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Guns N’ Roses, The Police and The Beach Boys explore their band feuds and healing

The Police, The Band
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The Police Promo Photo Circa 1986 © Rolling Stone Magazine
Left to RIght: Sting Leading Vocalist, Bassist. Andy Summers – Guitarist, Stewart Copeland, Drummer – Percussionist.
 

We all have struggled with depression, self doubt, and trauma, that is both physical and emotional. We have also suffered and gone through tumultuous times with best friends, or a spouse. Have you ever wondered how you would try to negotiate through all of these feelings and emotions, when you’re a Rockstar? When you are not speaking to bandmate(s), but have to play a show for thousands of fans? 

Or just imagine yourself trying to cope with the media, who LOVES to spin inaccurate stories about conflicts, tension and infighting within your band? Here are some stories about bands, performers and supergroups that went through all of those negative things listed above and survived all the negative scenarios listed above and were still able to write, perform and remains friends in the end…

The Police

The rock band, The Police, formed in London in 1977. They were a power trio with multi instrumentalist and actor, Sting. He functioned as the group’s primary songwriter, bassist and leading vocalist. Andy Summers,  was the group’s guitarist and Stewart Copeland, was the band’s drummer and backing vocalist. They released five albums, between the years of 1977 to 1984. The band won six grammies, in various categories as well as two British music awards.

According to the 2019 Oxford dictionary, the word, synchronicity means: “the simultaneous occurrence of events, which appear significantly related but have no discernible causal direction…” Although, this incredible album for The Police was a huge success, it also signified and effectively ended this amazing rock and roll band…

In 1984, The Police released their album, Synchronicity. The album would go on to win International Album of the Year. It also would be the catalyst to The Police becoming inducted into the, International Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.The album’s producer, Hugh Padgham, recalled the tension and the hatred between the band members, while recording this album. 

“Sting wanted a simple drum beat that would eventually be painstaking overdubbed in multiple pieces. They were all particularly at each other’s  throats. They were sick of being around each other. Sting and Stuart Copeland hated each other and although Andy Summer didn’t show quite a much venom, they were all involved in both verbal and physical fist fights in the studio…”

Once, when Sting was asked if he could imagine the prospect of The Police ever reuniting, he said, “Um… I think that would be good cause to certify me as being insane…”

Well… Sting did not actually wind up going insane and he and The Police reunited for a world tour that began in Los Angeles, in 2007. Although the band did not release a new album, they  did perform 151 shows together. In total, the tour for this band generated an incredible $362 million U.S. dollars…

Guns N' Roses

Early Guns N’ Roses early photo – 1988. Left to Right: Steven Adler, Drummer, Izzy Stradlin, rhythm guitarist, Axl Rose – lead vocalist, Duff McKeegan, bassist and Slash – lead guitarist. Photo © Time Magazine.

Gun N’ Roses exploded on to L.A.’s sunset strip as well as the world of rock and roll with their incredible album, Appetite For Destruction in 1988. This was only their first album and what an incredible debut it was! Appetite for Destruction became an instant sensation throughout the whole world. No one had heard anything quite like it at that time. It instantly sold over $30 million copies worldwide.

 It is still in the record books as being one of the most successful debut rock and roll albums of all time. One of the things that made this album so amazing, is that it made Gibson guitars and Marshall staked amps, with that classic “crunch” sound awesome again! 

Another reason this album astounded the world of rock and roll is that it was a new, modern expression and interpretation of rock music, inspired by the legendary band, The Rolling StonesAlso, Appetite for Destruction, created a new love and appreciation for the rock and roll power ballad, with hits, such as November Rain and Sweet Child of Mine... Yes, indeed!

In 1989, Sweet Child of Mine received won an American Music Award for this song. For November Rain, Guns N’ Roses would receive an award for best cinema photography in a music video also in 1989 from the VMA, otherwise known as MTV Video Music Awards. It seems as though Guns N’ Roses truly had it all, a wonderful album, success, adulation and devotion from millions of fans, all over the world… So what happened? Why after all of this, did Guns and Roses break up?

Guns N' Roses - The Unravelling and The Break up...

Ask anyone, who is in a band and they will tell you, that most bands are ALWAYS on the verge of breaking up… Here are three major reasons why tension, egos, infighting and the inability to make compromises, all took down a HIGHLY successful rock and roll band, who seemingly had it all…

1. Stuborness and Stylistic, Creative Differences.

Dynamic, POWER HOUSE vocalist Axl Rose, was HIGHLY inspired by Elton John and Freddie Mercury as a boy. He loved November Rain and Sweet Child Of Mine and felt like songs like these perfectly demonstrated his abilities as a vocalist. Rose also felt that all Guns N’ Roses songs should be written in this way.

Conversely, Slash wanted nothing, but to play straight forward rock. He hated the idea of Guns N’ Roses becoming known for just power ballads. He felt that Axl Rose was only trying to highlight his abilities as a singer and performer alone… The two band members would fight tooth and nail over this issue…

2. Control: It’s MY or the Highway… Or was it?

After Appetite for Destruction, the band was in serious trouble. But, this time the issue was over who ultimately in the band had control. Over things, such as merchandise sales, the band’s catalog and the band as a brand… Gun N’ Roses had become a band, who was worth A LOT of cash. When bands soar to heights like this, the band is no longer just a band. It is a BUSINESS…

Urband legend has it that one night, Axl Rose refused to go on stage with the rest of his band members, unless they all signed over rights to the band’s name to Rose. Ultimately, the rest of the four band members did… Axl Rose has always denied this, stating that he would have legally been destroyed, if that rumor had actually been true. 

Later on it was revealed that it was not Rose but actually, their manager Doug Goldstein, who presented the papers to the rest of the boys… Goldstein told the four members that it was ultimately the right decision to make because the band was in such bad shape physically. There numerous lawsuits flying between Duff, Axl and Slash over “missed soundtrack opportunities” and the like.

3. EGOS

Ego… It is the number killer of all rock bands. Axl Rose is known for being a PERFECTIONIST… In 1991, Axl Rose began recording his solo album, Chinese Democracy. Then, the album was recorded and mixed in fifteen separate music studios… The solo album that he was supposed to release in 1992, was ultimately released in 2006. Why did it take so long? Rose was afraid of critics saying, that he was not any good without Guns N’ Roses…

“”It was a REALLY big fight with me and Slash… But the fight with me and Slash started the day that I met him….” 

~ Axl Rose

Slash became known as a guitar GOD. He admitted that he basked in that success. Duff went on to join Velvet Revolver and Jane’s Addiction and had the “I can’t be bothered” attitude. Steven Adler told everyone he was amazing, but could not deal with his inner demons and wound up going to rehab, twice…  

Rhythm guitarist for Guns N’ Roses, Izzy Stradlin seemed disillusioned just didn’t seem to care about the band or anything… Perhaps, after all the instant success that he had experienced with the band, he was just simply burnt out. Ultimately, this is the lethal combination that made Gun N’ Roses hang up their holsters and called it quits in 1993…

Guns N' Roses Reunion - 2016 - Coachella

Gun N’ Roses 2017 Coachella Left to right: Dizzy Reed – Keyboards and synths backing vocals, percussion, Richard Fortus – rhythm guitar, backing vocals. Duff McKagan – bassist, backing vocals and occasional lead vocalist,  Axl Rose Lead Vocals, occasional backing vocals,  piano, Slash primary lead guitarist occasional backing vocals,. Melissa Reese., synths,. keyboards. backing vocalist., sub bass., programming,. Frank Ferrer, Drummer, occasional backing vocalist. Photo © Wikipedia
Guns N’ Roses “November Rain,” live. At London Stadium, 2017

In 2016, truly the unthinkable happened… Axl Rose and Slash decided to bury the hatchet. Immediately afterwards, Guns N’ Roses became a band once again. The band began their reunion tour, Not in This Lifetime on April 1, 2016 at the Coachella North American music festival. The name of the tour is based on reactions to questions posed to Axl Rose and Slash separately, if they would ever consider getting Guns N’ Roses back together again.

So far, since its inception, this reunion for Guns N’ Roses has grossed over $565 million dollars in ticket sales and merchandise. The reunion tour is scheduled to end in 2020… Opening acts for the  Guns N’ Roses reunion included AC/DC and  Alice in Chains.

Why Did Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys just decide one day to go to bed for twenty years?

Brian Wilson principal songwriter. piano player and contributing vocalist for The Beach Boys. 
Photo Credit © Lester Cohen / Wire Image

Brian Wilson began his songwriting career as a hit writer for his idol music producer, Phil Spector. He wrote songs for The Ronnetts and The Crystals in the early 60’s. In 1962, he formed the band, The Beach Boys. His bandmates were his brothers, Dennis Wilson, Carl Wilson, their cousin Mike Love along with their friend, Al Jardine. In addition to playing piano for the group, Brian Wilson also played bass, was a producer and was the band’s de facto leader. In 1966, Brian Wilson effectively wrote a musical masterpiece. 

The song Good Vibrations. Brian Wilson already had a slew of number one hit songs under his belt. Perhaps, this one is the one he is best known for. So what on Earth, made this incredibly talented musician and songwriter decide to move from his Hollywood home with his first wife Melissa, (a talented musician in her own right) walk upstairs into his bedroom, shut the door and simply stay literally in bed for such an incredibly long time?

In 2016, Brian Wilson sat down for what was an extremely candid interview with, Rolling Stone Magazine. He addressed some of the things that made him completely turn inwards and retreat into himself.

1. Drugs: Specifically LSD

Brian Wilson lists his seemingly instant departure as the leader of The Beach Boys came from taking repeated doses of the drug LSD.  “I want people to realize that drugs can be very detrimental and dangerous. I talk about my bad experiences on drugs in his autobiography book.  

2.Mental Illness

Perhaps the most significant factor, which made Brian Wilson withdraw from public life, was his on going struggles with mental health issues. In the interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, he stated that his personal battle with mental disorders were a direct result of all the drugs that he took.

Also, Wilson talks about how his relationship with an extremely loving, but domineering father led him to want to wanting to escape negative feelings surrounding this, by taking psychedelic drugs. “My dad was quite the slave driver. He made us mow the lawn and when we were done, he’d say mow it again… That’s just the way it was. Mow it twice, do it right…” 

Wilson also commented on how his dad was also a musician and someone that he very much admired. Brian Wilson was diagnosed as a schizoaffective and also with manic depression. In the 1984, he was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic as a direct result of brain damage caused by excessive drug use. 

It is not surprising that Brian Wilson’s daughter Carnie Wilson, of the band Wilson / Phillips,  also struggled immensely with her father and her relationship with him. (Her band also  features singer, Chynna Phillips, daughter of John Phillips, from the 1960’s supergroup, The Mama’s and Papa’s. The third member of this band is Wendy Wilson, Carnie’s sister.) She once said in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, “I had to stop wishing for the Dad, I wanted and accept the Dad that I had…” I think a lot of children can relate to this comment. Especially, when a parent is a drug addict or suffers from mental illness. Brian Wilson has worked hard to mend his fractured relationship with both Carnie and Wendy.

3. Brian Wilson’s on-going feud with singer Mike Love.

This infamous rock and roll feud goes all the way back to 1966. During the recording of The Beach Boys album, Pet Love. Love was furious that when Brian Wilson wrote the songs for the album, he took nearly all of the melodies created for the lead singer. It resulted in Brian Wilson and his cousin, Mike Love not speaking for five years… Add that to Brian Wilson essentially removing himself from public life and almost everyone for twenty years. The situation was a tuff one. 

Wendy Wilson, Brian Wilson and Carnie Wilson, together singing live. © NY Times

A Short Lived Reunion...

In 2012, The Beach Boys did reunite. Everything seemed to be going extremely well for the group. In spite of this, Brian Wilson and Mike Love have always had a tenuous relationship with one another… After the band got back together, Mike Love announced that he would be carrying on touring under The Beach Boys name, without Brian. That ultimately, did not sit well with Brian Wilson… Ultimately, Wilson stated that unless big changes occur with the band he is finished with creating and performing with The Beach Boys.

Ultimately, all three of these bands and performers did what it took to come together again. Or at least, they attempted to do so.

 They took time to heal and address their core issues as individuals and then as a group. They communicated and were honest, even when that was extremely difficult. Also, they learned that ego is never an ally, when working creatively with others and that you have to be wiling to make compromises.

If not, then it’s better to be happy, than playing in a band with people, who make you feel terrible. Bands are not unlike romantic relationships.  But instead of having one “romantic interest,” you can have many, depending on the size of the band. It all takes work. The writing, the rehearsing, recording, performing. That can all be an incredible rush. But, it also takes work to fix things, when you and your band are in crisis. All three of these bands and performers demonstrate healing is indeed possible through the power of music! 

Article written by Ash Andersen

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