Music groups, an anthology of unique talents who can change the world with their apt melodious inventiveness. The global community has observed highly successful music groups like the Beatles, Destiny’s Child, The Fugees, Eagles, Take That, Jackson 5, The Kinks, The Dream Street Boys, Westlife, ‘N Sync and The Velvet Underground split up. Some members of split-up groups at times have reunions while others eventually disperse as the greatest enemies of all time. Most shockingly, some groups that emerged from the same womb were not able to make it to the end. This observation brings us to the consensual question, why do music groups break up? The best way to make our pursuit of answers to this question easier is to select some groups and find out why they never made it to the end together. Critically scrutinizing every group is not necessary. I choose to select the Beatles because there were so many reasons for their divorce. The Beatles is also the most commercially successful band in the history of popular music hence selecting them is worth it.
The Beatles (1960 – 1970)
Cessation of Touring in 1966
The Concert tour of America (August 1966) was the third and last commercial tour the Beatles ever underwent. John Lennon was a major factor for the decision taken by the Beatles to quit touring. An interview almost closed a chapter of joy for the Beatles. The “More Popular than Jesus” disputation occurred and that’s why Lennon is the figure the “blame game” undoubtedly points at. As part of the London Evening Standard cover story for the subject “How Does A Beatle Live?”, Maureen Cleave interviewed the Beatles at Kenwood Cleave. She asked questions inclined to John’s interest in Christianity and religions, the reply did not go down well with many people (most especially in the US) some months later.
“Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that; I’m right and I’ll be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first-rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me” He said.
Brian Epstein, the group’s manager aspired to cancelling the tour out of fear that the protestors will try to kill them for their supposed “anti-Christ” image created on the Datebook (American Magazine) cover quoting Lennon’s words. Nevertheless, Brian arranged for a press conference to handle the controversy. Lennon stated that he “never meant it as a lousy anti-religious” thing. In spite of all the countless explanations and apologies, the Ku Klux Klan nailed a Beatles album to a wooden cross, promising vengeance. Many groups staged public burnings of Beatles records. Touring was becoming dangerous just because some words couldn’t stay confined in John’s mouth. Signs of doom commenced for the group’s togetherness. There were other reasons for the cancellation of touring though, they included the lack of monetary need, deteriorating level of performance quality due to excessive screaming from the crowd, touring was becoming dangerous and finally, there was an increase in studio sophistication.
Death of Manager – Brian Epstein
On 27th August, 1967, a Gem of the Beatles who was in charge of aspects other than singing and playing instruments met his demise out of an overdose of Carbitral (Sleeping pill). The early success of the Beatles is attributed to this man. Brian Epstein, described by Paul McCartney during a BBC documentary as the fifth Beatle in 1997 was the personal manger of the group. Aside handling the business affairs of the group, Brian was a mediator who handled many disputes among the band mates. Their unquestioning loyalty to him made it easy. John Lennon told the Rolling Stone Magazine during a 1970 interview that Brian’s death marked the beginning of the end of the group. “I knew we were in trouble then” “I didn’t have any misconceptions about our ability to do anything other than play music, and I was scared”.
The death of Brian left a void that will never be filled till the Beatles officially break up in 1970. In fact, it will further lead to other problems which will be highlighted later. A lack of managerial leadership can also be a factor under which members of a group disperse, especially when the death or departure puts an inexperienced person on the managerial seat.
There have been various instances when the departure of a key member either breaks up or makes things worse for the group.
Jim Morrison’s death affected The Doors, Keith Moon and Entwistle’s death affected The Who, Ronnie Van Zanth’s death affected Lynyrd Skynrd, Bradley Nowell – Sublime, Diana Ross’s departure affected The Supremes, John Bonham – Led Zeppelin, Lisa (Left Eye) Lopes – TLC and so many more groups.
Domination On The Part Of Paul McCartney
A group might split up when a member emanates the unwanted light of dominance. The death of the successful boy band’s manager meant the four will eventually handle the legal and financial aspects of music they were not conversant with. Another role Brian played as their manager was to settle disputes among the four boys who periodically had conflicts. Paul McCartney most certainly sensed the insecure position the group stood on and initiated some projects. The Magical Mystery Tour was one of the projects, unfortunately it was the first fiasco the Beatles ever experienced. John Lennon, Ringo Starr and George Harrison were disturbed by Paul’s dominance. The Beatles eventually became cohesive because of varying reasons. It could be some members had a solo career in mind.
Yoko Ono (John Lennon’s lover) has often been cited as the main reason for the Beatles’ split. In 1987, Yoko told Joe Smith via the Huffington Post “the Beatles were getting very independent” “Each one of them was getting independent. John, in fact, was not the first who wanted to leave the Beatles. [We saw] Ringo [Starr] one night with Maureen [Starkey Tigrett], and he wanted to leave. George [Harrison] was next and then John”. Her continuation was “Paul [McCartney] was the only one trying to hold the Beatles together. But the other three thought Paul would hold the Beatles together as his band. They were getting to be like Paul’s band, which they didn’t like”.
According to WIKIPEDIA, John Lennon later reflected that McCartney’s efforts were important for the survival of the band, but he still believed that McCartney’s desire to help came from McCartney’s own misgivings about pursuing a solo career.
John Lennon and Jann S. Wenner’s interaction during the Rolling Stone interview showed how Lennon felt about Paul’s dominance. Below is a fragment.
Wenner: I would like to ask a question about Paul and go through that. When we went and saw “Let It Be” in San Francisco, what was your feeling?
Lennon: I felt sad, you know. Also I felt… that film was set-up by Paul for Paul. That is one of the main reasons the Beatles ended. I can’t speak for George, but I pretty damn well know we got fed up of being side-men for Paul. After Brian died, that’s what happened, that’s what began to happen to us. The camera work was set-up to show Paul and not anybody else.
Wenner: How would you trace the break up of the Beatles?
Lennon: After Brian died, we collapsed. Paul took over and supposedly led us. But what is leading us, when we went round in circles? We broke up then. That was the disintegration.
This clearly shows that the moment a form of unacceptable autocracy sets in a group, a break up might eventually erupt.
When Business Is Mixed With Pleasure
Bringing your lover into a studio partly owned by you may not go down well with others. There was a time John spent the night with Yoko Ono while his wife Cynthia Lennon was away. This was the beginning of a series of meet ups that will eventually become a marriage. After which Yoko Ono will be seen by many fans of the Fab Four as the major cause of the band’s murder. John was so attached to Ono to the extent of taking her to the band’s sessions. Fans of the Beatles developed some hatred for Yoko. They felt her emergence further deteriorated the relationship John had with his other three band mates.
It was until 40 years later when Paul McCartney broke his silence on the Yoko Ono issue by clearing her name saying she wasn’t the reason for the band’s break up. Yoko Ono feeling thankful later told a US magazine “It feels like I was accused of something that I didn’t do, which was breaking up the Beatles. It’s like you are accused of murder and you are imprisoned and you can’t get out”
The Fugees (Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean and Michael Pras) had a case history of issues about mixing business with pleasure. There’s no doubt that Wyclef Jean’s tumultuous relationship with Lauryn Hill disbanded the group despite “the Score” album success. Jean had an affair with Lauryn from the onset of the Hip Hop group’s formation and that continued in spite of the fact that Wylcef was married to designer Marie Claudinette. According to ‘Clef, Hill lied about the paternity of her first son (Zion) by trying to convince him that it was his when in actual fact, Rohan (Bob Marley’s son) was the father.
“In that moment something died between us. I was married and I was having an affair, but she led me to believe the baby was mine, and I couldn’t forgive that” “She could no longer be my muse. Our love spell was broken” – Wyclef
Lauryn will work on her 1998 neo-soul album “The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill” which will debut at number one on Billboard 200 right after the trio split. Lauryn’s anger towards ‘Clef will be very strong. Her resentment will cause her to write a song with Mary J. Blige titled “I Used To Love Him” showing her disgust towards him. Unfortunately, Wyclef offered to help with the production of the album to which Hill declined.
The Group had a short reunion in 2004 but Lauryn still harbored anger. She told trace magazine “As a young woman, I saw the best in everyone, but I did not see the lust and insecurities of men. I discovered what a lie was, and how lies manifested themselves“.
One of the most common cause of a band’s disbandment has to do with the conflicts that emerge from individual differences and tastes. Paul loved Pop music. John’s musical content became more experimental, reflective, inner-directed and thoughtful. Harrison also developed an interest in Indian music. This depicts how the individual differences of the members grew apparent. A change in taste of music will have never been a problem if Brian was still alive at the time. Grievously, he was no longer present to be a mediator or problem solving personality.
The Eagles, The Who and Fleetwood Mac are epitomes of bands that broke up due to their internal strife and creative differences.
When A Member Feels Belittled and Frustrated
John Lennon along with Paul McCartney stood as the core songwriters and vocalists most especially during the early years of the Beatles. By 1965, George Harrison showed positive signs in songwriting. The band appreciated his work but nonetheless continued to have his song ideas rejected. George ultimately became agitated and frustrated. He estranged himself from the rest of the group.
Pras Michael from the Fugees and Michelle Williams from Destiny’s Child may be perfect examples of people who were overshadowed by members of their groups hence giving them the abated figure in the music industry. The authenticity of this rumor has not yet been proven. Michelle Williams was seen as the odd member of Destiny’s Child. She always looked different. Michelle is more like a down to earth and humble female. Whether or not Michelle’s humility has been misunderstood to give her such rejection is another issue to tackle. None of the members (Beyonce or Kelly) has publicly extricated her from the group. But there is just this feeling that Michelle is the odd one. Some feel it’s because Beyonce and Kelly had a closer relationship. Whatever be the case, it didn’t help Michelle’s public image at all. Many have considered her the nun among the 3. Could this be true?
When An Agreement Or Law Is Violated
Aside the mutual friendship in a band, agreements in legal form holds band mates together. In fact, a contract will prevent any band member from acting according to his or her own whims and caprices within the time stipulated for the contract. A member of a music group will only violate a legal agreement if he or she is capable of suffering the negative conditions under which the transgression of codes will erect.
Two major violations of agreements affected the Beatles and further brought out a cold relationship between John and Paul especially. The Beatles had a tacit agreement not to let their wives or girlfriends into the studio. John violated this agreement when he consistently took Yoko Ono for studio sessions. Ono frequently gave suggestions and comments on their musical work in the studio, this increased the discontent between Ono and Lennon’s band mates.
Another violation had to do with Paul’s announcement that he was quitting the Beatles on 10th April, 1970. John privately informed the group that he was leaving in September, 1969. During the Rolling Stone Interview with Jann S. Wenner on January 21, 1971, he said,
“then we were discussing something in the office with Paul, and Paul said something or other about the Beatles doing something, and I kept saying NO, NO, NO, to everything he said. So it came to a point where I had to say something, of course and Paul said, WHAT DO YOU MEAN? I said, I MEAN THE GROUP IS OVER, I’M LEAVING. Allen was there, and he will remember exactly and Yoko will, but this is exactly how I see it. Allen was saying don’t tell. He didn’t want me to tell Paul even. So I said, IT’S OUT, I couldn’t stop it, it came out. Paul and Allen both said that they were glad that I wasn’t going to announce it, that I wasn’t going to make an event out of it. I don’t know whether Paul said DON’T TELL ANYBODY, but he was darned pleased that I wasn’t going to. He said, OH, THAT MEANS NOTHING REALLY HAPPENED IF YOU’RE NOT GOING TO SAY ANYTHING. So that’s what happened. So, like anybody when you say divorce, their face goes all sorts of colors. It’s like he knew really that this was the final thing; and six months later he comes out with whatever. I was a fool not to do it, not to do what Paul did, which was use it to sell a record”.
From the partition of the interview above, its crystal clear that John accused Paul for using the group’s divorce as a gimmick to sell his debut solo album “McCartney”.
Excessive Drug And Alcohol Use
Brian Epstein’s death was the first step in killing the pact members of the Beatles had. Who killed that pact? I’ll love to call him Mr.Drug.
Drugs have been known to be a great aid in music. The Beatles used to take drugs in Hamburg to get through the long nights performing in the clubs of Reeperbahn. They took Predulin “German slimming pills” to gain more energy to take their performances to the next level.
John Lennon – “In Hamburg the waiters always had Predulin – and various other pills, but I remember Predulin because it was a big trip – and they were all taking these pills to keep themselves awake, to work these incredible hours in this all night place. And so the waiters, when they’d see the musicians falling over with tiredness or with drink, they’d give you the pill. You’d take the pill, you’d be taking, you’d be sober up, you could work almost endlessly – until the pill wore off, then you’d have to have another”.
On the other hand, Mr. Drug has killed so many musicians including the Great rulers of Pop music, Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson.
Sir Heroin killed Rudy Lewis from The Drifters, Frankie Lymon from The Teenagers, Janis Joplin, Brian Cole from The Association, Zeke Zettner from The Strooges, Tim Buckley, Gary Thain from Uriah Heep, Tommy Bolin, Gregory Herbert from Blood, Sweat & Tears, Sid Viscious from Sex Pistols and many more.
Amy Winehouse sang “They trynna make me go to Rehab but I said No No No“,no wonder the world wasn’t shocked to see her 21 year old talent depart from the competitive music industry.
“I need to start my own career”, “I want to get credit for my work”, these are the common words from members from the onset of an idea to leave a group.
Below are some successful musicians who deliberately left their music unions for a solo career:
Michael Jackson from the Jackson 5
Diana Ross from the Supremes
Phil Collins from Genesis
Beyonce Knowles from Destiny’s Child
Robbie Williams from Take That
Peter Gabriel from Genesis
Justin Timberlake from ‘N Sync
Eric Clapton from John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, the Yardbirds and Cream
Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr and George Harrison from the Beatles
Peter Frampton from Humble Pie
Lauryn Hill and Wyclef Jean from The Fugees
Brian McFadden from Westlife
Brian McFadden left Westlife (Shane Filan, Kian Egan, Nicky Bryne and Mark Feehily) by March, 2004
He said “I left because I didn’t have a life, We’d achieved things we could never have dreamed of but we never had one second to enjoy it. It was like going out with the most beautiful girl in the world and never been able to sleep with her“. According to Brian, He is way more happier now because he has less money now and that is the reason he never regrets leaving one of the most successful boy bands in the UK. Brian walked away for his family, children and solo career.
There were rumors circulating that there’ll be a reunion between Brian and the other Fab Four but Kian Egan ruled that out saying “All the rumors about Brian re-joining the Westlife are untrue. We have been a 4-piece for too long now. We love Brian but it’s not going to be. That includes any TV performances“.
Anyway, the four announced their disbandment on 19th October, 2011.
Fortunately for some bands, they have not experienced any form of hiatus.
The Doves have not broken up despite their long inactivity says Jimi Goodwin.
Imagine Dragons, One Direction, Linkin Park, Pentatonix, Coldplay, One Republic, Fun, the Apache Relay, The 1975, Daft Punk, Drowning Pool, are all examples of music groups that are still attached.
Let us hope the cohesive syndrome that affected great groups will pass them by.
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