Sometimes people just want to play good music. Unfortunately, sometimes they may end up playing around the world, selling millions and having to deal with annoying record companies, fans and band mates. Then they quit.
The Pistols were a meteor of almost-never-seen-before raw music and outrageous lyrics and behavior. In two years they made their way to a likely censored top of the UK Singles Chart with “God Save The Queen” (1977) and later the same year released the legendary “Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols”. Next January, singer Johnny Rotten left the band after delivering the iconic “ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” goodbye, and they split. But that’s just the first end of a longer story, of course.
Richard Ashcroft walking in the streets is one of the most memorable images of 90’s music. “Bitter Sweet Symphony”, the song he sang in the video while walking, was the peak of a seven-year, three-album career. It got them a Grammy nomination and led “Urban Hymns” (1997) to the top of the UK Albums Chart. Two years later, exhaustion caused them to break up for the second time (of a total of three until now).
When in Rome
One of the classic 80’s one-hit wonders, When in Rome released their self titled only album in 1988. Said hit, “The Promise”, went to no. 1 in the US Dance Chart. Three more singles that no one remembers followed, and then they split in 1990 “over musical differences”.
Another classic 80’s one-hit wonder, Berlin was more of a real band. They started in 1978, grew bigger and then glued “Take My Breath Away” to our brains in 1986. Originally from the Top Gun soundtrack, the song was given to them by legendary producer Giorgio Moroder. It won Academy Award for Best Original Song that year, but also caused dissent within the band, who broke up the following year.
Fine Young Cannibals
A very 80’s drum sound, a unique sounding singer e four chords gave Fine Young Cannibals their biggest hit in “She Drives me Crazy”. They already had some hits in their first album, but “The Raw & the Cooked” (1988) opener went to no. 1 Billboard Hot 100, followed by “Good Thing”. However, the pressure that came after made them stop. “They kept saying to us our next record had to be even bigger which was really stupid. That was one of the main things that killed it for me”, said singer Roland Gift.
At The Drive-In
At The Drive-In were just beginning to take over the world with one of the albums that defined what rock music was going to be in the 00’s, “Relationship of Command” (2000). In March 2001, after a series of distressful situations, they announced an “indefinite hiatus”. Guitarist Omar Rodríguez-López and singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala went on to form fairly successful The Mars Volta before ATDI reunited – twice for now.
With “Nothing’s Shocking” (1988) and especially “Ritual de lo Habitual”, Jane’s Addiction were one of the pioneers of the alternative rock generation in the mainstream. Drugs and egos ended that first period in 1991, when they headlined the Lollapalooza festival, created by singer Perry Farrell for the band to say their goodbyes.
4 Non Blondes
4 Non Blondes formed in 1989, released their only album, “Bigger, Better, Faster, More!” in 1992 and dropped “What’s Up?” into radio and memes and Netflix shows in 1993. Singer and songwriter Linda Perry left for a solo career in 1994, ending the band. She later produced and wrote songs for several pop acts, like Christina Aguilera and Courtney Love.
Later in the 90’s, the alternative dream was already dead when the New Radicals made a revolution in a shopping mall in their debut video for “You Get What You Give”, from 1998’s “Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too”. Frontman Gregg Alexander didn’t even wait for the second single and cut the band’s head off to become a producer-writer for other people.
Death From Above
To be fair, Death From Above never got the type of success of other entries on this list. But this canadian duo did achieve cult status in their first stint, that left us “You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine” (2004). “We both changed so much that the people we were by the end of it probably wouldn’t have been friends if they were to meet for the first time again”, wrote bassist Jesse Keeler in 2006, regarding his relationship with drummer-vocalist Sebastien Grainger. They came back in 2011.