Illustration by Jules Julien
Illustration by Jules Julien Image Credit: Supplied

And the common feature shared by AC/DC, Devo, Spandau Ballet, the Happy Mondays, The Jesus and Mary Chain? Not their guitar riffs, but their blood ties. Even girl bands can't avoid it: The Bangles, The Corrs... The bedroom for band practice instead of the garage, and brotherly rivalry as a creative force. In musical terms, this appears to be a foolproof approach and one that made them successful. Emotionally, however, it was a Freudian massacre, struck by the inexorable sword of the pitfalls of the rock ’n’ roll industry: fame, wild parties and money.

The Gallagher Brothers

“I am the brains of the group, Liam is the band idiot. And the three others are just the three others”, Noel Gallagher, the founder of Oasis, the group from Manchester, declared. Violence, testosterone and big sounds. The final explosion between the two brothers before a Paris concert in 2009 would cost the group losses of 5 million and would cause major problems. “When Liam is being stupid”, Noel explained, “I just hit him. If I am a jerk, he hits me too. What could be more normal?” That evening, they used their guitars for a backstage fight. Eighteen years of gigs and abuse. On tour, Noel used to make fun of his superstitious brother, who believed in ghosts and poltergeists. He arranged for the furniture in Liam’s room to be moved around while they were away. If the media are still talking about the possibility of the band reforming, then they should remember that their mother stopped going to family reunions years ago!

The Ramones

The same surname, but not the real one for the quartet from Queens. A clear elective affinity between freaks. Ramon was borrowed from the name that Paul McCartney used to use to make hotel reservations incognito. The same leather jacket, the same distressed jeans and the same musical formula. Behind the facade of unity of the false brothers, Johnny the neo-reactionary and violent singer was a tyrant. Punishment every time anyone was late! After their concerts, he would beat Dee Dee if he hit the wrong note. Joey, the gaunt singer, with an OCD that got on Johnny’s nerves. A career lasting 22 years and permanently on tour, Johnny and Joey would barely exchange a word. When Joey died, Johnny did not attend his funeral. “I was in California, I wasn’t going to travel.” Anyway, as Johnny would insist, “I would never have played without him. We were the Ramones!”

The Brothers Gibbs

“We would still be together if it hadn’t been for the hard-partying”, Barry explained, the eldest of the three Bee Gees, alongside twins Maurice and Robin. A career spanning 58 years and 220 million records sold! In their pyjamas, at home in their bedroom, the boys developed the harmonic style that would bring them success. They were the first to reject the image of the altar boys of the rock fraternities. “We were never like the Osmond’s,” Barry recounted. “The Osmond’s were Mormons, we’re morons! Totally different religion!” During the recording of the Odessa album, the relationship between Barry and Robin came under strain. “He was out of control”, Barry explained. “He was paranoid, with persecutory delusions.” In 1969, Robin embarked on a solo career. When they bumped into each at the Top of the Pops studios, the brothers wouldn’t talk to each other. Robin had a strict regime, with all-nighters and voyeurism being the norm. The dispute continued until in 1979, when their producer Robert Stigwood persuaded them to get back together. The night before, his company was listed on the stock exchange.

The Wilson Brothers

Beneath the polished varnish lurked a dreadful depression. The Beach Boys quintet was formed in 1961 by three brothers, one cousin and a school friend. Their biography is a tale of American neuroses. One of the Californian clichés that they popularised, gurus and psychopaths such as Charles Manson, who used to visit Dennis, decline and world domination. Raised by a violent blue-collar worker and an unstable mother, the Wilsons were pushed into music by their father. Everything in their career would be chaotic: Brian’s anxiety and substance dependency, the decline of Dennis, ousted, then drowned in 1983, and the tensions between cousin Mike Love and Brian: commercial pop versus experimentation with psychedelic substance. Love took Brian to court, claiming to be co-author of their tracks. Obese and under the hold of an exploitative doctor, Brian vanished for an entire decade, shutting himself in his room. At their reunion on the occasion of their 50th anniversary, Mike Love announced that he had ex-communicated Brian and Al Jardine. The internet is full of sites called “I hate Mike Love”.

The Davies Brothers

“The music of the Kinks is a family story: love and emotion”, Dave, the youngest in the quarter in which his brother Ray is the singer, summed it up perfectly. A very British tragedy: explosive and arrogant, as is typical of working-class musical geniuses. The only boys in a family of 10 children, they continued their childhood fights on stage. “We were fighters, Ray explains, the force that creates the core of a group is ultimately the one that will destroy it!” Everything is legendary with the Kinks: Ray and his suicide attempt on stage, and Dave left for dead on stage after the bassist attacked him with cymbals. Bitterness as a modus operandi. In 1964, Dave, completely unstable, was incapable of acting as witness at Ray’s marriage ceremony. At Dave’s 50th birthday party, Ray climbed onto the table to give a speech and stamped on the birthday cake. “I am the musical intellect,” Ray asserted. “Dave is the child prodigy of guitar riffs.” In 2004, Ray, after receiving his knighthood, passed the message to Dave: “Since that day, he thinks he is The Kinks!” But the unshakeable link remains. “I could never not love Ray. He’s my brother!”

The Fogerty Brothers

For four years between 1968 et 1972, the Creedence Clearwater Revival band was at the top of the charts. Rock critics, country bumpkins and hippies swooned over the tracks by the brothers Fogerty, John et Tom. The Abel and Cain of rock? “Doctors must have a name for it”, the bassist recounted when remembering John, whom he compared to “Brian Wilson with stability! There is no treatment or detox for bitterness.” John imposed military discipline for the entire twelve weeks in order to stay in the charts. “I was more talented than my older brother. He was jealous”, John explained. In 1972, Tom threw in the towel. For 15 years, John refused to play the hits from Creedence Clearwater Revival. When Tom, ill with AIDs, asked for a reunion, John refused. His vindictiveness meant he was never out of court. John spent his whole life attacking his band, his producer and his record label. For Mardi Gras, the final studio album, he returned to Creedence Clearwater Revival, forcing the remaining members to sing, and scuppering it in the process. “The worst album I have ever heard”, according to Rolling Stones magazine.