6 Hit Songs That Destroyed the Bands They Made Famous
Celebrated spam rocker Bono once said, "Music can change the world because it can change people." It's true. Music can manipulate our emotions, making us deliriously happy or evoking bittersweet memories. And while we have a tendency to personalize music to our own experiences, sometimes we forget it's not all about us. There are a lot of moving parts that go into making a classic song, and occasionally they work together only because they have no other choice. In fact, for some bands, their most famous song is also the thing that led to their eventual demise. For example ...
"Take My Breath Away" -- Berlin
"Take My Breath Away" was the smoke-and-mirrors ballad that helped trick the movie-going public into believing Kelly McGillis and Tom Cruise were actually hot for each other in the feature-length U.S. Armed Forces recruiting vehicle Top Gun. The first single from the movie's soundtrack, "Take My Breath Away" won the Academy Award and the Golden Globe for best original song in 1986 and became an instant middle-school-dance slow-jam staple.
But it wasn't loved by everyone ... specifically, members of the band who actually performed the hit song didn't care for it much.
The maudlin tune was written by Giorgio Moroder, who was known more for the pulsing electronica beats of classic drugsploitation films like Scarface and Midnight Express than sappy love ballads ...
Music to get busted by.
... and recorded by California new-wave band Berlin. To say everyone in the band hated it would be a stretch. Lead singer Terri Nunn, who appears in the music video in a skunked 'do and inexplicably shredded and soiled coveralls, was a fan of the track.
You would be too if you knew it meant you'd get to sing on top of a fighter jet.
However, bassist and songwriter John Crawford loathed it. Berlin had already found some success with new-wave classics like "The Metro" ...
... and "No More Words" ...
... so the sentimental "Take My Breath Away" was a pretty big departure from their signature sound, and Crawford let his objections be known.
Keep your sappy ballads right the hell away from this badass.
Signature sound or not, it was by far the band's biggest hit, so a rift was inevitable. The rest of the group agreed with Crawford that the song totally sucks, and the ensuing infighting led to Berlin's breakup less than a year after its release.
Ethics pay the bills only for so long, though. In 2000, the original lineup, including Crawford, briefly reunited for the aptly titled VH1 show Bands Reunited. They played one sold-out show in Los Angeles, and Nunn has been touring under the name Berlin with a bunch of randos ever since.
At least everyone seems happy.
You lose again, Crawford!
"Sympathy for the Devil" -- Guns N' Roses
The Rolling Stones' timeless musical tribute to Satan and, presumably, living for 150 years, has long been saddled with a sinister reputation that it may or may not deserve. While it's often wrongly attributed to being the song The Stones were playing at Altamont when a fan was fatally stabbed, it did appear to have a hand in fatally injuring post-glam-metal rock band Guns N' Roses after they covered it for the Interview With the Vampire soundtrack.
GNR frontman Axl Rose is known for being kind of a jerk, and with good reason. From scrapping with Tommy Hilfiger to ranting via song, "What, you pissed off 'cause your dad gets more pussy than you?" at Bob Guccione Jr. of Spin magazine, Axl's contentious nature has rubbed plenty of people the wrong way.
King of the jerks.
Not one to shirk from stirring the pot, when it came to recording "Sympathy for the Devil," he wasn't afraid to let everyone know just how it should be done, including telling bandmate Slash how he should be playing his guitar. In his autobiography, Slash recounts:
I was told that I needed to re-record my guitar solo so that it sounded more note for note like the Keith Richards' original. Now, that really pissed me off, most of all because the message reached me three times removed like we were playing a game of telephone.
Yep, people still played that back then.
Still unhappy with the outcome, Axl had his childhood buddy Paul Tobias play over the original solo Slash had recorded. While the tension between Axl and Slash had been growing for some time, this blatant jerk move prompted Slash to leave Guns N' Roses. And he wasn't the only casualty. Guitarist Gilby Clarke also figured out he was getting the boot in the wake of the song:
I knew that that was the ending, because nobody told me about it. Officially I was in the band at that time, and they did that song without me. That was one of the last straws for me, because nobody had said anything to me and they recorded a song by one of my favorite bands. It was pretty clear I'm a big Stones fan, and they recorded the song without me. So I knew that was it.
Don't worry: he ended up on VH1 also!
So, in conclusion, Axl Rose has always been a dick and The Rolling Stones keep themselves alive by consuming the souls of younger bands. They probably learned it from that devil song.
"Creep" -- TLC
Chronic illness, bankruptcy, literal (house) meltdowns ... the members of TLC were the original Bad Luck Brendas of '90s girl groups. In spite of their seemingly never-ending misfortune, singers Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins, Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas, and rapper Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes managed to crank out a slew of chart-topping singles, leading them to become the second-best-selling girl group of all time.
Also the brokest.
When they weren't beefing with Pebbles and their record label, they took time out to fight with each other. One of their biggest battles was over the hit single "Creep," from their second album, CrazySexyCool.
"Creep" was TLC's first No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, and it won the Grammy for best R&B performance by a group in 1996. But all the accolades couldn't prevent it from causing a rift in the band. Written by Dallas Austin, the song is about a girl that uses her boyfriend's infidelity as an excuse to turn around and cheat on him. Left Eye hated the message of the song (answering cheating by cheating). In the documentary The Last Days of Left Eye, Lopes says that she was 100 percent against the release of "Creep" as a single and threatened to wear black tape over her mouth during the music video.
She wore this instead.
Lopes went on to say that if a girl finds out her man is cheating on her, the better thing to do is to leave rather than cheat back. Which is a pretty mature response to infidelity coming from someone who had previously burned down her boyfriend's mansion after setting fire to his sneakers.
"Blister in the Sun" -- Violent Femmes
"Blister in the Sun" is the best-known and biggest hit single from alt-rockers Violent Femmes. Originally released in 1983 on their self-titled debut album, the song experienced a resurgence when the band recorded an updated version, entitled "Blister 2000," for the 1997 film Grosse Pointe Blank.
With an infectious pop sound, the tune is popular among people who think jumping straight up and down is the same thing as dancing. But the song isn't all rainbows and sunshine. Its inclusion in a 2007 Wendy's commercial effectively tore the band to pieces. Using "Blister in the Sun" to sell Wendy's chili caused a stir for several reasons. First, even though the band denies it, the general consensus is that the song is about masturbation. Possibly because of the following lyrics:
Let me go on ... big hands, I know you're the one
Body and beats, I stain my sheets, I don't even know why
My girlfriend, she's at the end, she is starting to cry
And even if it isn't, something as unappetizing as a blister seems like an odd way to hawk fast food.
Mmmm. Tasty Blisters.
But festering sores and self-pleasure weren't the only issues. Fans complained that the band had sold out, and they weren't the only ones angry. When lead singer Gordon Gano, who wrote the song, sold the advertising rights to Wendy's, bandmate Brian Ritchie freaked out. Citing "misappropriation of jointly owned intellectual property," Ritchie sued Gano, and the group disbanded as a result of the lawsuit. Ritchie said: "I don't like having my sound misappropriated to sell harmful products, such as fast food. ... That's not why we made the music. It should not be hijacked."
It seems time, or perhaps a newfound respect for the Frosty, softened Ritchie's stance. In 2013, the band reunited and played "Blister" at the Coachella music festival.
I really hoped Wendy's would be on this list.
There's certainly nothing corporate about that!
"Take It to the Limit" -- The Eagles
The soft rock ballad "Take It to the Limit" was the first certified gold single from easy-listening stalwarts The Eagles. The song is an easygoing, mellifluous mix of country, rock, and folk that is pretty typical of the band's early work.
So, boring, basically.
While The Eagles had mastered the sound of mellowness, they certainly hadn't embraced the spirit of it. "Take It to the Limit" was a source of great friction between the high-strung de facto leader Glenn Frey and bassist Randy Meisner. The song has a range of high notes that only Meisner was capable of hitting, so he was tapped to sing lead.
While Meisner, who had co-written "Take It to the Limit," enjoyed performing the song, he wasn't happy being forced to sing it at every show. Frey insisted that it was a fan favorite and constantly pushed Meisner to perform it.
During the 1977 Hotel California tour, Meisner, who was already disillusioned with what he thought was The Eagles cold-blooded approach to cashing in by selling out, refused to sing the ballad, leading to a fistfight between himself and Frey backstage and ultimately Meisner leaving the band for good.
It's almost always safe to say that the person who's still in The Eagles is by default the villain of any story, but in this case, man, just sing your one song a night and quit being a hassle, you know?
"Mr. Roboto" -- Styx
One of the first things you notice when you watch old concert footage of Styx is that all the members appear to have dressed to perform in totally different bands. Take, for example, this video for "Too Much Time on My Hands":
Dennis DeYoung is outfitted for an old-timey barbershop quartet ...
Guitarist Tommy Shaw rocks a shiny jumpsuit ...
... and guitarist J.Y. Young, bedecked in shoulder pads and feathered hair, looks like he's ready to perform in a Dynasty-themed drag show. All the while, bassist Chuck Panozzo looks on from the comfort of a full-on goddamn tuxedo.
The fashion disparity was a pretty big red flag for problems to come. The battle for the heart of Styx was documented in VH1's Behind the Music, in which DeYoung does a spot-on Michael Scott impersonation before The Office was even a thing. In it he recounts the growing tension between himself and Shaw. DeYoung favored theatrical-type productions, while Shaw wanted to stick with their arena-rock roots. Ultimately, it was a song about a robot that split the band.
The song "Mr. Roboto," from the album Kilroy Was Here, is an elaborate futuristic story of a rock star who's condemned to a prison for rock-and-roll misfits and escapes via robot costume.
The song was a huge hit, and the Kilroy Was Here tour allowed DeYoung to live out his wildest theatrical fantasies with elaborate props and band members acting out scenes as robots, presumably while quietly dying on the inside. Shaw always bridled over DeYoung's song choices, but he was especially critical of "Mr. Roboto," saying it was the beginning of the end and that he'd rather quit Styx than sing about robots.
True to his word, Shaw left ... right after singing about robots for a year on tour.
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