Bands Needn't Be Best Friends to Make It Big
You're Living All Over Me: Dinosaur Jr., recently
Levi Walton/Courtesy of Jagjaguar Records
Dinosaur Jr. ranks among the influential indie-rock bands of the '80s. The band’s catalog, particularly 1987’s You’re Living All Over Me, set the tone for numerous imitators and copycats to follow. Even the trio’s reformation a decade ago — which some initially viewed as a cash grab — has yielded plenty of great musical output, so much so that Dinosaur Jr. will likely play before a packed downstairs crowd at Houston's White Oak Music Hall on September 15.
Even if the vibe within the band can safely be described as frosty.
“[Front man J. Mascis] makes me laugh. He’s incredibly dry and has a pretty harsh sense of humor that I enjoy. But we’re not chatting,” Dinosaur Jr. bassist/vocalist Lou Barlow told Bandcamp Daily last month.
There’s history here; Mascis and Barlow have been somewhat estranged since Mascis booted Barlow from the band in 1989. Emotions cooled over time, and Barlow went on to found acclaimed lo-fi rockers Sebadoh before rejoining a reformed Dinosaur Jr. in 2005. Two years later, the original trio released its first album since 1988 – Beyond, a highlight of the band's catalog. With three more records and numerous tours to its credit, Dinosaur Jr. is proof that band members don’t necessarily need to be best friends to successfully coexist as a unit.
But they're hardly the only ones. Rock and roll is littered with bands who didn’t get along but managed to push on as a solid musical entity...at least for a while.
What began as four young guys from the U.K. melting young women’s’ hearts around the globe later transitioned into a group of seasoned musicians cranking out some of the best pop-rock songs the world has ever heard. Along the way, ego and in-fighting overcame what many consider to the greatest rock band of all time, and particularly led to friction between its two lead dogs — John Lennon and Paul McCartney. By the time the former married Yoko Ono in 1969 — since then, perhaps a bit unfairly, any woman who comes between two men has taken on said name — the band was as good as done.
Turns out one of the most fun-loving bands of the past 20 years wasn’t quite so fun-loving behind the scenes. Of course, to spread the blame equally among the three members would be unfair; simply put, former co-front man Tom DeLonge is a weird cat, and bandmates Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker finally had enough of him. It all began in 2005, when the band went on “indefinite hiatus” (they broke up) because DeLonge demanded more time away from the band than Hoppus and Barker felt necessary. The trio eventually patched things up and recorded 2011’s comeback album, Neighborhoods, which wound up both a critical and commercial disappointment. Tensions finally boiled over last year, when DeLonge left the band and was permanently replaced by Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba. The result was California, Blink’s best album since 1999’s Enema of the State.
Some bands weather personal hardships and push on, albeit to middling results. Fleetwood Mac, meanwhile, used its personal struggles as the catalysts for recording an all-time classic. In short, bandmates Christine and John McVie divorced just before recording was scheduled to begin, while fellow members Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks were embroiled in a relationship that yielded its fair share of drama. And poor drummer Mick Fleetwood - well, his wife was sleeping with his best friend. Nicks often said that the band produced its best music when its members were at its worst, and Rumours certainly confirmed that. Recorded amidst in-fighting, expensive production over-runs and drug abuse, Rumours is about as personal as an album can get. The music-buying public certainly agreed; the album was showered with critical praise, and since its release in 1977, ranks among the Top 10-selling albums of all time.
Um, have you seen Some Kind of Monster? Here’s Metallica – legends of hard rock, musical pioneers, Grade-A badasses – resorting to couple’s therapy between front man James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich in helping them complete their long-awaited album, St. Anger. And here was poor guitarist Kirk Hammett, by far the documentary’s most sympathetic figure, trying to serve as the voice of reason between Hetfield (fresh off a stint in rehab) and the volatile Ulrich. The result was an underwhelming album (seriously, St. Anger is terrible) but a band that still sells out arenas around the world.
Could we really end with any other band? While the groups above certainly had their issues, at least they had the tact to try and work it out, to be somewhat discreet about it, or at the very least, to channel that tension into music. Not Oasis. These blokes didn’t like one another and made no secret of it. The worst part? The guiltiest parties were brothers Liam and Noel Gallagher.
Noel, on Liam: “He’s rude, arrogant, intimidating and lazy. He’s the angriest man you’ll ever meet. He’s like a man with a fork in a world of soup."
Liam, on Noel: “Noel Gallagher can be a little bitch.”
Noel, on Liam: “I do all the work so it’s only right that I should get the most money. Plus, I am the most handsome.”
Liam, on Noel: “Shitbag.”
How these two managed to stay together for 15 years and sell more than 70 million records is a fucking miracle.
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