Fans are often blindsided when their favorite bands abruptly end their music careers. Watching them effortlessly form a perfect harmony on stage, it can be inconceivable to think that the members are struggling when not in the spotlight. Without any real context, we often look for someone to blame for their sudden addition to the extensive list of the worst band breakups in history.
Still, things are rarely as they appear on the surface. While fans and the press generate rumors and assumptions over breakups, sometimes former band members step up to provide more closure - or at least additional details. From petty comments or side glances that ended in a member's dismissal, to romantic partnerships ending in betrayal and the band's dissolution, here's what former band members had to say about their breakups.
The members of the Ramones always struggled to get along, as Dee Dee Ramone made evident in the 2003 documentary End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones:
I think we can all be friendly with each other and like each other, but we can’t live together or communicate or anything… It just should be over. What can you do? Anybody else would probably be happy if they had what we have.
The band members all had a history of tragic upbringings and clashing personalities - Joey and Johnny Ramone famously didn't speak for years after Johnny pushed his way between Joey and his girlfriend Linda (whom Johnny later married).
Still, the band pulled it together in the recording studio and on stage throughout the 1980s. The group even saw the return of former bandmate Marky Ramone, newly sober and ready to rock, in 1989. However, as soon as Marky stepped in, Dee Dee was ready to call it quits:
I was sick: I was bulimic and anorexic, and nobody could tell because I was on so many antidepressants that I was bloated from them… I was dying. You know what - I’d had it. It was just too miserable. Joey was drinking so much then. Finally, I said, "I gotta get better."
Dee Dee Ramone passed from a heroin overdose shortly after making a final public appearance when the group was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.
Though The Clash formed in 1976, the group didn't make extensive headway in their musical careers until their 1982 hit “Rock the Casbah” became the No. 7 song in America and the No. 2 song in the UK. But by that time, the members were finding their relationships exceedingly strained. Joe Strummer recalled:
And when we knocked out Topper [Nicky Headon] for excessive drug abuse, I don't, think honest to God, we ever played a good gig after that… Except for one night in New Jersey we played a good one, but I reckon that was just by the law of averages…
Out of a 30-gig tour, one night, you've got to say it's a fluke… I was trying to prove that I was The Clash and it wasn't Mick [Jones]… I learned that that was kind of dumb. I learned that it wasn't anybody, except maybe a great chemistry between us four, and I really learned it was over the day we sacked Topper, and not the day we sacked Mick…
When The Clash collapsed, we were tired. There had been a lot of intense activity in five years… Secondly, I felt we'd run out of idea gasoline. And thirdly, I wanted to shut up and let someone else have a go at it.
For nine years, The Police rocked the music charts with a series of hits. But as the band continued to garner success, Sting became increasingly demanding about the direction of the band, acknowledging that he intended to make decisions for the group:
It was tough for the other guys, and it was tough for me too because I love the guys. We’d had this fantastic adventure together and been through so many things and success. We were a little guerrilla outfit, we were at war, and we did it in our way, without much help. So to see it sort of falling apart for ego, my own and theirs, made me sad. It still does.
The tension between the members of the band was becoming more apparent… because I was writing all the songs. It’s always a problem with bands. At first, it is a kind of democracy, and then it becomes not a democracy, it becomes a benign dictatorship... But that’s the nature of art… [S]omebody has to step up and say, “Okay, we’re gonna go this way.”
After the split, the band went on to attempt solo careers. Sting admitted:
I don’t think any grown man can be in a band, actually… A band is a teenage gang… Who wants to be in a teenage gang when you’re knocking 70? It doesn’t allow you to evolve…
You have to obey the rules and the gestalt of the band… As much as I love the Stones and AC/DC, it’s hard to see growth in their music. For me, the band was merely a vehicle for the songs and not the other way around…
My frustration was I would have written an album's worth of material but also had to entertain these others' songs that were not as good. Explaining to someone why their song isn't working is a bit like saying their girlfriend's ugly. It's a very personal thing. That pain was something I did't want to go through any more.
From the moment the Beatles split up, John Lennon's spouse, Yoko Ono, has been at the receiving end of blame from angry and heartbroken fans. However, according to Paul McCartney, she wasn't the issue:
She certainly didn’t break the group up; the group was breaking up… When Yoko came along, part of her attraction was her avant garde side, her view of things, so she showed him another way to be, which was very attractive to him. So it was time for John to leave; he was definitely going to leave [one way or another].
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When 'N Sync initially took a break from recording in 2002, the band let their fans know it was only a brief hiatus for their members to relax after an intensive recording and touring schedule. During that time, Justin Timberlake and JC Chasez began recording their first solo albums, which they believed fostered their creativity as they regrouped. However, the band never reconvened for their fifth album, leaving some members feeling as though they didn't receive any closure.
Joey Fatone revealed:
We thought we were getting back together… It was, “Okay, after [Justin] does his thing, blah, blah, blah,” we’ll get back together and move forward and do what we got to do. And then it was like, nope. The record company wanted to push Justin, I guess, is what it was. He got bigger and bigger, which is honestly great for him and I’m totally happy for him in that sense, but it was more or less weird that there wasn’t an explanation to say we’re not going to do it, period. I was a little bit on hold for a moment and it was like, “Okay, we got to sh*t or get off the pot…” I was upset at first about the “why." Then you understand the logistics of everything.
Lance Bass echoed his former bandmate's sentiments in his 2007 book, Out of Sync:
We’re definitely broken up. It’s not a hiatus. Justin made it clear that he wouldn’t be interested in discussing another album any time soon…
In a follow-up interview with the Huffington Post, Bass added:
We all decided, “Okay, six months. We need it. We need the vacation time, we need the downtime”… But when we came back, it just… everything changed… It took us a while to naturally say, “You know what? I think... we might be done…” And that’s how it was… no big… fight to break us up. We’re all still close and we talk daily, but I guess it just had run its time, which was sad because I was really excited for the next album…
Chris Kirkpatrick elaborated:
I don’t know if I was ready for it to end… In my 20s and into my early 30s, I was in a band touring the world every day. You wake up and there’s a schedule on your floor saying you have a photo shoot this time, a meet-and-greet this time, a radio interview this time, a TV appearance this time, and a show this time. Then, suddenly, you wake up and there’s nothing. You’re like, “Oh man, where do I go now?”
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After years of traveling together with their family's band, Phil and Don Everly had a breakout hit with their version of “Bye Bye Love” as the Everly Brothers in 1957. The duo, who blended rock, country, and pop to create a unique sound, went on to record 15 Top 10 hits from 1957 to 1962. Fans, however, saw evidence of an inevitable split by 1970 when Phil Everly said:
We only ever had one argument. It’s been lasting for 25 years.
By the time the Everly Brothers were scheduled to perform at Knott’s Berry Farm in July 1973, Don recognized the direness of the situation:
I was half in the bag that evening - the only time I’ve ever been drunk onstage in my life… I knew it was the last night, and on the way out I drank some tequila, drank some Champagne - started celebrating the demise. It was really a funeral.
Phil, angry about Don's state, smashed a guitar and stormed off. The pair wouldn't perform again together for 10 years.