Ugliest rock n roll legal battles

The just announced Lindsay Buckingham v Fleetwood Mac one seems to be a top contender especially since it involves musicians in their 70s and it’s possible this iconic bands final stand could end under the cloud of brutal legal contention:

Off the top of my head, there are the Ozzy v Black Sabbath battles, McCarthy v the Beatles, and I can only imagine what Yes has been through. Credence Clearwater Revival is a band unable to reunite even 50 years later due to legal issues.

But what are the ugliest legal battles? Even better to me are the ones that haunt bands like Mac and I guess you could say CCR that should be making that one last tour but can’t without lawyers being involved?
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Queensryche had quite the nasty breakup with Geoff Tate, so much so that they both released albums under the Queensryche name at the same time.

Tate’s band is no longer allowed to tour as Queensryche, but he retains exclusive rights to Operation:Mindcrime in its entirety while his former band mates are only allowed to play selections from the 2 albums under the condition that they are not played as part of a stage show dedicated to the albums. In other words, they can play Eyes Of A Stranger but they can’t play the entire album with the accompanying show that was developed as part of the album concept.

Lots of technicalities, animosity, and silliness. It’s quite a mess.

A couple that come to mind.

John Cougar made no money off his eponymous first several albums due to an exploitative deal and only saw a profit after much legal negotiation for future songs as John Melloncamp, his birth name.

Another is when Prince and Warner Records were feuding, Prince proceeded to release albums under a new label even though Warner owned the name ‘Prince’. So he cleverly avoided the issue by temporarily adopting an unpronouncable symbol. That way he left it to the public to rebadge himself with variations of his original name without being in violation of his existing contract.

Roger Waters announced to the world that Pink Floyd was retiring. This came as a surprise to his bandmates, who continued on and produced A Momentary Lapse of Reason. Waters sued, claiming without him there can’t be a Pink Floyd band. The remaining members and ultimately the courts said Waters was full of shit, and more Pink Floyd albums were produced sans Waters.

There was a similar legal battle between David Byrne and the other members of the Talking Heads when he left that band. The case was settled out of court but Byrne won to the extent that the band had to change its name to the Heads.

Wasn’t Steely angry at Dan for a number of years?

This one isn’t really ugly*, but it’s a good example of how messed up the music biz can be.

Wilco had recorded their landmark “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” album and was prepared to release it in the fall of 2001 when the head of their label (Reprise Records) was let go in a purge of executives following the AOL Time Warner merger. The label then decided to drop Wilco, and as part of the buyout negotiations they allowed Wilco to retain the rights to the album. The band spent several months shopping for a new label and eventually landed a deal with Nonesuch Records, which was another Warner subsidiary. So in a sense, Warner wound up paying for the album twice.
*Although there was some ugly stuff going on in the band at the time, but mostly just resulted in band members getting booted. Check out the documentary “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” which follows the making of the album and the subsequent legal hassles.

After Carl Wilson passed, Mike Love battled with Al Jardine over the use of “Beach Boys” in the names of their respective bands and their tours. As a result of this and other suits with other musicians/bands, Chris Hillman, Roger McGuinn, and David Crosby came to an agreement that the word “Byrds” could only be used in projects that included ALL THREE of them.

Well, there’s the Deep Purple lawsuit. The band split up in the 1970s, but in 1980 a shady management company approached the original lead singer, Rod Evans, to put together a Deep Purple reunion tour. As it turned out, Evans was the only former of member to participate. When the other original bandmates caught wind of this, they sued Evans. Evans was forced to pay $670,000 (almost $2M in today’s money) and to permanently waive his royalties from the band’s first three albums.

Following the judgment, Evans completely disappeared from public life—he hasn’t given so much as an interview since 1980, and didn’t even attend his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016. Nobody seems to know what happened to him or where he is, though there are rumours that he entered the medical profession, working as a nurse, technician, or therapist at a hospital in Los Angeles.


My understanding is that the problem with a reunion is that John Fogerty is an asshole.

The Band. Robbie Robertson was roundly hated by the other members. Seems like there was a legal fight over the royalties (?) between Levon Helm and Robertson.

Hell, this isn’t even close to the ugliest legal battle Fleetwood Mac has had. Back in 1974 their manager sent out a fake band under their name. Mick Fleetwood and John McVie had to sue (and spend a year sidelined) just to win back the rights to their own names!

Perhaps, but Fogarty also faced a lawsuit where the record company sued him because he sounded too much like himself.

Not as well known as any of those artists, but in the late 90’s/early 2000’s there was a rising artist named Poe, who had a string of minor hits across two albums, then suddenly disappeared. The disappearance was apparently due to the following series of events, almost none of which had anything to do with her personally:

That reminds me of George Harrison’s legal troubles. Harrison got sued because his hit “My Sweet Lord” sounded too much like the Chiffons’ hit “He’s So Fine”. The judge found that Harrison had not intentionally plagiarized the song, but ordered him to pay damages anyway. The experience was reportedly very traumatic for Harrison. But eventually at least he was able to poke some fun at the fiasco with the song and music video “This Song”.

Oh, is that what happened to her? I liked her single “Angry Johnny” and always wondered why I never heard anything after her first album.

By the way, you quoted an awful lot of text there without attribution, which isn’t really fair to the original authors. It looks like most or all of it comes from an old version of her Wikipedia article.

Right; the primary legal issue around CCR had been that Saul Zaentz (who owned Fantasy Records, which held the rights to CCR’s music) was as much of an asshole as John Fogerty was / is, leading to many years of legal wrangling between Zaentz and CCR. Zaentz no longer is involved with the CCR rights, and the new owners of Fantasy turned rights back over to Fogerty, so it sounds like that end of the saga is finally over.

However, it also sounds like there’ve been lawsuits between John Fogerty and the other two surviving members of the band (Stu Cook and Doug Clifford; Tom Fogerty died in 1990), especially when the two of them began to tour under the “Credence Clearwater Revisited” name. There’s been, literally, decades of bad blood between John Fogerty and Cook / Clifford, and if anything’s preventing a CCR reunion, I suspect that that’d be the primary reason.

Well, that and the fact that John hasn’t the slightest interest in any sort of reunion in the first place.

As far as “ugly” goes, it’s kinda hard to beat the CCR feud. Some real petty, personal grudge shit there.

He refuses to ever play with Doug and Stu ever again, for any reason.

So that’s what happened to her. I’ve got Hello, and think its a pretty good album. She did seem kinda weird and dependent on her brother for stage fright. I figured that’s why she vanished.

Most of it seems to be on Fogerty’s end. I’ve met Clifford, and he doesn’t seem to have an unkind word to say against anybody. I could be wrong, however.

“Hey Pretty” from her second album (the one involved in the mergers and non-promotion as it being released) was an alternative hit and broke into the Adult Top 40.