This week, legendary rock band Aerosmith released what has been touted as its “comeback album.” (How many times have we heard that?) One the biggest acts in rock music several times over the years – notably during the 70’s and resurgence in the late-80’s and 90’s – Aerosmith has had its fair share of ups and downs. Torn apart by drugs, the band spent several years neglecting to live up to its full potential, with frequent break ups, visits to drug rehabs and relapses. However, with all band members clean, sober and focused on making music, Aerosmith is back and – as many music critics who have heard the new album attest – better than ever.
Stories of great rock bands torn apart by drugs is nothing new – and many do not have the happy ending that Aerosmith has found. Below is a list of a few rock bands that we wish were still around… and might be, if it weren’t for excessive drug use.
Sex Pistols – When you launch an entire musical and cultural movement, it’s difficult not to get wrapped up in the “rock and roll lifestyle” – and that’s exactly what happened with legendary punk group the Sex Pistols. Living a hard-and-fast lifestyle fueled by drugs, alcohol and debauchery, the Pistols plowed through the late-70’s. By the time Sid Vicious joined the band in 1977, cracks were already beginning to form and Vicious’ extreme drug abuse resulted in increasingly erratic, violent behavior and further schisms within the band. After a tumultuous U.S. tour in early 1978, front man Johnny Rotten announced the Pistols’ break-up. A year later, Vicious died of a heroin overdose.
Fleetwood Mac – If you want to discuss rock band dysfunction, no one fits the bill better than Fleetwood Mac. With a history of stormy relationships, egos and extreme drug use, this group was made for an episode of Behind the Music. Fleetwood Mac’s esteemed album, Rumors, revealed much of the tumult occurring in the group, which included Christine and John McVie’s divorce and alcoholism, a rollercoaster break-up between Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, an eventual affair between Nicks and band leader Mick Fleetwood, and escalating cocaine problems among several of the members. Buckingham eventually quit and by the time he reunited with his bandmates nine years later, Christine McVie was on her way out. Fleetwood Mac was never the same.
Smashing Pumpkins – Although the band – led by founding member, Billy Corgan – continues to make music and tour, it’s not exactly the same band remembered as one of the quintessential rock acts of the 1990’s. The first major signs of trouble came in 1996, when keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin and drummer Jimmy Chamberlain – a long-time drug addict who’d been a source of trouble for the band for years – overdosed on heroin. Melvoin died and Chamberlain was arrested, leading Corgan to fire him from the band. Around the same time, bassist D’arcy Wretzky began using drugs with more frequency and engaged in erratic behavior. For a while, the group soldiered on as a trio, before reuniting with Chamberlain and performing a “farewell show” in 2000. Over the years, Corgan has pointed the finger at Wretzky as one of the key reasons for the band’s demise, calling her a “mean-spirited drug addict.”
Guns N’ Roses – No band in the late-80’s/early 90’s exemplified the rock star lifestyle better than Guns N’ Roses. In 2010, former drummer Steven Adler – who’s appeared on both Celebrity Rehab and Sober House – published a book detailing the band’s excessive substance abuse. Although front man Axl Rose abstained from drug use once the band hit it big, the other members lived in a drug-fueled haze, with out-of-control drinking and constant cocaine and heroin use. Adler’s addiction was so extreme that he was eventually fired from the band in 1990 and tensions continued to run high among other band mates as the debauchery increased along with GNR’s fame. Eventually, enough damage was done that all the members of the original lineup left the band and pursued other projects. Adler put it best in a 2010 interview, when he stated simply, “We didn’t finish what we started.”