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The 10 funniest insults musicians have hurled at each other

A while ago, I was chatting to the lead singer of a band when I slowly began to wonder whether their arsehole ever gets jealous of their mouth because of the amount of shit that comes out of it. Music is a world of pretence, opinion, iconoclasm and dickheads: That’s a potent mix that often bubbles over into a volley of insults akin to a Parliamentary debate between the living. 

As Mark E. Smith, the frontman who famously went to war with the world, once concluded: “The thing with me is I can’t stick musicians. I’ve thought about this, and I can’t stand them. Being stuck in a studio with them, I think that’s my strength, I can hear what they can’t.” It might be a strength, but hating musicians as musicians is also a beleaguering curse that perhaps explains the spleen he could never quite vent in his fighting years with us. 

However, he is far from alone. In the ego-bruising industry of music, insults are traded ten-a-penny. Below, we’ve collated some of the funniest ones that have ever been uttered.

Alas, it is always worth remembering that if you can’t say anything nice, then you shouldn’t say anything at all (with notable exceptions) because although a lot of the bad bastards below might be funny, some of them are also the sort of goons who never return a trolley to its proper lodgings and haven’t even considered giving a fiver to Michael Ball’s donkey charity. 

The 10 funniest insults musicians have hurled:

Noel Gallagher vs Liam Gallagher

In a bitterly biblical feud akin to Kane and Abel, the Oasis brothers are at loggerheads in a parka-clad battle that has somehow surpassed tedium and become interesting again, a bit like Kate Bush (just kidding, I love Kate Bush). 

However, amid all the endless backstabbing, the most beautiful couplet came from Noel, who decreed: “Liam is the angriest man you’ll ever meet. He’s like a man with a fork in a world of soup.” In response, Liam vengefully threatened to “brain him”, whatever that means. 

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Keith Richards vs Elton John

Keith Richards isn’t kind to anyone bar himself and the Rolling Stones, whom he frequently lavished with audacious praise. But one of his most scathing insults was reserved for easy target Reginald Kenneth Dwight aka Elton John. “An old bitch… his writing is limited to songs about dead blondes,” Richards blurted.  

But John wasn’t having anything, and he came out of his corner swinging when he shot back: “It would be awful to be like Keith Richards. He’s pathetic. It’s like a monkey with arthritis, trying to go on stage and look young. I have great respect for the Stones but they would have been better if they had thrown Keith out 15 years ago.”

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Robert Smith vs Morrissey 

Smith recently stated that his feud with Morrissey was merely “imaginary”, stating: “I’ve realised how easily these things can spiral because people want it to be something. They’re desperate for it to be some sort of soap opera.”

However, that seems starkly contrasting to the time when he said, “If Morrissey says not to eat meat, then I’ll eat meat. That’s how much I hate Morrissey.” Just a friendly bit of competitive soap opera from everyone’s favourite auntie, I suppose.

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Nick Cave vs Red Hot Chili Peppers

In the saddest entry in this list, we begin with a bit of profound praise from Flea. “Igor Stravinsky sat at his piano every fucking day,” Flea said, “The same thing goes for Nick Cave, the greatest living songwriter. He goes to work! Every day. And that’s what we do.”

Thus, it was all the more crushing when he discovered the following quote by Nick Cave regarding his band: “I’m forever near a stereo saying, ‘What the fuck is this garbage?’ And the answer is always the Red Hot Chili Peppers.” The happy ending is that they have since buried the hatchet and Cave invited Flea along to play on their recent tour, an experience which he deemed spiritual… once the inevitable awkwardness subsided. 

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Mark E. Smith vs Suede

When asked by Richard Skinner in a radio interview whether he liked any current bands like Suede, who had just supported The Fall for the entirety of their recent tour, Smith replied: “Never heard of them.”

Suede were listening to this interview on the radio at the time, hoping that he might praise their performances, warming up the crowd for him. They were sorely disappointed. They should’ve known better. 

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Bob Dylan vs Led Zeppelin

Peter Grant once met Bob Dylan at a party in Los Angeles. He gleefully approached him with an outstretched hand and said, “Glad to meet you, I manage Led Zeppelin.” To which Dylan quickly replied, “Man, I don’t come to you with my problems.”

It’s hard to know whether this was merely a pithy reply or a genuine dig, but it certainly sits alongside the string of magnificent insults he managed on Blood on the Tracks, ala the wonderful line: “You’re an idiot, babe / It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe.”

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Richey Edwards vs The Levellers

Richey Edwards might have tragically disappeared in 1995, but The Levellers beat him to the punch. They’re a strange old band to have a feud with. Nevertheless, they prised this classic from the Manic Street Preachers musician: “You could go to any Levellers concert and stand in the middle and shout, ‘Jeremy!’ and 75% of the audience would turn around.”

Rather comically, the trilby topped heads that swivelled would include their bassist, Jeremy ‘Jez’ Cunningham. Whether the Levellers hurled any retort is unknown, nobody has checked yet (once again, just kidding, they’re grand lads I’m sure).

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Kathleen Hanna on Courtney Love

In a cutting jibe that aimed at Love’s parenting, Hanna turned vicious when she added to the ongoing feud with Courtney Love by asking: “Where’s the baby? In the closet with an IV?” If that sounds harsh then you can rest assured that Love doesn’t bruise easily and has bandied about a few insults herself. 

As Love once said of Dave Grohl, “He’s just sub-mediocre kind of guy who does this ‘nice guy’ nonsense.” In fact, when you look back at the history of grunge, it’s packed full of insults and hurled hatchets. 

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Paul Simon vs Art Garfunkel

At an awards show when it seemed that relations between Simon and his old collaborator were passed their tempestuous peak, he took to the stage to reignite things publicly in a cutting Woody Allen-like style: “I want to thank Art Garfunkel and say that I regret the ending of our friendship, and I hope that some day before we die we will make peace with each other… No rush.”

It was comically timed to perfection and put to bed the peaceful notion that had broken bread and moved on. However, perhaps the most comical element of all is how wildly incongruous it is with their beautiful little tunes. It’s like watching Pooh Bear bickering with Piglet and you know that it’s going to end up with someone giving the other a very nasty papercut.  

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Liam Gallagher vs the White Stripes

Liam Gallagher is like the Neil Warnock of music, an interminable barrage of abuse and comical quips. You can take your pick at what he’s “not having”, but a personal favourite is the following attack: “The White Stripes? Fucking rubbish. School ties? At the age of 24? Fucking hell.”

The beauty of the insult is how irrefutable it is. Wearing an outfit in rock ‘n’ roll always sets you up for a fall and Gallagher was more than happy to apply the push. His brother also stuck the boot in, stating: “He looks like Zorro on doughnuts.”

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Bonus: Louis Schneider vs Debussy

And finally, for context, just to show that this verbal jousting between creatives is nothing new, we take a change of tone and enter the rather high-brow realm of classical musicians at war. 

In response to Debussy’s La Mer, Schneider famously proclaimed his disappointment by stating: “The audience expected the ocean. Something big, something colossal, but they were served instead with some agitated water in a saucer.” It’s good, but it’s not ‘man with a fork in a world of soup’ good. 

(Credit: Samuel Sianipar)

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