It’s stressful being in a band. The singer’s always an asshole and the drummer's just dumb. You bitch and moan in tiny rehearsal rooms, tinier dressing rooms and stinking studios. The money’s never right and half the time you’re drunk. Still, at least you can get away from it all -- when the amp hum fades you can walk off and get your head straight. Unless. Unless you did the crazy thing and formed a band with your siblings.
Get in a band with a brother or sister and there’s no escape. Christmas dinner and there they are. Sitting next to your mum. Helping themselves to extra carrots. Pulling your damn cracker. It’s no surprise that family bands are rife with cankered resentments, twisted affection, violence, jealousy and bitter recrimination- I‘ve seen this first hand- I was in a high school rock band with two brothers. The younger one played drums and his lead guitarist brother used to treat him like shit. He’d throw shoes at his head and staple his hair to the wall. That poor little guy really got it. As Dave Davies mused about brother and Kinks front man Ray - “How could I not love my own brother? I just can’t stand to be with him.”
The Everly Brothers really went for it in the breakdown stakes. After scoring countless hits through the 60s they were undone by a combo of speed abuse and a shifting musical landscape. Then, BAM, on stage in ‘76 they had a total meltdown. Don was getting shitfaced on Margheritas and Phil couldn’t take it anymore, so he flipped out and smashed his guitar to tiny forlorn splinters. Don told the crowd “the Everly Brothers died ten years ago” and they didn’t speak for another decade. All or nothing kinda guys.
But it doesn’t stop there. You can bet every brother in every band in this edition of The Live Music Show suffered from the same “festering, long-standing animosity” that caused Creedence Clearwater Revival to split. Elder brother Tom left when power mad lil’ bro John decided to write all the Creedence songs, play lead guitar on all the Creedence songs, and, yep, sing on all the Creedence songs. Who wouldn’t have walked huh?
And The BeeGees! So harmonic in song, so bitter in fraternal discord. BeeGees mk 1 (y’know before disco, when they were a poor man’s Beatles) crumbled under all the same pressures. Namely, pressures born out of rampant ego and tireless jealousy. Robin wanted to sing more. Barry wanted to sing more. Maurice wanted- no one gave a shit what Maurice wanted... If the brothers Gibb hadn’t put all the squabbling to one side and got back together then disco would never have happened. Probably.
Interestingly, there’s a big gender divide in the being in a band=family warfare formula. The Shangri-Las, Sister Sledge and The Ronettes pretty much got along fine with one another, despite fame clearly being disproportionately allocated in all 3 bands– although in Ronnie Spector’s case we can assume that the rest of the Ronettes were probably cool to stay in her shadow if it meant they got to not be married to Phil ‘great guy’ Spector...
So what can we learn from this? Well, I guess it’s: Sisters! – form bands ! The music industry will try and screw you so regularly you won’t have time to argue amongst yourselves! Brothers-don’t bother! You’ll spend a lifetime raging at an idiot with a face that looks just like your own! Not healthy! Give it up! Stop!
Ian McQuaid writes for www.offmodern.com. He is a tiny despot. He has vice like gripping claws. He owns a chain of dry cleaners and a life size sculpture of armageddon. Last week he 'cracked a funny', as he calls it, and a deathly silence gripped the room. He lives in London with an aggressive wife and an angry dog.