From Feuds to Friends - Rivalry Week


By Timothy Dillon

Nirvana and Pearl Jam: Everyone expected them to hate each other, but in the end they became friends. How could this have happened?

Eddie Vedder. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Nirvana had been scraping by and swapping out drummers for three years when Pearl Jam came into the grunge scene. Could Seattle be big enough for these two titans of the American grunge movement? Some music rivalries last a lifetime and overshadow the accomplishments of either artist. Other rivalries evolve into friendships, and what is produced ranges from irony in its most hilarious sense, or something deeper we can all learn from.

Kurt Cobain initiated the feud by calling Pearl Jam “sellouts”, reasoning that Pearl Jam was pioneering “a corporate, alternative and cock-rock fusion.” Without the ability to foresee Cobain’s inevitable suicide, it seemed as though this rivalry would last the bands’ lifetimes. However, there was a shift in thinking; Pearl Jam didn’t swing back, and Cobain was won over by the quality of the band members. In the rock doc Pearl Jam 20, there’s a scene where Cobain and Vedder are hugging and singing together back stage before a Pearl Jam show. It’s touching.

It is speculative at best to say Nirvana would have held it together had Cobain not taken his life, but at the very least, the bond between Nirvana and Pearl Jam had been reestablished before the tragedy occurred. After Cobain’s death Pearl Jam would go on to become extremely successful, but Vedder made sure to carry Cobain’s torch in being proactive about not selling out. In 1994 Pearl Jam took on Ticketmaster for issuing surcharges on ticket prices to fans, and the band suffered the consequences by having a major down year in ticket sales.

Another feud that was famously caught on film for a rock doc was between the Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhols. The controversial documentary Dig! depicts the feuding relationship of BJM lead Anton Newcombe and Warhols’ Courtney Taylor. Besides the film being a 100-minute long romp of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, the film was also generally rejected by all those involved. However, the legend of the feud was something along these lines: BJM hated the initial successes of The Dandy Warhols and was offended by the accessibility of their music versus their own. In response, The Dandy Warhols consistently pointed to Newcombe’s ego as the band’s own worst enemy.

As it turns out, much of the conflict is a farce. The film, which is a little under an hour and a half, pales in comparison to the stock footage obtained to make the film: 1,998 hours of footage. Regardless of whether or not there was a feud, the film certainly brought the two bands closer than they were before.

The feuds we have seen so far have to do with musicians feuding over their respective work and that work’s worth. However, not all feuds start in this fashion. Sometimes it’s just a good old-fashioned love triangle. Taking Back Sunday was founded by Eddie Reyes and soon after brought in Jesse Lacey and John Nolan. Shortly into recording their first EP, Jesse Lacey left Taking Back Sunday and went on to create Brand New. This departure was the direct result of Nolan cheating with Lacey’s then girlfriend. As to what actually took place, and there is ample room for error when these things come out of the rumor mill, but Lacey felt as though he could no longer make music by Nolan’s side.

They went their separate ways. So they left it at that, right? Wrong. Lacey produced and recorded “Seventy Times 7” a song that actually features part of the phone conversation in which Nolan told Lacey about his transgressions. Let us remember, these are emo bands clashing, of course they were going to sing about their problems. Taking Back Sunday soon after wrote a song as a rebuttal to Brand New’s finger wagging called “There’s No I in Team.” This song also features the same line from the original conversation, but it is left with a glimmer of hope that they can move on from these past dramas.

What could have been a simple conversation between old friends was instead made into a gossip item for fans of the bands. Was this some elaborate marketing ploy? Or perhaps Lacey’s ex knew that driving them apart would be best for each other as musicians. And maybe pigs can fly. This mini drama finally tapered out and both bands inevitably went on tour together. When it came time to perform either “Seventy Time 7” or “There’s No I in Team” the bands would switch out frontmen, and perform it on the other’s behalf, showing that the two had truly buried the hatchet.

“Seventy Time 7” with Nolan:

“There’s No I in Team” with Lacey: