Love inspires such beautiful music. Just ask James Blunt. But heartbreak inspires even better music. Give me your favourite song, and I’m sure at least 90% of you will choose a song so poignantly about breaking up and heartbreak.
My favourite? 'Landslide' by Fleetwood Mac. Call me Captain Obvious, but there’s a band that knows how to make beautiful music through heartbreak. It just so happens those heartbreak songs were about each other.
So, just as the cliché goes, don’t p*ss on your own doorstep, don’t dip your nib in the office ink, don’t fiddle with your fiddler’s bow… We’re going to take the most romantic of times to look at those bands that have struggled through the heartbreak and made beautiful music regardless. Got the wine? Celine Dion’s All By Myself on loud? Perfect. Let’s go.
The most heartbreaking song that I have listened to, and sung, my whole life is 'Walking On a Wire by' Richard and Linda Thompson. If that’s not song that is raw with the emotions of the singers, I don’t know what is. I mean, Richard Thompson’s voice is engineered for heartbreak anyway, but sing about your marriage breakdown with your WIFE? Excuse me, I have something in my eye…
Then there’s the whole Stevie Nicks, Mick Fleetwood, 'Sara' thing. A fine example of dickheadedness by Fleetwood; sleeping with your band mate, then leaving her for her best friend? Yeah, you PLAY those drums on 'Sara' and watch your ex absolutely kick ass on the stage in front of you… next to her other ex…that band is crazy!
It’s even better when that heartbreak song turns into your biggest hit. Gwen Stefani’s breakup with No Doubt bassist Tony Kanal led to 'Don’t Speak', which became one of the 90’s best pop songs. The music video even adds homage to the source of the song with Kanal taking centre stage at the beginning and the end frames. Hey, if you’re going to own it, OWN it, right?!
Sometimes there’s great music that comes out of relationships in bands, that you just can’t help but keep smiling after the romance is dead. Look at Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – their most famous song, 'Home', is a wonderfully happy, loved-up duet between band lead Alex Ebert and his then girlfriend and band mate Jade Castrinos. It’s a wonderful snapshot in time of their relationship. The romance didn’t last but the band was a hit and they kept singing 'Home' adoringly into each other’s eyes, despite not being together, and you really believe the happiness (probably because they are happy).
Then there are the bands that, despite starting in a cloud of love and warm fuzzies, let the romance fizzle to realise that the true spark was in making music together. Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart were romantically involved before becoming the Eurythmics, and thank goodness they stayed friends after.
The White Stripes is a great example of the band playing with the romance, thriving on the romance, even after it ended. Jack and Meg White were married in 1996 and divorced in 2000. Jack took Meg’s last name, they founded the White Stripes and then told everyone they were brother and sister. There’s a real magic to The White Stripes chemistry, despite this history, or perhaps BECAUSE of this history?
When we look at Fleetwood Mac’s reunion tours with Nicks, Fleetwood, Buckingham all coming together to rejoin The Chain, with the McVies in the back joining them, you have to admire their resilience in the name of music and – dare I say it – arena ticket sales? Blondie can certainly be put in this category with the legendary punk band seeing Debbie Harry and guitarist Chris Stein keep their relationship going during the band’s first run, and even after Blondie finished in 1989. They broke up after this but, with possible dollar signs in their eyes, happily shared a stage with each other when the band reunited in the late 90s.
So, how can we summarise the rollercoaster of relationship breakups in bands? Let’s look at it from both a romantic and cynical side:
On a romantic side, we can say that these couples had a love deeper than the romantic edge that runs through most relationships – they had THE MUSIC – the shared lovechild that means these artists will always have a bond beyond romance.
On the cynical side, those bills have got to be paid. A sensible musician with a business mind should know not to let silliness like a breakup stop them from keeping a very lucrative income stream coming in.
Whichever approach you want to look at it from this Valentine’s Day, I’ll be raising a glass to my love: the fact my husband isn’t in my band.