Rage Against the Machine, GNR, Oasis: Messiest Band Breakups - Rolling Stone
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The 10 Messiest Band Breakups

The bitter ends of the Clash, the Police, Guns N’ Roses and more

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Zack de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine.

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A rock band can be a lot like a romantic relationship. People meet, sparks fly and, hopefully, magic is made. Some of these relationships end quickly, some last for decades, and some end in a flurry of lawsuits, flying fists and misguided solo projects. These 10 bands went through particularly painful splits — here’s hoping your relationships fare better than these.

Billy Corgan, D'arcy Wretzky, James Iha, Smashing Pumpkins

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Smashing Pumpkins

Few bands are true democracies. There are usually one or two people who call the shots, and the other members learn to live with that. When they can't, things can get very ugly. Smashing Pumpkins leader and main songwriter Billy Corgan insisted on playing most of the guitar and bass on the band's 1993 breakthrough, Siamese Dream, which didn't sit well with bassist D'arcy Wretzke and guitarist James Iha. The Pumpkins held it together until 1996, when touring keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin died of a heroin overdose. Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlin overdosed that same night, and was thrown out of the band. He came back in 1999, but shortly afterwards D'arcy left. The Pumpkins called it a day in December of 2000.

Four years later, Corgan explained what happened. "The truth of the matter is that guitarist James Iha broke up the Smashing Pumpkins," he wrote online.  "Not me, not drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, but James. Did it help that bassist D'arcy Wretzky was fired for being a mean-spirited drug addict, who refused to get help? No, that didn't help keep the band together, not at all." He went on to explain that Iha left the final show without saying a word to him. "He didn't say goodbye to the two people he had won and lost and traveled the world with," he wrote. "So, I won't be protecting him anymore and I won't be protecting a whole lot of other people anymore."

zack de la rocha rage against the machine

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Rage Against the Machine

It's a shame that the best rap-rock band of the 1990s was also the least functional. Rage Against the Machine's three albums are pretty much flawless, and they were the single greatest live act of the era. But by 2000 everything started going wrong. They booked a summer co-headlining tour with the Beastie Boys, but the Beasties' Mike D fell off his bike and they had to cancel the whole thing. Rage carried on with their own gigs, but they fought over the wisdom of releasing the covers album Renegades. Lead singer Zack de la Rocha announced he was leaving on October 18th, 2000.

"I feel that it is now necessary to leave Rage because our decision-making process has completely failed," he wrote. "It is no longer meeting the aspirations of all four of us collectively as a band, and from my perspective, has undermined our artistic and political ideal." Though they reformed as an oldies act in 2007, they remain unable to agree on future plans. Simply put, Zack doesn't want to do a damn thing, and the other guys want to create new music and tour the world. 

Kim Deal, Joey Santiago, Frank Black, David Lovering, The Pixies

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The Pixies

If the Pixies had survived another couple of years, they could have become huge. Their first two albums are some of the greatest music to come out of the Eighties, but they had the misfortune of being way ahead of their time. When America was finally ready to embrace "alternative" music, they were barely on speaking terms. Simply put, frontman Black Francis and bassist Kim Deal didn't get along very well.

They met when Deal responded to an ad in a newspaper seeking a bassist, and thus had no real relationship outside the band. The fans fell in love with Deal, and Francis got jealous. He froze her out of their later albums, causing her to launch the Breeders as a side project. That band started to take off, and by 1992 Black Francis had quite enough of life in a band. Making matters worse, the Pixies agreed to open for U2 on the first leg of their Zoo TV tour. The tour became an endless slog, and the band grew weary of playing to half-empty arenas of bored U2 fans.The following year Francis faxed his bandmates to tell them it was over. Over the next decade, he didn't speak to Deal once. 

Parker Lundgren, Michael Wilton, Geoff Tate, Eddie Jackson, Scott Rockenfield, Queensryche

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The members of Eighties metal band Queensryche dispute exactly what happened on April 14, 2012 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, but they all agree their long-simmering issues finally boiled over into a full-fledged physical altercation. The incident started with a meeting over the future of the band. Frontman Geoff Tate says the band told his wife she would no longer be the band's manager. "We went to do the show," Tate told Rolling Stone. "Scott [Rockenfield] looks at me and he smirks and says, 'We just fired your whole family, and you're next.' I just lost it. I tried to punch him. I don't think I landed a punch before somebody grabbed me and hauled me to the side." The band denies that Rockenfield instigated the fight with that comment, and claim Tate's attack was unprovoked. Whatever happened, there are now two incarnations of Queensryche on the road. They have a court date in September to sort out the whole mess. 

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