band members quit.
10 outrageous reasons why band members quit:
Where better to start than with British music’s most iconic sibling rivalry? Things had allegedly been hotting up for a while between Oasis’ Noel and Liam Gallagher before it eventually came to a head in August 2009.
Scheduled to appear at Paris’ Rock en Seine festival, the two brothers had a physical fight backstage. It is said frontman Liam smashed one of Noel’s guitars in a fit of anger, which was one move too far for Noel.
Shortly after the scuffle, the band officially announced their breakup.
Clearly, after 20 years of a rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, the brothers’ personality’s were no longer compatible. What ensued has been a very well-publicised spat of varying temperatures ever since.
Ah, good old brotherly love. For one point in time, the Everly Brothers were hailed as music’s most exemplary familial partnership. Formed in 1956 as a duo, together, Phil and Don Everly wrote some of the most influential music ever put to wax. However, like with everything, it had its sell-by date, and this came in 1973.
Things reached their boiling point at a show in Santa Ana, California. Don had been battling with addiction for years and showed up to their show inebriated. He was so out of it that he couldn’t remember the lines to the hit songs he’d played a hundred times. Phil was so enraged he physically broke a guitar over Don’s head and stormed out of the venue. They wouldn’t speak again until the death of their father ten years later, but even then, it was tense. They did briefly reunite for a tour in 2005, and that was to be their last as both brothers have now sadly passed away.
One of the more infamous entries on the list, Lita Ford, lead guitarist of all-female rockers, The Runaways, quit because she found out the majority of her other bandmates were gay. In her memoir, Living Like A Runaway, she explains that she found it “strange” that her bandmates Joan Jett, Jackie Fox, Cherie Currie and Sandy West never spoke about their male peers and were “always giggling about other girls”.
Ford observed that Jett and Currie were seemingly always together “in a romantic way,” and it dawned on her that “they were all into girls. All of them except for Jackie.” Ford recalls, “First I found out that Sandy, the one I had bonded with the most, was a lesbian”.
She explains, “Then I found out that Cherie was messing around with Joan. I was so freaked out that I quit the band.” We’ll leave that one there.
Often characterised as the “unluckiest” man in punk, Matlock left the Sex Pistols in 1977, shortly before they’d released their one and only studio album, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols. Due to the stubborn, opaque nature of the former band members, there exist many reasons that account for Matlock’s departure. These range from the fact he went on for “too long” about The Beatles and Paul McCartney, to apparently “always washing his feet”, and the fact that he “didn’t look like a Sex Pistol”.
Furthermore, frontman Johnny Rotten claims it was because he didn’t like the lyrics to ‘God Save The Queen’, and that he “couldn’t handle those kinds of lyrics. He said it declared us fascists.” On the other hand, Matlock claims he was “sick of all the bullshit”.
The new wave trio, The Police’s career lasted from 1977 to 1984. They had many hit singles, are and are retrospectively hailed as one of the defining groups of the era, with each one of its three members massively respected in their own ways. However, the band was also marred by infighting, the clashing of egos and the fact that none of the band members had anything in common apart from music.
Things finally fell apart for The Police after their 1984 tour for the smash-hit album, Synchronicity. Sting was getting sick of drummer Stewart Copeland and Copeland was getting more and more frustrated with the way the band was starting to become centred around what he saw as Sting’s overly inflated ego.
Allegedly, Sting blew off the handle at Copeland and guitarist Andy Summers. Sting cited the fact they had nothing in common and “left” the band to embark on a solo career. This was probably best for each member as they all went on to enjoy solo success in their respective musical fields. They did manage to reunite for the meal ticket of their lives, the 2007-2008 reunion tour.
Zack de la Rocha
Less driven by ego than a genuine desire to change the world, outspoken frontman and rap-rock legend Zack de la Rocha elected to leave Rage Against the Machine in October 2000. After the band lost out on an MTV Video Music Award to the V-necked bro-metal of Limp Bizkit and subsequently watching bass player Tim Commerford scale the set and spend the night in a cell, de la Rocha had had enough.
On October 18, he released a statement announcing his decision. It read: “I feel that it is now necessary to leave Rage because our decision-making process has completely failed. It is no longer meeting the aspirations of all four of us collectively as a band, and from my perspective, has undermined our artistic and political ideal.”
Latterly, guitarist Tom Morello has weighed in on the fallout, explaining, “there was so much squabbling over everything”. He continued, “And I mean everything. We would even have fistfights over whether our T-shirts should be mauve or camouflaged! It was ridiculous. We were patently political, internally combustible. It was ugly for a long time”.
The man with one of the most recognisable and marmite voices in all of music left the band he founded for the second time in 2015.
Typically, it was not revealed why Blink 182’s guitarist and vocalist had departed until 2019. It was then made clear that DeLonge had left Blink 182 to pursue the full-time running of his company ‘To the Stars… Academy of Arts & Sciences’, whose focus is to investigate the existence of alien life and UFOs. DeLonge announced, “From every ounce of” his being that he was meant to follow this path.
Founding member of Californian rock legends the Eagles, Randy Meisner, departed the band in September, 1977. He felt uncomfortable with being the frontman of the group and didn’t feel like he truly fit in.
Furthermore, the band’s newfound level of fame made him anxious and uncomfortable. Adding this to altercations with other band members, Meisner formerly announced his departure, citing “exhaustion”. Later he said, “All that stuff and all the arguing amongst the Eagles is over now. Well at least for me.”
Blues guitarist and founding member of iconic rock dynasty Fleetwood Mac, Jeremy Spencer’s reason for leaving the band is up there with the weirdest. It was a strange time, and frontman Peter Green and guitarist Danny Kirwan had departed the group after taking copious amounts of LSD, which understandably led to a critical juncture for the group’s earliest iteration.
In February 1971, the band were scheduled to play at LA’s iconic venue Whiskey A Go Go. However, Spencer never showed up. Some days later, it was discovered that he had joined Mansonoid religious cult the Children of God, whom he’d met on the street. He declared that he no longer wanted to be involved with Fleetwood Mac. Despite appeals from the band, Spencer could not be persuaded to rejoin the band and they had to struggle on without him. Spencer has since spoken about his regret for the way he left: “The way I left was wrong and a mistake. I should’ve told them right away but I was desperate.”
Brian ‘Head’ Welch
It’s not so much why ‘Head’ left Korn, rather how he did it that places him on the list. One half of Konn’s genre-bending guitar duo, alongside James ‘Munky’ Shaffer, ‘Head’ wrote some of the phattest riffs that were coming out of the alternative scene around the turn of the Millenium. Fast forward to 2005, and Konn were one of the biggest metal bands on the planet.
However, in 2005 ‘Head’ abruptly announced his departure from the band via a statement. It read: “Konn has parted ways with guitarist Brian ‘Head’ Welch, who has chosen Jesus Christ as his saviour, and will be dedicating his musical pursuits to that end.”
This swift change in character has been put down to ample excess, as detailed in his 2008 memoir Save Me from Myself: How I Found God, Quit Konn, Kicked Drugs, and Lived to Tell My Story. Famously, he rejoined the nu-metal gods in 2012, and revealed his reasons behind it in the 2016 book, With My Eyes Wide Open: Miracles and Mistakes on My Way Back to Korn. No, the last one isn’t a joke.