Why Rock Bands Need HR DepartmentsBy
On Wednesday, the members of the band Stone Temple Pilots fired their frontman, Scott Weiland. The group issued a press release stating the singer had been “officially terminated.” For a band known for performing songs about subjects ranging from date rape to heroin addiction, the statement seemed curiously succinct, even corporate-sounding. Was this a group of aging performers so levelheaded that they could resolve disputes and make personnel changes as efficiently as a corporation?
Not so fast. On Thursday, Weiland issued a press release of his own, stating that he wasn’t “sure how [he] can be ‘terminated’ from a band he fronted and co-wrote many of its biggest hits, but that’s something for the lawyers to figure out.” And so begins yet another bitter rock-star feud. Regardless of who fired whom—or if anyone was fired at all—Stone Temple Pilots join an illustrious list of rock outfits that have tried to bring the boom down on a member and made a mess of things.
Here are some other disorderly rock “terminations” (well, at least according to one side):
Guns N’ Roses
In 1990 the band’s original drummer, Steven Adler, is fired because he won’t kick his heroin habit. Lead singer Axl Rose claims later that Adler was so out of his mind it took him 60 takes to record one song, Civil War. Adler eventually sues the band and is awarded $2.5 million in an out-of-court settlement. Here’s his recollection of getting fired, as told to Classic Rock magazine:
“[Band manager] Doug Goldstein called me into the office. … He wanted me to sign some contracts. I was told that every time I did heroin, the band would fine me $2,000. There was a whole stack of papers, with colored paper clips everywhere for my signatures. What these contracts actually said was that the band were paying me $2,000 to leave. They were taking my royalties, all my writing credits. They didn’t like me anymore and just wanted me gone. That’s why I filed the lawsuit—to get all those things back. They were such bastards to me.”
In 1996, guitarist Eddie Van Halen fires lead singer Sammy Hagar. Hagar recalls in a 2003 interview with the Asbury Park Press:
“[Eddie] goes, ‘We got Dave [David Lee Roth] back. He’s been in the studio with us. We’re making a couple new songs. You can go back to being a solo artist, ’coz that’s what you always wanted to be anyway.’ I go, ‘Eddie? [Expletives].’ That was it. Look where the band is now. They don’t have a singer; they don’t have a record deal; and they sit there and they say Sam and Dave are both—and now Gary Cherone’s an [expletive], too. So, they got three singers out there, and they’re sittin’ there doin’ nothing. I think those guys really need to get off their butts.”
The Allman Brothers Band
In 2000 the Allman Brothers Band fires its guitarist of three decades, Dickey Betts—via fax. Betts tells Rolling Stone in May 2000:
[After receiving the fax, he called band leader Gregg Allman for an explanation]: “His response was ‘If you don’t know, I can’t tell you—listen to the f—king tapes.’ I have been in a state of shock and bewilderment and have been trying to make some sense out of all of this. I sat down and listened to the tapes from the Beacon [Theatre] and the last tour and was impressed with the quality of the music. I thought the band sounded great and I was particularly proud of my guitar work. There was never any discussion or indication that there was any problem in the band. Therefore, I am as hurt and shocked as all of you! I certainly don’t have any answers, but I feel an obligation to share with all of you what I know about this.”
Betts writes on the Allman Brothers website:
“Last Thursday I received a fax notifying me that I would not be performing this summer with ABB. It said, ‘You have not been performing well and our shows have been repeatedly disappointing to both us and our fans as a result.’ The implication was that I was suffering from some sort of health or drug problem. THIS IS TOTALLY, ABSOLUTELY, UNFOUNDED!”
Lead singer Jeff Tweedy fires multi-instrumentalist and co-songwriter Jay Bennett after recording the band’s 2002 album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. (In May 2009, Bennett, while suffering from health complications, sues Tweedy for breach of contract. Later that month, Bennett dies unexpectedly in his sleep.) As Bennett reveals in the 2002 documentary I Am Trying to Break Your Heart:
“We sat down, and he said, ‘I don’t think I can make music with you anymore.’ And I said, ‘Why?’ And I’m not sure I ever got an answer that made any sense. Jeff was threatened by me. It’s clear. By the attention I was beginning to get. He wanted the band back. That’s simple. That’s the simple answer. Jeff went into this big, long analogy about how a circle needs a center. Well, he was going to be the center. There’s a lot of power-related issues in Wilco. People don’t want to lose their gig, man. They don’t want to step outside their little scripted role. Because if they do, this is what happens.”