Love Will Tear Us Apart
‘Love Will Keep Us Together’ – that’s what the Captain and Tenille told us, and who are we to argue with a naval officer and his good lady? Actually, as Tenille divorced Captain earlier this year, perhaps we could construct a decent argument against their assertion. Indeed, the evidence is everywhere: nothing destroys a friendship, partnership or romance like a career in popular music. For every Ben Watt and Tracy Thorn, there are dozens of Jones and Strummers, collapsing in acrimony, accusation, jealousy and bad blood. What is it about rock and roll? How can such a creatively free and potentially rewarding activity have such a pernicious impact on human closeness? I’m no Relate counsellor, but I’d point to ego, confusion and emotional overload.
Ego and professional musicianship are inextricably linked. Even before the recordings, gigs and fame (none of which is guaranteed) – there’s something inherently self-regarding about the desire to produce music and release it to an audience, with the expectation of approval and delight. The urge to stand in front of a crowd and perform one’s works, must require a level of egomania. What other motivation could there be?
At the start of a group’s career, the adoration and affirmation are merely mutual aspirations; and so the partnership has a common purpose and the bonds are stronger for it. But when the glory arrives, the ties are weakened and warped, and it’s all too easy for one member to believe they alone are responsible for the success. This then becomes a battlefield, where simmering resentment and bitter presumption are the weapons. Under fire from swollen egos, friendship and camaraderie collapse in bloody heaps. When ‘Come On’ made the UK chart, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards must have thanked their lucky stars they’d found each other on that Dartford station. Less than two decades later, Keith was telling anyone who’d listen how Jagger’s solo performances of ‘Tumbling Dice’ to Japanese audiences, we’re moving him to a near-murderous reaction.
Huge appreciation of one’s creative effort is enormously gratifying of course, but it changes everything. A string of million-selling records not only delivers unimagined material wealth and a luxurious lifestyle, it also distorts perception and understanding. It confuses. Having generated some of the most important music we’ll ever know, could a row over business management really have driven a jagged blade between Lennon and McCartney? Of course it could. Their status as the undisputed deities of pop distorted everything. The world wanted them to remain conjoined, forever united by their gifts, but that was the wish of the rest of humanity. For the men themselves, further works were less important than contracts and petty conflicts. From the inside, priorities were so skewed that the music was no longer relevant – being ‘right’ was the primary impulse. Exit The Beatles.
And that’s all before we introduce the tempests of the human heart. Almost every adult has known the soaring joys and churning woes that accompany romantic love. When those emotions become fused with the indulgences and temptations of spectacular creative achievement, the storm can be unbearable. If you were a member of Fleetwood Mac in the mid-seventies, gargantuan sales figures and universal popularity would have told you that your music career had reached such an unlikely pinnacle, that it would be most unwise to jeopardise the situation. Common sense, right? But common sense holds no sway over unrestricted lust (and, it must be said, liberal cocaine use). With two ‘marriages’ in the band, and a propensity for fluid allegiances and unbridled bed-hopping, no amount of planet-gobbling albums could save them. The love of a global fan base, concentrated with that of various lovers creates a tsunami of emotion, too overwhelming for the mortal soul. As it crashes in, all is swept asunder, leaving nothing but regret and shattered hearts.
To know one’s music is played and treasured by millions of people, in dozens of countries, on a daily basis, must be intoxicating and deeply satisfying. It’s not hard to understand why anyone with ideas and skill would want to reach that point. Unfortunate then, that this road is not coated with the smoothest tarmac, but riddled with potholes, pitfalls, ruts and rocks. Only the most robust, or perhaps unusual, relationships ever survive the journey unscathed. Just ask Difford and Tilbrook, Hadley and the Kemps, Boy George and Jon Moss, Morrissey and Marr, Gilmour and Waters, Dollar, Sam and Dave – or even the Captain & Tenille.