The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, so I admit it: I am addicted to rock docs. Rock books, too. For whatever reason, I seem to be infinitely fascinated by the sordid details — and equally, the boring daily ins-and-outs — of musicians who make it to the top of the pyramid, and I have the bathroom library to prove it. I once read a book about the Grateful Dead, and I HATE THE GRATEFUL DEAD.
So it was that, whilst channel-flipping not long ago, I came across the new documentary The History of the Eagles. I never particularly liked the Eagles, although the way their material transports me back into my 6-year-old self, when they were on every radio station three times an hour, is not altogether unpleasant. And, any way you slice it, The Eagles stood at the summit of Rock Mountain throughout the ’70s, so I was interested in their story. Did they really start as Linda Ronstadt’s backing band? How did Joe Walsh, a successful solo artist in his own right, end up as their second third guitarist? Did they snort all the cocaine in America while making Hotel California, or just most of it?
I got the answers to all these questions in the first half of the documentary. (The second half was about their cynical 1994 reunion and beyond.) But the main takeaway of the whole piece was that both Don Henley and Glenn Frey are huge, huge assholes, and worse, they’re the kind of assholes that say huge asshole things right into a camera totally unaware of their own assholery. By the end of the Eagles’ first run in 1980, they had driven out two of the other three original members, and shortly after the 1994 reunion they got rid of the guy who wrote “Hotel California” because he wanted everyone to be paid the same as Henley and Frey, as the Eagles became the first band to charge more than $100 per ticket for the record-breaking tour. (He submitted to their threat to fire him if he didn’t take less money, and then they fired him anyway.)
I mentioned all this to my wife, who as she always does when I relate third-hand rock lore, did an excellent job of pretending to listen, and then she said, “Someone should make an all-star band of the biggest assholes in rock history.” I love this woman more with every passing day.
So let’s do it! Auditions for The All-Asshole Band start right now!
Liam Gallagher: Watched his band, Oasis perform on MTV Unplugged from the balcony, claiming he had a sore throat (but really hung over), leaving his brother Noel to sing the songs himself. Bailed on Oasis’ 1996 tour 15 minutes before the plane took off to go look for a new mansion. And in 1997, reached out the window of his limo and threw a cyclist off his bike completely unprovoked.
Axl Rose: Habitually hours late to Guns N’ Roses shows at the band’s early-’90s peak. Once there, likely to jump into the audience and attack uncredentialed photographers. Equally likely to spike the microphone like a football and end a show at any time if the security, or sound mix, or backstage accommodations are not to his liking. Forced original members of G N’ R to sign over use of the band’s name to him or be fired; once accomplished, fired them anyway.
Kanye West: I’ma let you finish….
Mike Love: Browbeat Brian Wilson into abandoning his broadly ambitious double-album “Symphony to God,” Smile, because he thought it had “weird lyrics.” Repeatedly accused of beating his wives and girlfriends. Recently fired Brian Wilson (or, if you want to get technical, elected to tour with his own band as The Beach Boys rather than take the opportunity to continue the surviving Beach Boys’ 50th anniversary tour). And who could ever forget his acceptance speech at the Beach Boys’ 1988 Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame induction?
Scott Stapp: Singer of Creed, bad enough by itself. Threw a bottle of Orangina at his wife’s head in an argument in 2007. Filmed himself getting blown by a stripper who was also blowing Kid Rock, and let the tape get out to the public. Went onstage so hammered, and gave a performance so bad, Creed became the first band ever sued for a refund.
John Lennon: Left wife, who he later admitted to having beaten, and young son at the height of the Beatles’ career to be with Yoko Ono. Had a bed installed in the Beatles’ recording studio for Yoko Ono. Broke up The Beatles, who he’d already been sabotaging for years through indifference and intransigence. Wrote “How Do You Sleep?” Got thrown out of the Whisky A Go Go for heckling the Smothers Brothers. Stiffed his son, Julian, in his will.
Courtney Love:Probably didn’t murder Kurt Cobain, but certainly drove him to suicide. Hit an audience member with a microphone stand. Punched Bikini Kill singer Kathleen Hanna in the face totally unprovoked on the first stop of the 1995 Lollapalooza tour. Overdosed on Oxycontin in the presence of her 10-year-old daughter Frances, who as a teenager would get a restraining order against her. Accused Cobain’s former bandmate Dave Grohl of being “sexually obsessed” with Cobain, and later of trying to seduce 19-year-old Frances. Sold a Nirvana song to Major League Baseball, despite the fact that the song’s author, her deceased husband, loathed sports. Dated Billy Corgan.
Ted Nugent:NRA mouthpiece, outspoken Republican. While still married to his first wife, became legal guardian to his 17-year-old girlfriend in 1978 so he could travel with her. Was the subject of this interview. Said all this ridiculous crap, including: “If Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.” Has unfortunately reneged on that promise.
Billy Corgan:Such a control freak that he overdubbed his bandmates’ bass and guitar parts himself. Is on record badmouthing nearly all of his contemporaries, including his former bandmembers, all of whom he’s fired at least once. Accused Soundgarden and Pavement of reuniting purely for the money, right after touring as “The Smashing Pumpkins” with himself and three hired guns, playing no new material. Dated Courtney Love.
Ike Turner:Beat Tina like a house floor tom for years. Was arrested in 1980 for possession of seven grams of cocaine and a live hand grenade. Married 13 times. Estimated having spent $11 million on cocaine. Is responsible for this album cover:
Dave Mustaine: Kicked out of Metallica for drinking too much, which is like getting kicked out of the Indy 500 for speeding. Birther and disciple of radio conspiracy nut Alex Jones. Told an audience that Obama staged the Aurora (‘Dark Knight’) shootings to win support for gun control.
Eddie Van Halen: Drove three different lead singers out of his band. Ended 1998 audition for Limp Bizkit by waving a loaded pistol at the band. Fired bassist for remaining friendly with previously fired singer. Let first fired singer believe he was being re-hired to generate publicity for greatest-hits record, then hired third singer.
Sting: Named himself “Sting.” Pointed to his own face and told the director of the “Wrapped Around Your Finger” video, “Just keep the camera on the money.” Sued for songwriting credit on Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing,” based on that “I want my MTV” intro. Always turns “Roxanne” into an 11-minute freeform jazz exploration. All that crap about tantric sex.
Don Henley: With Glenn Frey, fired all the other original members of The Eagles after years of stifling their songwriting contributions. Famously litigious, suing everyone who looks his way. In 1980, at age 33, called paramedics to attend to a 16-year-old girl who’d overdosed on cocaine and Quaaludes in his home. Continues to perform “Hotel California” even after firing guitarist Don Felder, who wrote every part of the song but the lyrics. Wrote “Dirty Laundry” and “All She Wants To Do is Dance.”
Lars Ulrich: Napster.
Steve Albini: The list of bands he hasn’t talked shit about would be shorter.
Phil Spector: Held his wife Ronnie Spector hostage in their home for years, locking her in closets and putting a gold coffin with a glass lid in the basement so he could “keep an eye on you after you’re dead.” Wore a cape in the studio with the Ramones, and then forced them at gunpoint to keep recording. Shot and killed an actress in 2003.
Rick Rubin: Tried to persuade the Black Crowes to change their name to the Kobb Kounty Krows, and wear overalls and chew hay on stage. Tried to bounce Mike D from the Beastie Boys. Insisted the Beastie Boys make another party record like Licensed to Ill, prompting their departure from Def Jam and bringing the Paul’s Boutique album to Capitol.
Peter Grant:Before a 1977 Led Zeppelin performance in Oakland, brutally beat members of Bill Graham’s staff in a trailer over a misunderstanding involving Grant’s 11-year-old son, then forced Graham to sign a waiver of liability for the man’s near-fatal injuries before going on with the show. Routinely conducted business while brandishing a cricket bat and settled most disputes violently.
And lastly, what should this band be called? The Assholes? The Pricks? The Jerks? All I know is I don’t want to see their rider.
This list is by no means complete. Who would you like to see in the All-Asshole Band? Sound off below, auditions are still open!
ALEX CASTLE is a writer, musician, filmmaker, husband, father, and hand model based in Brooklyn Denver.