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Top 10 MESSIEST Band Break Ups

VO: Matt Campbell

Script written by Cameron Bradford

Get ready for heavy doses of ego, drugs, and differing artistic directions. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top ten messiest band break-ups.  For this list, we’re looking at bands that either completely split up or that had key members leave in a dramatic, unpleasant and/or not-so-great way.

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Top 10 Messiest Band Break Ups

Get ready for heavy doses of ego, drugs, and differing artistic directions. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top ten messiest band break-ups.
 For this list, we’re looking at bands that either completely split up or that had key members leave in a dramatic, unpleasant and/or not-so-great way.

#10: N.W.A

Throughout the mid to late ‘80s, N.W.A revolutionized hip-hop by popularizing gangsta rap, making headlines and receiving F.B.I. warnings for expressing unforgiving hatred of the police. In 1991, they were at the height of their success; but it would be their last year together. Dre exited the group to pursue his solo career and everyone else followed suit. But the hatchet was far from buried after the group disbanded. Members feuded with each other through their solo albums, often issuing insults in their lyrics. Eazy-E especially did this a lot, frequently attacking Dre. Some of the members threw around the idea of a reunion, but Eazy-E died from AIDS in 1995. It wasn’t until the turn of the 21st century that the remaining members started to work together again.

#9: Creedence Clearwater Revival

In less than four years, from 1967-1970, CCR was able to produce a massive amount of hits. But in ’71, things took a turn for the worse. For most of the band’s run, John Fogerty was the primary, if not sole, creative force and the other members had been demanding that things be done more democratically since their early successes. That spring, John Fogerty finally caved and let the other members contribute songs with the stipulation that he only play rhythm guitar on the tracks. The resulting album, Mardi Gras, was critically derided and failed to climb the charts like their previous work did. In 1972, they disbanded and have never official reunion for a long period of time.

 #8: Van Halen

While Van Halen never fully broke up, they’ve had a few very notable line-up changes and taken breaks from making and performing music. After having creative differences with Eddie Van Halen, David Lee Roth left the band in 1985 and was replaced with Sammy Hagar, who stayed with the band until ‘96, leaving because he had qualms about making a compilation album before the release of a studio album. The band briefly reunited with Roth for the 1996 VMAs, but then enlisted Gary Cherone. After a hiatus, they reunited with Hagar in 2003 and then went back to Roth in 2006. Talk about messy!

#7: The Smashing Pumpkins

Being one of the most successful acts of the nineties wasn’t easy for the members of the Smashing Pumpkins. Tensions began to flare as early as ’93 when the other members of the band felt that Billy Corgan was being too dominating after insisting on playing almost all of guitar and bass on the Siamese Dream recording. The band became even more fragile after their touring keyboardist died of a heroin overdose in 1996. This, as well as the fact that other band members had serious drug problems, led the band to break up in 2000 – though they would reform in 2007 with the lineup frequently changing ever since.

#6: Pink Floyd


After two decades of success and trailblazing in psychedelic rock, Roger Waters felt that the band had become creatively defunct.  Following the settling of an agreeement, the vocalist and bassist left in 1983 – though keyboardist Richard Wright preceded him in 1979. Contrary to Water’s prediction that the band was “a spent force creatively,” the band was able to continue on successfully without him and make A Momentary Lapse In Reason, which was a huge hit especially compared to his solo album Radio K.A.O.S. Into the ‘90s and 2000s, Waters and Gilmore were able to ease some of the tension between them in and collaborated on a set at Live 8 in 2005.

 #5: The Beatles
1968 - 1970

Often regarded as one of the greatest and most influential bands of all time, the Beatles’ break up is commonly blamed solely on Yoko Ono. But the more nuanced truth was that band was a lot of stress since the death of their manager Brian Epstein in ’67, and all four members had begun to drift apart creatively, with Harrison especially feeling like his burgeoning creative contributions were being stifled by Lennon and McCartney. Before Abbey Road was released, John Lennon had privately announced to the group that he was leaving. However, it wasn’t until the next year that Paul McCartney publicly declared his departure and acknowledged their demise. Besides several collaborations, the Beatles never fully reunited.

 #4: Fleetwood Mac

In the years leading up to 1995, the band had made multiple line-up changes. Many of the members were married or romantically involved with other members, which made things more complicated after several divorces and break-ups shook the group. The biggest shake up happened at band meeting in 1987 where Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks reportedly got into a physical altercation, which resulted in Buckingham leaving the group the next day. Nicks left the group in the early ‘90s and the rest of them called it quits in ‘95. But the “Rumours” album lineup got back together 2 years later and have been going fairly strong since – though not without some more lineup changes and member departures, of course.

#3: Eagles


Though they reunited fourteen years after their original split, the Eagles break-up remains one of music history’s most heated. Being one of the most successful bands in the country led to a lot of inner conflict in the group. Don Henley and Glen Frey were calling all the shots and Don Felder started to feel like a subordinate in the group. The pressure cooker finally blew at a 1980 benefit concert for Senator Alan Cranston when Don Felder made a snarky comment to the senator’s wife. During the show that night, Glenn Frey and Felder kept making threats to each other while on stage. This was last time they played together before their reunion in 1994.

#2: Guns N’ Roses
1994 - 1996

In the lurid drug and ego-fueled world of ‘80s arena rock, this band stood a top hat taller than the rest. Gun N’ Roses was hugely successful, and like many bands on this list, they weren’t able to handle it. The trouble started brewing when their drummer Steve Adler was fired from the band because of a drug problem and then crescendoed as Axl and Slash started sparring, ultimately resulting in a split of the original lineup after the end of the Use Your Illusion tour in 1993. For some time thereafter, Guns N’ Roses still existed with Axl Rose as the only original member, but the end of 2015 brought news that Slash and Duff Mckagan were rejoining. Meanwhile, mid-2016 saw Steven Adler perform with Guns N’ Roses for the 1st time since 1990.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
 The Clash

The Police
The Everly Brothers

#1: Oasis

Even in the ‘90s and early 2000s when some were hailing Oasis as the “next Beatles,” Noel and Liam Gallagher had a lot of disputes. But the fighting between these brothers finally reached a head minutes before their set at a 2009 festival in Paris. After Liam swung one of Noel’s guitars at him, the brothers got in a brawl backstage. Their show was cancelled and Noel later issued a statement that Oasis was no more. The Gallagher brothers have both gone on to relatively successful solo careers and reportedly haven’t spoken to each other since the break-up.
Did you agree with our list? What bands do you think had messy break ups? To see more rockin’ top tens published daily, be sure to subscribe to

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