BLOG: The best band break-ups

CSS: now a five-piece, presumably...
CSS: now a five-piece, presumably...

As excuses for leaving a band go, it´s got to be up there with the best of them: CSS bassist Ira Trevisan has announced that she´s quitting the Brazilian electro-rockers because she´s worried about the environmental impact of all her air travel.

Have no fear, though - climate change guilt isn´t the strangest reason that anyone has cited for leaving, breaking up, or sacking someone from a band. Although most come to an end simply because the central protagonists can no longer stand the sight of each other, it´s amazing how many ways artists have found to say those three little words - “I hate you” - and what seemingly innocuous events can bring down the thunder.

Take British girl band All Saints, who allegedly split up first time around after a row about who was going to wear a combat jacket for a photo shoot. It may have played a part in their demise, but it was surely just the coat that broke the clothes horses´ back.

If material things don´t do it, those pesky philosophical forces might be enough to drive a wedge. Efrin Menuck, founder of Montreal-based post-rockers Godspeed You Black Emperor, claimed that the band´s demise was down to an “existential freakout” relating to the Iraq War, which sounds dubious, to say the least.

Even more bizarrely, Killing Joke singer Jaz Coleman told Mojo in 1996 that a split was caused by a prophecy he´d found that talked about an island at the end of the Earth. He and guitarist Geordie Walker believed in it; the rest of the band - let´s call them ‘the sensible ones´ - didn´t.

The best policy, as always, is honesty. Chris Cornell made sure that there was no ambiguity when he split up Audioslave - “irresolvable personality conflicts as well as musical differences,” were the reasons given. Morrissey, meanwhile, is said to have ended Andy Rourke´s tenure as The Smiths´ bass player with a note left on the windscreen of his car: "Andy, you have left The Smiths. Good luck and goodbye, Morrissey,” was the succinct but to-the-point message.

Of course, some people aren´t quite so upfront about wanting to end things. Back in 1989, Dinosaur Jr guitarist J. Mascis allegedly told bass player and founder member Lou Barlow that the band were breaking up. Barlow only discovered that this wasn´t strictly true when he learned that his former colleagues were playing a show in Australia just a few weeks later.

More recently, we´ve had the case of Velvet Revolver. Singer Scott Weiland reportedly told fans in Glasgow that the band were splitting up, but unbeknown to him, the rest of the chaps planned to carry on with a new singer. In fact, guitarist Slash has revealed that they may hold online auditions via a specially set up website.

These are some of the more high-profile cases, but bitter break-ups aren´t the exclusive preserve of the famous. Everyone´s got a story of a band gone wrong, and we want to hear yours in the comments section below. In fact, if anyone fancies ending something right here, please feel free…

By Ben Rogerson

Ben Rogerson

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it.