The Bitter End
This week in 1969, just before the release of "Abbey Road," John Lennon told Paul, George and Ringo that he was leaving the Beatles. It was the first decisive move in a bitter split that wouldn't become public until the following April. Click through for stories behind that and 11 other tumultuous breakups of classic bands.
BEHIND THE BREAKUP: Don't blame it all on Yoko. The unravelling stemmed from the 1967 death of manager Brian Epstein, which made the Beatles directly involved in finances just as they took separate creative paths (as reflected by the "White Album," which Rolling Stone called "four solo albums in one"). And then there was Yoko.
UGLY MOMENT: After the breakup, John Lennon wrote "How Do You Sleep?" to Paul McCartney. Sample lyric: "The sound you make is Muzak to my ears."
Crosby, Stills & Nash
BEHIND THE BREAKUP: A feud between David Crosby and Graham Nash has been brewing at least since the publication of Nash's 2013 memoir, "Wild Tales," which Crosby called "very shallow, very self-serving." In 2016, Nash told Rolling Stone that CSN(Y) had broken up for good.
UGLY MOMENT: In 2015, Crosby and Nash even fought onstage. Nash vented in a later interview: "I don't want anything to do with Crosby at all. It's just that simple,"
BEHIND THE BREAKUP: Supergroups involve colossal egos. As the drummer in the '60s power trio Cream, Ginger Baker clashed constantly with bassist/singer Jack Bruce, more than once reducing guitar legend Eric Clapton to tears.
UGLY MOMENT: In an effort to drown out Baker's drumming, Bruce pushed the volume on his Marshall amp so high that Clapton stopped playing during a concert. According to Clapton, neither Bruce nor Baker noticed.
BEHIND THE BREAKUP: The Supremes had a dozen No. 1 singles in the '60s, but tensions mounted as Motown mogul Berry Gordy gave star billing to his lover Diana Ross. In 1967, founding member Florence Ballard went into a tailspin and left the group. Ross went solo in 1970, and Ballard died broke in 1976.
UGLY MOMENT: Ross threw herself onto Ballard's casket, according to author Mark Bego. "It was Florence's funeral ... Ross acted like she was out to steal the show."
BEHIND THE BREAKUP: One thing they didn't do was take it easy. In their 1970s heyday, the Eagles produced six platinum albums in a fast lane marked by, in Don Henley's words, "drugs, girls and fights."
UGLY MOMENT: In the middle of a 1980 concert, as Glenn Frey told it, Don Felder threatened to beat up the Eagles frontman after "three more songs." Frey's reply: "Great. I can't wait." In the end, Felder just smashed his guitar and walked away fuming. The band wouldn't play together again for 14 years.
BEHIND THE BREAKUP: The British rockers released their best-selling album "Combat Rock" in 1982, but it was quickly downhill from there. A year after firing their drummer for heroin addiction, the band was at odds with lead guitarist Mick Jones. "He wouldn't show up," frontman Joe Strummer later recalled. "When he did show up, it was like Elizabeth Taylor in a filthy mood."
UGLY MOMENT: In 1983, Jones was summarily fired from the band he helped found, and in 1986 the Clash disbanded.
The Mamas and the Papas
BEHIND THE BREAKUP: Michelle Phillips called it "two and a half years of total melodrama." That included Michelle's affair with Denny Doherty, which infuriated their bandmates Cass Elliot (who was in love with Denny) and John Phillips.
UGLY MOMENT: John fired his wife when she had a fling with Gene Clark of the Byrds, replacing her with another blonde. Michelle was later brought back into the fold, but then came Mama Cass' solo career.
BEHIND THE BREAKUP: Back in 1965, Kinks drummer Mick Avory attacked Dave Davies with a cymbal in the middle of a concert. Bleeding and unconscious, Davies was rushed to an infirmary, where he received 16 stitches. Yet this was mild next to the decades of hostility between Dave and his brother, Kinks frontman Ray Davies.
UGLY MOMENT: The Kinks' last concert was in 1996, and Dave turned 50 not long after that. At a party to mark the occasion, Ray stomped on the birthday cake.
BEHIND THE BREAKUP: First came the breakups of couples inside the band—Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, John and Christine McVie—which fueled "Rumours" amid mountains of cocaine. But while its lineup kept changing, Fleetwood Mac wasn't officially disbanded until 1995—and the band returned two years after that.
UGLY MOMENT: August 7, 1997. As Mick Fleetwood tells it, Buckingham had a meltdown, smacked Nicks and bent her "backwards over the hood of his car." Buckingham disputes that account of what all agree was a horrible day.
Guns N' Roses
BEHIND THE BREAKUP: "Civil War" indeed. The band fired Steven Adler because of his heroin addiction. Lead singer Axl Rose was sought by police for assaulting a fan and inciting a riot at a St. Louis concert. Rose feuded for years with Slash, beginning in 1991 when the guitarist announced a collaboration with Michael Jackson.
UGLY MOMENT: Calling Slash a "cancer," Rose refused to attend the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony because his former bandmates would be there.
Creedence Clearwater Revival
BEHIND THE BREAKUP: In 1971, with his bandmates pressing for a more creative role, singer-songwriter John Fogarty invited them to contribute their own songs to Creedence's next album. The result was "Mardi Gras," which a Rolling Stone critic called "the worst album I have ever heard from a major rock band."
UGLY MOMENT: At 1993's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony, Forgarty performed with Bruce Springsteen but refused to play with members of his old band.
BEHIND THE BREAKUP: Roger Waters said the group dynamic changed with the success of "Dark Side of the Moon" in 1973. Whatever the turning point, Pink Floyd's leader found himself at odds with David Gilmour and the rest of the band.
UGLY MOMENT: In 1986, Waters took his former bandmates to court in an effort to stop them from performing as Pink Floyd. Referring to the lawsuit 27 year later, he said something rare in the annals of rock and roll band breakups: "I was wrong."
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