Some call it artistic temperament, creative tension, a clash of strong wills. In Seinfeld jargon, it's referred to as being a bad breaker-upper.
Whatever you call it, there is a school of thought which holds that the very thing that has caused many a classic rock band breakup is what made the band so good to begin with.
- As The Police completed final rehearsals for their 2007 reunion tour, Stewart Copeland told Reuters, "We play nicely for two or three days, and then we start to get on each others' nerves, then have a screaming match, and then we hug and kiss, and then we play even better."
The way Copeland sees it, this is nothing more than the natural result of three (Sting and Andy Summers being the other two) strong creative wills at work.
- The friction between Cream's vocalist/bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker is legend. Back in the day (1966-68) it went way beyond "creative tension" and into the realm of hurling sharp objects (drum sticks) and damaging one another's instruments during performances.
As recently as the band's hugely successful 2005 reunion concerts, Baker accused Bruce of cranking up the volume of his bass to an unacceptably high level, and guitarist Eric Clapton's body language made it appear that he was wondering what possessed him to talk the other two into reuniting.
In spite of it all, Bruce says the band is talking about the possibility of another reunion.
- All of the surviving members of the classic Pink Floyd lineup performed at a recent tribute to their late band mate, Syd Barrett. Just not all at the same time. Such is the longstanding grudge between Roger Waters and David Gilmour that while Gilmour (vocals/guitar), Nick Mason (drums) and Rick Wright (keys) took the stage together, Waters performed alone, even skipping the evening's final performance by all of the other artists who played the gig.
Apparently the spirit of togetherness that brought all four together onstage at Live 8 in 2005 was short-lived.
- At a recent tribute concert in his honor, Paul Simon was joined for a two-song set by the man he described as, "My dear friend and partner in arguments, Art Garfunkel." Although Simon and Garfunkel have done several such one-off performances, and even a full blown tour in 2004, they clearly make no secret of their love-hate professional relationship.
Is it just our voyeuristic nature that makes us buy up all of the tickets to Simon and Garfunkel, Police and Cream concerts? Are we just hoping that we'll get to see Ginger Baker launch a drum stick at Jack Bruce's head, or that either Simon or Garfunkel will coldcock his old friend with a bookend?
Maybe there really is something to the notion that "partners in arguments" make some of the best music. Let the argument -- okay, make that the "creative differences" -- begin.