Hope It Was Worth It! Classic Rock Albums That Led to Band Breakups

Band breakups can happen for many reasons. But one of the sneaky causes of such a fracture is the pressure of recording and releasing an album. In some cases, it could happen because of the overreach of a particular band member during the making of a record. Or it could be that the process of the recording engendered or intensified hostility and division among some or all of the group members.

Videos by American Songwriter

Whatever the particulars, there’s no denying that these five albums, all of which can be considered artistically successful to varying degrees, sounded the death knell (albeit temporarily in some cases) for the groups (or particular lineups of those groups) that made them.

1. Tango in the Night by Fleetwood Mac (1987)

The Mac were always among the most resilient of bands, with members dealing with all kinds of drama and tumult yet soldiering on to keep making great music. This was especially true of the Rumours-era lineup, which added the combustible duo of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks to an already-volatile foundation.

But Tango in the Night proved to be a bridge too far. Buckingham, who gave up on a solo project to come back and be the driving artistic force behind the record, grew frustrated that Nicks didn’t make that same commitment. He was so upset that he bailed on the supporting tour. Although that particular lineup would tour again in the future, they never recorded another album with that same unit.

2. The Final Cut by Pink Floyd (1983)

Because they relied on him as the band’s lyricist, the other members of Pink Floyd ceded the artistic direction of the band to Roger Waters as the ‘70s turned over into the ‘80s. That was fine when the end product was a record like The Wall, which was a multimedia smash. But The Final Cut, a deeply personal antiwar statement, featured little contribution from the remainder of the band, as Waters wrote all the music as well.

David Gilmour, who had previously been so integral to the band’s music on guitar, wasn’t at all fond of either the subject matter or the way in which it was presented. As a result, the rift between Waters and the rest of the band proved irreparable, and he was permanently removed from Floyd (save for one more live performance years later).

3. Kilroy Was Here by Styx (1983)

Because it was mocked somewhat in an episode of VH1’s Behind the Music, it’s easy to forget that Kilroy Was Here was actually a very successful record, going to No. 3 on the album charts and featuring two Top 10 singles. The main issue was that the sci-fi concept behind the album was largely the brainchild of keyboardist and co-lead singer Dennis DeYoung; it signified the growing artistic schism between DeYoung and the rest of the group, especially lead guitarist Tommy Shaw.

[RELATED: Behind the Band Name: Styx]

The subsequent tour, which played heavily to the concept, didn’t help. Kilroy Was Here didn’t technically break up the band, but it led to infighting that prevented the classic lineup from gathering momentum again. Shaw left right after but came back, and eventually DeYoung was replaced by Lawrence Gowan—permanently as it would turn out, when an illness prevented DeYoung from touring following the release of the album Brave New World in 1999.

4. The Long Run by the Eagles (1979)

One of the trickiest things for a band to overcome is how to possibly follow up on a massive success. For the Eagles, they had ascended to the pinnacle of the rock world with Hotel California in 1976. That album was the one that solidified the songwriting duo of Don Henley and Glenn Frey as one of the preeminent partnerships in rock, which, in turn, brewed discontent among other band members.

On top of that, the excess in which the band had always reveled started to catch up with them as they struggled to follow up their masterpiece. Not for nothing was it titled The Long Run, as their subsequent album took an agonizing 18 months to record. During a live show on the tour supporting the album, hostilities boiled over into a near-fistfight between Frey and guitarist Don Felder. The Eagles would break up soon after, and swore they would never work with one another again (which held up until a mid-‘90s reunion called the When Hell Freezes Over Tour).

5. Let It Be by The Beatles (1970)

The Peter Jackson documentary on the making of Let It Be painted Beatle band relations during that time in a bit more flattering light than what history had believed for decades. But the truth is that, when the sessions were finished, the Fab Four immediately left them behind, instead deciding to make an album the old-fashioned way (an album that would become Abbey Road).

By the time it came to deciding how to go back and polish up Let It Be, the bad blood that the project had fostered, along with other lingering dissensions, proved to be too much to overcome. The four men splintered, and the album was released after their official breakup was announced.

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Leave a Reply

The Meaning Behind boygenius’ Grammy Nominated “Not Strong Enough”