Family Affair – 12 Nepotastic bands
Updated: Oct 18, 2021
Is nepotastic a word? It is now!
I am an only child (or "spoilt only child" as my oldest friends will insist on reminding me). If I had siblings, I certainly couldn’t imagine working with them. And I adored my parents, but we would have driven each other insane if we have worked alongside each other.
But, with varying degrees, it seems to work for some groups, though there are plenty where it clearly doesn’t as well. Here are 12 standouts…
1. Crowded House
Neil Finn’s music career is fast becoming part of a musical dynasty – you can’t help but feel that any grandkids he has will have a musical instrument shoved in their hands before they can walk and be out on tour before kindergarten.
Neil’s own career started as a late addition to his big brother’s band, Split Enz. When Split Enz split (I am sure there’s a joke there), he formed Crowded House. Brother Tim joined for their biggest album, Woodface, but then headed off on his own path.
But soon Neil and Tim were back together as Finn, and later The Finn Brothers. Neil took a sabbatical from Crowded House and toured solo, but his touring guitar player was his teenage son Liam. He later formed the Pajama Club with his wife Sharon.
The latest version of Crowded House includes sons Liam and Elroy. Keeping it in the family, big style!
From one band where this works well, to another where it worked for a while, but was clearly unsustainable…The Gallagher brothers’ ongoing feud is well documented - how they survived 16 years in a band together is unimaginable.
Noel on Liam: “Liam is… rude, arrogant, intimidating and lazy. He's the angriest man you'll ever meet. He's like a man with a fork in a world of soup.”
Liam on Noel: “I like Noel outside the band. Human Noel – that’s my brother – I fucking adore him, and I’d do anything for him. But the geezer that’s in this fucking business, he’s one of the biggest cocks in the universe.”
3. The Black Crowes
Chris and Rich Robinson are brothers and now back together on their third reunion (yes, third - the pensions really must need topping up). The band were legendarily volatile and prone to fighting each other over rights and money. Not very rock and roll…
4. The Staple Singers
Pops Staples led a band consisting of his children Cleotha, Pervis and Mavis, with Yvonne subbing for her brother when he was drafted into the US Army. With an illustrious career that lasted 46 years, their legacy includes such classics as Respect Yourself, I’ll Take You There and If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me). Plus, they were a big part of the civil rights movement.
Sadly, all bar Mavis have passed away. But Mavis is still making albums, working with Jeff Tweedy from Wilco, M Ward and Ben Harper. Mavis is still touring at 82 and is a complete legend, carrying the family torch still.
And Mavis once turned down a marriage proposal from Bob Dylan. Awesome.
Everyone focuses on Michael Hutchence (and I do get that, he was an incredibly cool guy). But the band was driven by John, Tim and Andrew Farriss. Indeed, the band was originally called The Farriss Brothers. Good name change though, inspired by XTC.
6. The Beach Boys
Brothers Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson were joined by their cousin Mike Love and friend Al Jardine to form The Beach Boys. Brian led the band, his genius coming at the cost of his mental health on several occasions.
Producer Jack Good once told them, 'You sing like eunuchs in a Sistine Chapel”, which Brian felt was a compliment. I'll stick with being tone deaf and sounding like a cat, myself...
7. The Jackson 5, later The Jacksons
Jermaine, Jackie, Toto, Marlon and Michael (with Randy at various times) and managed by father Joe. Their success was steered by their strict disciplinarian father, who Michael alleged whipped them. The other brothers have denied Joe was abusive, but Joe himself admitted whipping them, feeling this was commonplace at the time. There is something uncomfortable listening to their music (which was truly brilliant at times), knowing this oppressive, bullying patriarch was benefitting from their success.
8. Spandau Ballet
The Kemp brothers were two fifths of the new romantic ground breakers. Their acting careers took off together as The Krays and they stayed loyal to each other when the other members of Spandau sued Gary for part of the song writing royalties (and lost).
Gary now tours with Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets and hosts the marvellous Rockonteurs podcast. Meanwhile Martin remains one of the most attractive men I have ever seen. Wowser. They recently spoken together on Rockonteurs and clearly remain think as thieves, which is a lovely thing.
9. The Bee Gees
Barry, Robin and Maurice – tight brothers, tight harmonies and presumably tight trousers to achieve those disco falsettos…
10. The Kinks
The Oasis of their day, Ray and Dave Davies started fighting as small children and never really stopped – and they still haven’t, though the fisticuffs have relented over the years - mainly due to age. Such a shame.
The rock legends were formed by brothers Malcolm and Angus, and produced by older brother George, who was a member of The Easybeats, Australia’s equivalent of The Beatles in their early days. When sadly Malcom had to retire due to dementia, he was replaced by his nephew Stevie. Underneath all the schoolboy adolescent rock music, is a loving, dedicated family.
Sparks are brothers Russell and Ron Mael. That’s not how John Lennon saw it when they appeared on Top Of The Pops in 1974. Startled, he rang Ringo Starr, shouting “You won’t believe what’s on television - Marc Bolan is playing a song with Adolf Hitler”. Their rather idiosyncratic appearance hasn’t really changed in 50 years…