10 Biggest Rock Feuds of 2021
Feuds are as old as rock itself. For whatever reason, incredible musical talent also breeds animosity. Whether it's a rivalry with another artist, infighting within one's own band or arguments among former friends, rock and turmoil are rarely far apart.
This year saw an interesting mix of rock feuds. Some were brand new battles rising to the surface for the first time, others represented the renewal of decades-old rivalries. Then there were disputes that were completely unique unto themselves – like one of music's biggest names taking on an entire religion.
Here are the 10 biggest rock feuds of 2021.
Gene Simmons vs. David Lee Roth
In early 2020, prior to live music’s shut down due to the pandemic, Kiss and David Lee Roth were touring together. When concerts resumed this year, the acts were no longer sharing the same bill. Never short for words, Gene Simmons explained that Roth would no longer be opening for Kiss, alluding to the singer’s depleted skills. “He was the ultimate frontman,” Simmons said of Roth. “And then, I don’t know what happened to him … something. And you get modern-day Dave. I prefer to remember Elvis Presley in his prime. Sneering lips, back in Memphis, you know, doing all that. I don’t want to think of bloated naked Elvis on the bathroom floor.” In response to these comments, Roth updated his Instagram account with 18 identical black-and-white images of a child wearing sunglasses and extending his middle finger, along with the caption “Roth to Simmons.” The Kiss bassist later “sincerely apologize[d]” for what he said, adding that he never meant to insult Roth.
Paul McCartney vs. Rolling Stones
Add this to the long standing Beatles versus Rolling Stones feud (which both sides insist doesn’t exist). During an October interview published by The New Yorker, Paul McCartney suggested that the Fab Four broke more musical ground than the Stones. “I’m not sure I should say it, but they’re a blues cover band, that’s sort of what the Stones are,” McCartney declared. “I think our net was cast a bit wider than theirs.” In response, Mick Jagger made a snide comment of his own during a sold out concert in Los Angeles. “There are so many celebrities here tonight,” he remarked on stage, then named a few. “And Paul McCartney is here; he’s going to help; he’s going to join us in a blues cover later on.”
Roger Daltrey vs. Rolling Stones
McCartney wasn’t the only one swinging at the Stones. The Who singer Roger Daltrey took a swipe of his own during a November interview with the Coda Collection. Though he initially referred to Stones singer Mick Jagger as “the No. 1 rock 'n' roll performer," things soon devolved from there. “As a band, if you were outside a pub and you heard that music coming out of a pub some night, you'd think, 'Well, that's a mediocre pub band!'" Daltrey argued, insinuating that the Rolling Stones weren’t worthy of their lofty place in rock history. Unlike the McCartney situation, Jagger and his bandmates opted not to respond.
Johnny Rotten vs. Sex Pistols
Dysfunction is par for the course with the Sex Pistols, but this year their internal feuding bubbled over into the courts. The main argument stemmed from Pistol, the upcoming limited-run TV series helmed by Academy Award winner Danny Boyle that chronicles the band’s history. Singer John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) blasted the project, calling it "the most disrespectful shit I've ever had to endure.” Part of his contempt seemingly stems from his lack of involvement, as Lydon claims that this film based on the book Lonely Boy: Tales From a Sex Pistol by guitarist Steve Jones is being made without his consent. In an agreement from 1998, members of the Sex Pistols said majority vote would determine band interests. While the others were all on board with the project, Lydon – who compared the band agreement to “slave labor” – refused to let Sex Pistols’ music be used on the show. The argument went to court, where Lydon was eventually defeated. Still, that didn’t stop him from waging a war of words. “This became Walt Disney money vs. me. Who do you think’s gonna win?” Lydon declared – alluding to FX, the Disney-owned network set to broadcast Pistol. “Money talks and Johnny Rotten takes a walk. It’s a strange, strange world we live in. The Sex Pistols have become the property of Mickey fucking Mouse.”
Elton John vs. the Catholic Church
When the Catholic Church confirmed its stance against same-sex unions – referring them as a sinful "choice” that God “cannot bless” – it stirred the ire of Elton John. The out and proud rock star noted that, despite the Vatican’s stance, the church had no problem underwriting his biopic. “How can the Vatican refuse to bless gay marriages because they 'are sin,’ yet happily make a profit from investing millions in Rocketman – a film which celebrates my finding happiness from my marriage to David?? #hypocrisy,” John wrote. The church invested more than a million dollars into the production of the R-rated picture, which featured scenes of gay sex – a move that would seemingly be at odds with its conservative views. The Vatican never gave an official response on the matter.
Roger Waters vs. David Gilmour
Stop us if you’ve heard this before, but the members of Pink Floyd haven’t been getting along. This year, a lot of the barbs between David Gilmour and Roger Waters centered on the long-delayed reissue of the band’s 1977 album Animals. Part of the wait is due to liner notes, which the band cannot agree on. In a post to his website, Waters alleged that Gilmour wants the "history to remain secret" regarding how much Waters contributed to Animals. "This is a small part of an ongoing campaign by [Gilmour and his wife Polly Samson] to claim more credit for Dave on the work he did in Pink Floyd, 1967-1985, than is his due.” Gilmour responded by saying there'd been a lot of “misinformation. I’m not keen on constantly responding to every bit of untruth that I hear about myself and what I’m doing." Needless to say, that Animals reissue remains “pretty unlikely.”
Iron Maiden-Loving Principal vs. School Parents
Parents at a Canadian public high school became outraged when the principal posted images on social media displaying her fandom for Iron Maiden, including the customary rock “devil horns” hand gesture and a handmade sign featuring the number 666. “We are deeply disturbed that the principal assigned to the school blatantly showed Satanic symbols and her allegiance to Satanic practices,” read part of an online petition calling for Sharon Burns to be removed from her position. As the story went viral, students rallied behind Burns, who they described as a “probably one of the best and most enthusiastic principals the school has ever had.” After hearing both sides of the argument, the school board opted not to discipline Burns, adding that “taste in music is subjective and we support that both students and staff enjoy a wide variety of genres.”
Lindsey Buckingham vs. Stevie Nicks
Three years after Lindsey Buckingham was summarily dismissed from Fleetwood Mac, things remain contentious. At one point, Buckingham sued his bandmates over his firing, but now insists he’s open to a reunion at some point. However, he’s also referred to the current Fleetwood Mac lineup as a “covers band,” and continues blaming Stevie Nicks for his ouster. “I think she saw the possibility of remaking the band more in the Stevie Nicks vein,” Buckingham told the Los Angeles Times in a September interview. “More mellow and kind of down, giving her more chances to do the kind of talking she does onstage.” Naturally, Nicks insists she had nothing to do with the lineup change. “To be exceedingly clear, I did not have him fired. I did not ask for him to be fired. I did not demand he be fired,” Nicks stated via publicist. “Frankly, I fired myself. I proactively removed myself from the band and a situation I considered to be toxic to my well-being. I was done. If the band went on without me, so be it. And after many lengthy group discussions, Fleetwood Mac, a band whose legacy is rooted in evolution and change, found a new path forward.”
Sammy Hagar vs. David Lee Roth
Sammy Hagar had some pointed words regarding David Lee Roth during an interview in June. He declared that Roth’s voice "hasn't aged well" and accused his predecessor of "pretending" with his "totally bullshit" stage persona. “The difference between him and I [is] I sincerely care,” Hagar continued. “What is important to me is enlightening and elevating people spiritually and making them happy and making them have big dreams, making them want to be better themselves. And my goal with everything I do is to bring that to people and change their life, if I can. I don't think [Roth] cares about anything like that. And that's the difference between our presence. He's very much into himself, very much into being a showman and doesn't really care. I don't know what he cares about, I really don't.”
Sebastian Bach vs. Skid Row
"When those guys [in Skid Row] try to say, 'He's difficult to work with,' let me just say this one more time: We have not been in the same room together since the year 1996,” Sebastian Bach said during a September interview. “Shut the eff up about you thinking you know what I'm like. You don't know anything about what I'm like.” Bach, who began fronting Skid Row in 1987, insisted he’d be open to a reunion but expressed frustration that his former bandmates remain unwilling. “The fact that we are all still alive and we are all in our 50s — some closer to 60 than others — but that, to me, is selfish that we're not together.”
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