Most of us go to work every day at jobs we find redundant, collaborating with people we don’t like. And, generally speaking, the pay is terrible, and the benefits are worse. Yet, we plod on. But for some estranged bandmates, not even the lure of millions in collective earnings and/or reflective hosannas from the press is enough to justify taking a stage or booking studio time for one more go-round.
Fortunately for us, they’re almost always vocal about reunion gossip, which leads to one of two recurring scenarios: 1. Said band eventually reconciles for the love of music and money, consequently subsisting on a diet of their own words, or 2. Artist sticks to their guns, and either initiates or has the final say in an embarrassing, but highly entertaining, series of public exchanges.
And given the ongoing ubiquity of rumors about future Smiths gatherings, recent bickering amongst the original Black Sabbath foursome and a the release of a new Smashing Pumpkins record (featuring exactly one original member of the Smashing Pumpkins), one can’t help but conjure notorious instances of intra-band smack-talk. We’ve tracked down 10 of our favorite quotes — and ranked them in order of least antagonistic to most outright vitriolic — that suggest reuniting is even more complicated than breaking up, and that as a fan, it’s often best to have a grain of salt nearby.
10. Black Sabbath
Why They Split: Despite guitarist Tony Iommi’s recent lymphoma diagnosis, the original Black Sabbath lineup — Iommi, vocalist Ozzy Osbourne, bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Bill Ward — were all set for yet another nostalgic trek in 2012, including a highly anticipated showing at this summer’s Lollapalooza. That is, until Ward released a public statement in May detailing how he felt slighted by the terms of his contract and would not partake in either the live dates or upcoming recording sessions.
Bill Ward On Reunion Odds (via BillWard.com, May 2012): “I sincerely regret to inform you that after a final effort to participate in the upcoming Sabbath shows, a failure to agree has continued … This statement is even more painstaking to write, as I was particularly excited to play alongside Tony Iommi after the recent treatments he underwent. I wanted that to become a reality.”
Likelihood Of Eating His Words: If Tony can persevere through illness, we’re sure Ward and Co.’s attorneys can sort this mess out. Still, it’s hard to blame a 64-year-old drummer from avoiding rigorous hours on an unforgiving stool sans back support unless it happens on his own terms.
9. Led Zeppelin
Why They Split: The legendary psych-blues rockers called it a day in 1980 following the untimely passing of drummer John Bonham. In 2007, singer Robert Plant, guitarist Jimmy Page and bassist John Paul Jones came together for a one-off show in London with Bonham’s son Jason behind the kit. But despite massive demand and endless speculation since, the scenario hasn’t been repeated.
Robert Plant On Reunion Odds (via Rolling Stone, January 2011): “There’s nothing worse than a bunch of jaded old farts, and that’s a fact. People who have written their story, they’ve gotten to the point where nothing moves. I don’t deal in that, and I don’t deal with anybody who deals in that … It’s a bit of a pain in the pisser to be honest. Who cares? I know people care, but think about it from my angle. Soon, I’m going to need help crossing the street.”
Likelihood Of Eating His Words: Plant’s comments, along with his continued solo output and acclaimed collaborations with artists like Allison Kraus, indicate he and Zeppelin trust their artistic instincts and don’t want to embarrass themselves or the fans. Unfortunately for diehards, they seem comfortable reconciled to their moment in time.
Why They Split: You may not have heard, but brothers/bandmates Liam and Noel Gallagher have had a tendency to bicker. In 2009, they officially called it a career together, which led to various legal entanglements, petty mudslinging, strident character assassination and accusations of harassment — notably Noel’s claim that Liam once lunged at him with his guitar readied like a battle weapon — and overall intolerable cruelty.
Liam Gallagher On Reunion Odds (via The Independent, November 2011): “Noel’s got to do his solo thing, and realize he’s not that good without his younger brother.”
Likelihood Of Eating His Words: Noel has, indeed, been doing his solo thing, as has Liam under the guise of Beady Eye. But Liam’s words seem pretty cheeky, and if any group is liable to relapse into unapologetic opportunism, it’s Oasis. Whether a new album would even be worth the sibling rancor is another issue.
7. The Smashing Pumpkins
Why They Split: The beloved, Gish/Siamese Dream/Mellon Collie-era quartet of vocalist/guitarist Billy Corgan, guitarist James Iha, bassist D’arcy Wretzky and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin haven’t worked together in 13 years, and the Pumpkins ceased to be in 2000 after drugs, along with the emotional expense of endless touring and related demands, took their inevitable toll. Corgan resurrected the group in 2005, but a la the reformed Guns N’ Roses (see below), with a cast of mostly new faces.
Billy Corgan On Reunion Odds (via Rolling Stone, May 2011): “[The original lineup]’s just one of those things that are never going to happen. If you don’t see somebody for a while, there’s the old thing, ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder.’ Well, we haven’t had absence. The things that have happened between us in the interim haven’t been good. There’s been lawsuits and lots of stupid stuff … Jimmy and I aren’t enemies, he’s just off doing what he wants to do, as he should … But I cannot in any way, shape or form, ever envision standing on a stage playing music again with James and D’arcy. I just don’t see any situation where that would be possible.”
Likelihood Of Eating His Words: Hard to see why he would. The Pumpkins’ latest, Oceania, is widely being hailed as Corgan’s finest output under any moniker since Mellon Collie, and Iha in particular has stayed content with projects ranging from A Perfect Circle to Tinted Windows.
6. Organized Konfusion
Why They Split: It was more of a separation, really. After their third LP, 1997’s The Equinox, failed to make an impact, Queens MCs Pharoahe Monch and Prince Po agreed on an amicable hiatus. As Po described at the time, “We didn’t want to hear the fans say the same thing like, ‘You’re dope but you are not getting the right promotion’. That gets tiring.”
Prince Po On Reunion Odds (via AllHipHop.com, June 2004): “I’m not going to feed into that Organized shit anymore. I feel I have a responsibility to my true fans to just keep making good music…. It’s becoming too much of a political thing to make this Organized thing happen and it takes the fun out of making the actual music. Many fans await that album, and it’s a blessing to have people demanding your material, but I think it’s a slap in the face of fans when you complicate the process of making music with all these petty demands, requirements and excuses.”
Likelihood Of Eating His Words: As it happens, Po’s already more than full. Most of that beef stemmed from his and Monch’s disagreement over the inclusion of Monch’s friend, rapper O.C., as a permanent member of the group. By 2009, the duo played a series of reunion gigs, recorded a new track together and hinted at a possible full-length that has yet to materialize. How’s that crow taste, Po?
5. Guns N’ Roses
Why They Split: The usual reasons: drugs, contractual disagreements, in-fighting, differences in creative direction, lawsuits, high-profile misbehavior, etc. Singer Axl Rose, guitarists Izzy Stradlin and Slash, bassist Duff McKagan and drummer Steven Adler splintered gradually throughout the early 1990s, and would have done so much speedier and sooner had they all been clean and sober at one time.
Axl Rose On Reunion Odds (via press release, April 2011): “Let sleeping dogs lie or lying dogs sleep or whatever. Time to move on. People get divorced. Life doesn’t owe you your own personal happy ending especially at another’s, or in this case several others’, expense.”
Likelihood Of Eating His Words: So not gonna happen. Axl’s making buckets of money with his Voltron mutation of GN’R, Slash, Duff and late-period Guns drummer Matt Sorum have had their own success with Velvet Revolver and other side gigs, Izzy’s long since abandoned that kind of lifestyle and Steven, sadly, has spent more time on televised rehab programs than selling records. To quote Axl quoting Paul McCartney, sometimes it’s best to watch things “live and let die.”
4. The Pharcyde
Why They Split: After 1995’s Labcabincalifornia was met with disappointing sales, mentally unstable member Fatlip departed for a spotty career on his own. A few years later, Slimkid3 followed suit and focused on his solo ouput, leaving Bootie Brown and Imani as the lone soldiering members.
Imani On Reunion Odds (via DaveyD.com, Date N/A): “I can’t see a reunion record happening because [Slimkid] is really stubborn. He has a lot to do before he could even think about coming back. I’d rather have less talented people involved who will give their honest everything than have a muthafucka that don’t wanna be there. That’s just gonna hinder the process. I have respect for all parties musically. Personally, there are some conflicts. I don’t question their musical ability. I question their loyalty and their judgment.”
Likelihood Of Eating His Words: To the surprise of many, Imani and Tre not only put aside their differences, but the erratic Fatlip got his act together as well, and the four original MCs came together at Rock the Bells in 2008, in addition to a handful of other appearances. Still no signs of a new LP, although perhaps Pharcyde jams are a dish best served retro.
3. Van Halen
Why They Split: Mostly because David Lee Roth is annoying. Or due to the Van Halen brothers’ tyrannical rule of the group, depending on who you ask. At one point, DLR replacement and eventual castoff Sammy Hagar may have argued for the latter. But the fightin’-est words have always emerged out of the David/Eddie/Alex triangle, particularly after a PR stunt gone awry at the 1996 MTV Video Music Awards led to a reformation that never happened.
Alex And Eddie Van Halen On Reunion Odds (via MTV Week in Rock, 1996): Eddie, regarding Sammy Hagar: “Bottom line: his work ethic sucked. If he wanted to be in this band and be a team player, he’d be here right now, OK?” Alex, regarding David Lee Roth: “I think it’s important to remember that the 1984 Dave is a lot different from the 1996 Dave. It would not only have embarrassed the band, it would have insulted the audience.”
Likelihood Of Eating Their Words: Predictably, Alex and Eddie went on to consume more of their own smack-talk than their 1984 roadies did green M&Ms. Not only did Hagar briefly cash in on a little nostalgia tour with the boys in the mid-2000s, but DLR found his way back into the VH brothers’ good graces long enough to sustain partial tours in 2007-’08. As most are aware, they even released A Different Kind Of Truth earlier this year to warm reviews and embarked on a well-received international tour. A tour which, naturally, has been postponed until a TBD date due to band-member exhaustion (not, as one might imagine, simply tiring of each other).
2. The Fugees
Why They Split: The Score cemented Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean and Pras as hip-hop’s gritty avant-garde, but also launched Hill as a superstar in ways reminiscent to Gwen Stefani’s visibility atop No Doubt. Hill capitalized with a Grammy-lauded solo record, Wyclef found his own muse apart from the group, and Pras even landed a hit single, “Ghetto Supastar,” with Maya and ODB. And then, well, Lauryn had a bunch of kids with Bob Marley’s son, Rohan, and became an eccentric, Sly Stone-esque recluse. Meanwhile, Wyclef was busy presaging will.i.am. as hip-hop’s omnipotent pop ambassador.
Pras On Reunion Odds (via Billboard, July 2007/AllHipHop.com, August 2007): To Billboard: “Me and ‘Clef, we on the same page, but Lauryn is in her zone, and I’m fed up with that shit. Here she is, blessed with a gift, with the opportunity to rock and give and she’s running on some bullshit? I’m a fan of Lauryn’s but I can’t respect that.” To All Hip-Hop: “Before I work with Lauryn Hill again, you will have a better chance of seeing Osama Bin Laden and [George W.] Bush in Starbucks having a latte, discussing foreign policies … At this point, I really think it will take an act of God to change her, because she is that far out there.”
Likelihood Of Eating His Words: Not so much. After all, these quotes came after a brief, ill-fated reconvening for a tour and new single over the course of 2004-’05, and Hill’s subsequent live re-emergences haven’t exactly stirred optimism over her musical facility. Sometimes, it’s better to know when to fold ‘em than kill audiences slowly with mediocre songs.
1. The Smiths
Why They Split: That’s another he said/he said bit of rock ‘n’ roll lore. Vocalist Morrissey generally sticks to his guns that guitarist Johnny Marr put the group’s demise in motion after departing. Marr, for his part, has always said he wanted to explore new musical directions, which alienated him from his songwriting partner. However you slice it, heaven knows their obsessive fans have been miserable since.
Morrissey On Reunion Odds (via Uncut, May 2006): “I would rather eat my own testicles than reform the Smiths, and that’s saying something for a vegetarian.”
Likelihood Of Eating His Words: Considering that Moz has hinted at retiring from work as a solo artist, it’s dreadfully unlikely that he, Marr, bassist Andy Rourke and drummer Mike Joyce would start picking gladioli anytime soon for a triumphant Smiths reunion. Morrissey is not only the most caustic of all the esteemed musicians on this list, but also the most consistently resolute, so the odds are next to nil. Good thing there’s roughly 875 best-of compilations — not to mention YouTube — to tide us over.
So tell us: Who did we miss? Which quotes are more vitriolic than the ones on this list?