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New Year's Dissolution – The Weirdest Reasons Rock and Metal Bands Broke It Off

We all know that New Year is the time to start fresh and make changes. Be it wasting a gym membership, letting an instrument gather dust or wearing a pair of running shoes exactly once, we also know that making changes is harder than it seems. A lot of resolutions I break are to do with exercise. Weird, that.

For some bands, changes are often of the final variety, and don’t require a failed attempt to eat more salad. While normally epitomised in terms of a big falling out and a messy public split, there are plenty of occasions where rock and metal bands found more alternative means of calling it a day. Which seems fitting, really. So pour out a generous measure of hangover cure (read: more whiskey) and enjoy some of the weird and wonderfully unique reasons that bands knocked it on the head.

1. Rage Against The Machine make like a palm tree and split

Look, losing to Limp Bizkit at anything has to be hard to take. Which is why I’m not unduly surprised to hear that the members of anti-establishment championers Rage Against The Machine were particularly put out to hear that they had lost out to Fred Durst and the gang in the 2000 “Best Rock Video" MTV VMA category. But, while disappointing, surely you could expect the band to put the loss in perspective, given their own strongly held public opinions on various actual important things?

Turns out, all but one of them could. Bassist Tim Commerford, incensed by the decision to award Limp Bizkit with anything but a resounding booing, gave his bandmates the ol’ “fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me" and scuttled up a 15 ft palm tree set decoration, where he refused to come down out of protest. This was, by all accounts, intensely embarrassing for the rest of the band and brought a whole host of other disagreements to a head. Lead singer Zach De La Rocha quit the band in October of the same year and the group dissolved. You see what you did, Limp Bizkit! You just had to ruin things for everyone else!

2. Cream live loud, but not too loud

The problem with being in a band comprised of talented artistic types is that ego can begin to slip in to decision making. Unless you’re Axl Rose, in which case it doesn’t so much slip in as kick down the door, then start throwing guitars at your best plates while the family scream. English rock supergroup Cream had talent and artistry in frankly unfair amounts between singer Jack Bruce, guitarist Eric Clapton and bassist Ginger Baker. Which meant, like the word “trout" in the dictionary, trouble couldn’t be too far behind.

To their credit, the band managed a whole two years of infighting and disagreements from the word go after forming in 1966. According to Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker were at each other’s throats constantly while his role was that of the child watching mum and dad fighting, while other accounts paint a different picture. But it’s the quote from Jack Bruce on the final year of the band being together that really makes this a weird one. To him, the straw that broke the camels back was Baker and Clapton were playing so loud, with their amps turned up so high, that it damaged his hearing in 1968. The band broke up just two shows into a UK and USA tour after this strange development, though they did reunite a handful of times after that. Presumably on the proviso that Clapton and Baker were more mouse-like in their approach.

3. The Smiths swung a little too much like the Sixties

Say what you want about Morrissey – I often do, at length, because that’s really the only way to fully cover how much of a prick he is – but you can’t deny the impact The Smiths had on the world of music. Their synth-infused melodramatic rock had a generation in the palm of their hand, spearheaded by a huge amount of musical talent and mostly covering up how much of a piece of shit Morrissey is/was. Where did it all go wrong?

“Internal tensions” is the primarily given reason for the band's split in 1987, but few places actually detail exactly what that means. Creative disputes? Musical differences? Pineapple on pizzas ordered to the studio? Strangely, the reason is cheesier than any late night pizza – Cilla Black. Well, Cilla was at least the last domino to fall, anyway. Guitarist Johnny Marr was getting intensely sick of Morrissey's insistence on covering 60s pop songs, so when the band released Black’s hit Work Is A Four Letter Word as a B-side in 1987, Marr jumped ship and the band split irrevocably. And so ended an era of perfectly styled hair, annoyingly catchy synth and poetic musings from a man who has more controversial opinions than a Mumsnet forum populated exclusively by fascists.

4. The Violent Femmes live fast (food) and die hard

The 80s alt-rock scene owes a great deal to the Violent Femmes and their rough and ready folk-punk aesthetic. For a while, it seemed like they were unstoppable, releasing catchy hit after hit and blowing up the band to heights only seen from the bathroom window of the International Space Station. This, though, was the kiss of death that so many bands who hit the big time wind up receiving. The sheer earworm appeal of the band meant that the offers came banging for their John Hancock like a screen door in a hurricane. But hold on, you might ask, is that not a good thing, to get your music and your name out there? Well, if you’ve got permission, sure it is!

Unfortunately for the Violent Femmes, they did not have permission to lend out their music willy nilly to North American fast food chain Wendy's in 2007. The commercial riled up bassist Brian Ritchie so much that he wound up suing lead singer Gordon Gano over the whole ordeal, leading to an unfixable acrimony that tanked the band for good. I would image that Ritchie sees fish sandwiches in his nightmares nowadays.

Posted by Eddie "idle hands" Hull published on: 1 Jan 2023

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