Some people just don’t get along, and that fact is readily evidenced in the world of rock ‘n roll. For generations, musicians have launched epic feuds with one another over all sorts of reasons. Band in-fighting is common, but what happens even more often is that former BFFs become enemies. Once royalties and money enter the equation, there are no more friends.
Of course, rock stars will also battle over anything else, such as women or supposedly stolen riffs or lyrics. Some musicians will trash talk others just for the hell of it, providing sound bites that their opponent can reply to for as long as possible. It’s one way to keep the spotlight on a band that maybe just isn’t as relevant anymore.
In some situations, two musicians that formerly worked together can put aside their differences and go back on the road. Some even bury the hatchet entirely and rock out in the same band again, forgetting all about the mud that they slung at one another.
However, these happy endings are pretty few and far between. No matter the start of the feud, the biggest battles are sometimes drawn out over the course of years. Resentments build on both sides that may never see resolution. Even musician siblings aren’t safe from becoming the target of a rock knock-’em-down, drag-’em-out verbal sparring.
The following 15 feuds are some of the ugliest and most vicious in the history of rock. These are the stuff that legends are made of: backstabbing, verbal attacks (and sometimes physical ones), and unadulterated hatred.
15. Billy Corgan vs. Everyone
Honestly, who hasn’t Billy Corgan feuded with over the years? He’s trashed his own band mates in the Smashing Pumpkins many times, calling former drummer Jimmy Chamberlain a “liar” in a 2012 NME article, claiming that previous bassist D’arcy Wretzky is a “mean-spirited drug addict” in 2004, and insisting that ex-bassist Jimmy Iha is “one of the worst human beings I’ve ever met in my life.”
Beyond that, Corgan has also verbally sparred with ex-girlfriend Courtney Love, saying that he deserved writing credits on the 2010 Hole disc Nobody’s Daughter. He also launched into a tirade against contemporary band Soundgarden, claiming the group was only trying to make money with a 2010 reunion. More randomly, Corgan has even insulted Anderson Cooper and Radiohead, claiming that he will “piss on f*ckin’ Radiohead, because of all this pomposity” back in 2012.
14. Marilyn Manson vs. Trent Reznor
If there’s one man responsible for unleashing Marilyn Manson to the masses, it’s Trent Reznor. The Nine Inch Nails leader signed Manson and his cronies to a contract on Reznor’s Nothing Records in the early 1990s. It was all smooth sailing for a number of years. Reznor produced career-shaping Manson discs Portrait of an American Family (1994), Smells Like Children (1995), and Manson’s breakout hit Antichrist Superstar (1996). Manson even joined Nine Inch Nails on a draining descent into debauchery masquerading as a tour supporting the NIN classic the Downward Spiral (1994).
It was around that time, according to Reznor, where the problems started with his ex-best friend. Reznor claimed that on the tour, Manson “pretended to be f*cked up a lot when he wasn’t.” Manson and his band nearly imploded recording Antichrist Superstar with Reznor in the crossfire. However, it was Manson’s tome, autobiography the Long Hard Road out of Hell, published in 1998, that ended the friendship. Reznor was enraged by what Manson printed in the book.
The two reunited in 1999, and Manson even appeared in the NIN video for “Starf*ckers Inc.,” which many assume is lyrically about Manson. The shock rocker certainly had no problems making fun of himself, as he lets Reznor throw the 1998 disc Mechanical Animals into a toilet in a grotesque carnival game featured in the clip. However, the unstable friendship unraveled in time. Although neither talks much about the other these days, Reznor last called Manson “a dopey clown” in 2009.
13. Kurt Cobain vs. Axl Rose
Nirvana and Guns ‘N Roses sound about as different as night and day, but the catapults into fame that both bands experienced in the early 1990s means that Kurt Cobain and Axl Rose met a few times. Rose has feuded with about as many rock stars as Billy Corgan, so of course he took it personally when Cobain denied Rose’s request that Nirvana play the opening slot for a Guns ‘N Roses tour at the height of Nirvana’s fame.
Cobain’s antagonistic wife Courtney Love also got in on the feud, mockingly requesting that Rose be the godfather to her daughter Frances Bean. Rose actually told Cobain to keep his wife’s mouth quiet, but Cobain didn’t miss a beat, deadpanning to Love that she should shut up. Although Rose wanted fisticuffs over the incident, Cobain didn’t oblige.
12. Jack White vs. the Black Keys
While the White Stripes were plugging away in the late 1990s, the Black Keys didn’t even exist yet. That fact isn’t lost on White Stripes leader-turned-solo artist Jack White. He insisted that the Black Keys’ singer Dan Auerbach stole the Stripes’ signature garage rock sound, even going so far as to say to Rolling Stone that when he heard a Black Keys song he often thought it was his own.
White even sent emails to Karen Elson, his ex-wife, where he insulted Auerbach. The emails admittedly didn’t come out of nowhere though. In the midst of a divorce, White was more focused on switching his kids’ school in the Nashville area since Auberbach’s children attended the same school.
By May 2014, White realized the frivolity of the whole situation, posting on his website: “I wish the band the Black Keys all the success that they can get.”
11. Carlos Santana vs. Gene Simmons
Sometimes two musicians just don’t respect each other. Such is the case with Carlos Santana and Gene Simmons of KISS. Santana started the feud in 2005 when he claimed that Simmons and his band were simply “Las Vegas entertainment.” Santana elaborated, insisting that Simmons “wouldn’t know what music is anyway.”
At the time, Simmons took the insults in stride, writing about Santana’s comments on his website with a surprisingly cool and detached attitude. However, years later in 2009, when Simmons was doing an interview on FOX5 News: Live in Las Vegas, he decided to shoot back. After all, he and Santana were slated to share a bill for a large Vegas show. “I’m sick and tired of these bands like Carlos Santana looking at his shoes and thinking it’s a rock concert,” Simmons commented, telling Santana that he should “get off the stage.”
10. Kid Rock vs. Tommy Lee
Rather than come to blows over royalties, Kid Rock and Tommy Lee got into it over a woman. It wasn’t just any woman though, but the gorgeous Pamela Anderson. Lee, the drummer for Motley Crue, had been married to Anderson first. The two tied the knot in 1995 and divorced a few years later in 1998 only to get back together and then break up again in 2001. Not too long after, by 2003, Anderson and Kid Rock became an item. They wed in 2006.
Kid Rock claims that Lee texted him some pretty nasty remarks as Lee finalized his divorce with Anderson. For years though, nothing more happened, until the MTV Video Music Awards in 2007. Lee sidled up to Anderson, and Kid Rock lost it. He told People: “You know, I came back from the bathroom and he was sitting right there. It was even more disrespectful after everything he’s said.”
So, Kid Rock did what he believed was best, and that was punch Lee. The rap-rocker was arrested for the incident. He and Anderson later divorced and she got back together with Lee, so perhaps Kid Rock had a point.
9. Wayne Static vs. Tony Campos
Wayne Static was the eccentric, crazy-haired leader of metal group Static-X. The band became a big hit with debut album Wisconsin Death Trip in 1999 and moved on to make five other albums. However, around 2009, Static decided that he wanted a different sound, and so he began working more heavily with his other band Pighammer.
By 2011, Static changed his mind about Static-X, but guitar player Koichi Fukuda and bassist Tony Campos weren’t interested. Static, who had toured with Pighammer, brought along his buddies in that band to play in Static-X instead. However, Static had also agreed to split ownership of Static-X 50/50 with Campos. The agreement worked out pretty well until Static wanted to stop touring due to a painful hernia that was worsening due to his hectic travel schedule.
“Apparently, he [Campos] was really pissed off because I said in some interviews that Static-X were never, like, all great buddies and friends and all that kind of stuff,” Static explained in 2013 of his attempts to renege on the agreement.
Static and Campos couldn’t compromise on ownership rights to Static-X, so Static disbanded the group for good later that year. Static died in 2014, so Static-X is permanently no more.
8. Dave Grohl vs. Courtney Love
Courtney Love, much like Billy Corgan, has an opinion on just about everyone and everything, and most of the time those opinions are negative. Over the years, once Nirvana dissolved after Kurt Cobain’s death in 1994, Love has taken every opportunity possible to try to chop down drummer Dave Grohl.
In 2012, Love hopped on Twitter to claim that the Foo Fighters leader was flirting with Love’s adult daughter Frances Bean. Grohl quickly diffused the situation, sending out a statement. “Unfortunately, Courtney is on another hateful Twitter rant. These new accusations are upsetting, offensive and completely untrue,” it read.
Compared to some of the other damage that Love has wreaked, her Twitter accusation (which wasn’t true, by the way) is small potatoes. She’s taken Grohl and other surviving Nirvana member Krist Novoselic to court numerous times to try to prevent any Nirvana box sets from being released. She’s also tried to claim the rights to anything that her husband has ever done.
This feud is likely far from over, as Love always sets her venomous sights on someone.
7. David Lee Roth vs. Sammy Hagar
No one likes being replaced, so it was natural that David Lee Roth would have a bone to pick with Sammy Hagar. Roth, formerly the singer of Van Halen, quit his prime position. The band hired Hagar to pick up the slack. Naturally, the two musicians were never fond of each other. No one can forget when they nearly punched each other’s lights out when crossing paths in 2002.
At some point, Hagar got the boot (he insists he was fired, but the rest of the band claims Hagar willingly left) and brought back Roth. However, that was a short-lived juncture and by 2004, Hagar was back in. Band namesake Eddie Van Halen was dealing with perilous alcohol issues at the time that thwarted the band’s attempts at making good music though.
Years later in 2007, Hagar was out and Roth was back in, but former bassist Michael Anthony was out too, as he and Eddie were clashing too much. Later that year, Van Halen received the paramount honor of being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Ironically, only Anthony and Hagar attended.
6. Liam Gallagher vs. Noel Gallagher
Siblings always fight, but Liam Gallagher and Noel Gallagher have taken that to a whole different and unhealthy level. Both members of the popular alternative group Oasis, the Gallagher brothers have been at war for years. Coasting by the 1990s and much of the 2000s, Liam decided that he was done with the band in 2009. The only problem was that he made his choice right before a show in Paris was scheduled to start.
From there, the gloves were off. Noel retaliated verbally, speaking to Q Magazine and claiming that his brother is “the angriest man you’ll ever meet” as well as calling him “rude, arrogant, intimidating and lazy.” Noel also lamented working with Liam in Oasis, claiming that his sibling was a bully.
Liam spoke to NME a few years later in 2011, using the opportunity to state his side of the story. “I just know he lies. Noel wasn’t bullied out of the band. I have my bad days but Noel Gallagher can be a little b*tch when he wants to be,” he said.
As of 2015, the siblings seem to have put the past behind them. Liam checked out Noel’s new group, the High Flying Birds, when the band performed live and the two brothers even acted civil at a wedding for a family member. Here’s hoping.
5. David Gilmour vs. Roger Waters
Pink Floyd is one of the most legendary bands in rock history, so you would expect a feud between band members to be on the same caliber. The seething hatred that David Gilmour and Roger Waters had for each other was born in the late 1970s, shortly after Pink Floyd released seminal disc the Wall. The two musicians butted heads a lot, and both even tried solo careers.
Although Waters was done with Pink Floyd, he was unhappy that the band didn’t fold and he still wanted the royalties due to him, and so he launched a series of court battles. Gilmour won all rights to Pink Floyd and reformed the band by the mid-1980s. Waters continued to work without his former band mates, watching the group go on without him.
Despite years of tension as well as potshots made in public to one another, Pink Floyd got back together with Waters and all surviving members in 2005 to perform at the Live8 event. At least this story has a happy ending.
4. Brian Wilson vs. Mike Love
The cheerful tunes of the Beach Boys hide a much deeper and darker underbelly full of in-fighting between members Brian Wilson and Mike Love. This lengthy feud is one of the rockiest in music. It all started when Wilson claimed that Love fired him, something that Love denies to this day, explaining in 2012 that he didn’t have the “authority” to do so.
In 1994, Love took Wilson to court since he claimed that Wilson’s father Murry didn’t give Love his due royalties. He also insisted that he deserved songwriting credits. Considering that the other members of the Beach Boys were all brothers and Love was on the outside looking in, it was an ugly situation. However, Love was victorious.
It doesn’t end there though. Love sued Wilson yet again years later in 2005. This time he was irritated that the Beach Boys had appeared as a part of a free promotional disc. However, this case didn’t go anywhere.
All surviving members of the Beach Boys actually got back together in 2011 for a tour celebrating 50 years. The group even decided to record together. However, after years of lawsuits trying to fight for the Beach Boys name at every turn, Love is not exactly, well…loved by fans.
3. Dave Mustaine vs. Metallica
Few feuds in the world of rock are as unforgettable as the beef that went down between Dave Mustaine of Megadeth and Metallica. Really, at one point or another, Mustaine has had bad blood with pretty much every member of the major rock band. Once upon a time, Mustaine was a member of early Metallica. However, Mustaine enjoyed the excessive rock star life a little too much, dabbling in drugs and alcohol until the rest of Metallica felt uncomfortable.
There are rumors that at one point Metallica leader James Hetfield attacked Mustaine’s dog when the animal damaged former bassist Ron McGovney’s car. Hetfield and Mustaine supposedly got into a physical fight which then led to his exit from the band.
Mustaine and McGovney cemented their dislike of each other after Mustaine covered McGovney’s bass pickups in beer and nearly fatally shocked the bassist. After Mustaine was dumped, Kirk Hammett entered the picture. Mustaine has made claims that his job was stolen by Hammett.
Of course, Mustaine moved on to front his own successful band in Megadeth. The media loved the idea of a Metallica and Megadeth feud though and pushed for bombshell sound bites. Although Lars Ulrich, Metallica’s drummer, had never forgiven Mustaine for his early days in Metallica, the two made up in the famous documentary on Hetfield and company, 2004’s Some Kind of Monster.
However, Mustaine was irritated at being featured in the movie, and the feud got new life. Ulrich told Ultimate Guitar in 2006: “I was saddened by the fact that his views on Some Kind of Monster were as extreme as they were, because I still say today that those moments in the film were incredibly strong and incredibly emotional and powerful.”
Mustaine must have agreed at some point, because by 2011, as Metallica celebrated 30 years as a band, he hopped on stage with the rest of the group to play some early material.
2. Paul McCartney vs. Michael Jackson
Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson may come from different worlds musically, but this feud is still regarded as one of the most important ever. Just looking at the parties involved explains why. The pop singer and the Beatles guitarist had crossed paths twice in the 1980s to record two songs together where they both sang. The musicians were comfortable with one another and even friendly.
That all changed when McCartney advised that Jackson should purchase song publishing rights for some extra cash. Jackson decided to take that suggestion quite literally, adding the Beatle’s discography to his publishing collection. McCartney took it extremely personally, and his friendship with Jackson dissolved.
McCartney told the New York Post that he sent letters to Jackson years after the fact. “I said, ‘Michael, don’t you think that – even if I was just a writer on the payroll – after 30 years of being reasonably successful to this company that you now own, don’t you think I could have a raise?'”
In response, McCartney claims that Jackson said that it was “just business.” McCartney also mentioned that he couldn’t likely afford to buy back his songs even if he wanted to, which put him in a tight spot with his former pal. The two never made up, and Jackson died in 2009.
1. Euronymous vs. Varg Vikernes
Yes, a lot of rock feuds often go too far, but none of them end in murder, except for the case of Euronymous and Varg Vikernes. Both men belonged to a Norwegian black metal group called Mayhem in the mid-1980s. Euronymous had owned a pricy music store that he couldn’t really afford, and he also began Deathlike Silence Productions, his very own record label. The store at least became a popular spot for black metal bands to congregate, which is how he met Vikernes.
Euronymous offered to sign Vikernes’ band Burzum to his label; he also let Vikernes have the bassist role in Mayhem. Vikernes actually wrote a lengthy explanation through Burzum’s website in which he explains what happened between him and Euronymous. According to him, he states that Euronymous was broke and borrowed money to release Burzum’s music that Vikernes never saw again.
The two were already somewhat at odds. Vikernes supposedly burned down a church in nearby Bergen in 1992 but evaded conviction. Around this time he also did an interview where he claimed to have murdered someone. The idea was to get promotion for Mayhem and for Euronymous’ shop, but Vikernes ended up arrested and Euronymous shut down the store in the midst of the media frenzy.
By this point, tensions were at an all-time high between the two. Due to the reactions from his black metal peers when Euronymous quit his shop, he felt disrespected and disliked, and all because of what Vikernes had done. In August 1993, Vikernes stopped by at Euronymous’ residence and the two quarreled. The fight ended with Vikernes stabbing Euronymous 23 times, targeting his back, head, and neck. Vikernes does admit to the murder and claims that he thought that Euronymous might have killed him first.
Vikernes got 21 years in prison after being convicted for the murder in 1994. He was also charged for burning down churches.
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