The Most Infamous Love Triangles in Rock History
GEORGE HARRISON, PATTIE BOYD, ERIC CLAPTON
George Harrison first met 19-year-old model Pattie Boyd in 1964 on the set of the Beatles' first film, A Hard Day's Night. He was instantly smitten, and the pair were married less than two years later. Though reasonably happy throughout the '60s—Harrison wrote the classic track "Something" in her honor—their marriage began to deteriorate by the end of the decade, around the same time he became close friends with fellow guitar god Eric Clapton.
Clapton also fell in love with Boyd, ultimately confessing his feelings to the couple. She initially refused his advances, sending him spiraling into a drug-fueled depression. Amid the haze of his growing addiction to heroin and alcohol, he penned the tracks that would become his opus, 1970's Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. The album's title track directly addresses the unrequited love in its lyrics: "I tried to give you consolation / When your old man had let you down / Like a fool, I fell in love with you / Turned my whole world upside down."
Several years later, Boyd left Harrison for good, and she and Clapton began living together in 1974. "Eric was very attractive and persuasive," she later said. "George and I had many problems in our relationship that had a great deal to do with the enormity of his fame and his increasing passion for meditation and the spiritual life. He frequently simply wasn’t there for me, and there were other women.” Clapton immortalized her in song yet again, penning the gentle "Wonderful Tonight" for her.
The former Beatle bore no ill-will towards his friend, jokingly referring to him as his "husband-in-law." Harrison even attended the pair's 1979 wedding. "I’d rather she be with him than some dope," he told Rolling Stone at the time. Sadly, their union didn't last and they divorced in 1988.
BRIAN JONES, ANITA PALLENBERG, KEITH RICHARDS
Anita Pallenberg first crossed paths with the Rolling Stones in 1965, when she snuck into one of the band’s concerts in Munich, Germany. The exquisitely beautiful 21-year-old model was able to talk her way backstage, where she hit it off with Jones, the enigmatic rhythm guitarist and founder of the group. At their first meeting he apparently told her, “I don’t know who you are, but I need you.”
Pallenberg and Jones quickly became an item. Or, as she later recalled, “I decided to kidnap Brian. Brian seemed sexually the most flexible.” By 1967 they were one of the hottest couples in London, but their drug use took a toll on the relationship. Jones was prone to jealous rages that often turned violent. “He was short but very strong and his assaults were terrible,” she later said. “For days afterwards, I’d have lumps and bruises all over me. In his tantrums he would throw things at me, whatever he could pick up—lamps, clocks, chairs, a plate of food—then when the storm inside him died down he’d feel guilty and beg me to forgive him.” At one point he punched her face with such force that it broke his own hand.
It was during this emotional maelstrom that Jones' bandmate Keith Richards moved into the South Kensington home he shared with Pallenberg. Richards also found himself drawn to the enigmatic model’s worldly nature. “She knew everything and she could say it in five languages,” he once marveled. “She scared the pants off me!”
That March, the threesome decided to make a trip to Morocco, where Jones had previously fallen in love with the music, food and laid back lifestyle. Unfortunately, on this trip, Richards fell in love Pallenberg. “We went by car, a Bentley with a driver, and Brian got sick and ended up in the hospital,” she remembered. “He had asthma. He was very sickly, fragile. So Keith and I drove on and left him there, and that was when we had a physical relationship.” Richards says the affair began in the backseat of his luxury car as it cruised through southern Europe. “I still remember the smell of the orange trees in Valencia. When you get laid with Anita Pallenberg for the first time, you remember things.”
Pallenberg split with Jones for good soon after, straining relations within the band. Jones, alienated from Richards and lead singer Mick Jagger, sought solace in drugs and alcohol, wreaking havoc on his health. By the following year he was a shadow of his former self, abdicating his role as a co-creator in the Rolling Stones. In the summer of 1969 he was found dead in the swimming pool of his East Sussex estate, a farm formerly owned by Winnie-the-Pooh author A. A. Milne.
Pallenberg and Richards had three children together: son Marlon Leon Sundeep in August 1969, daughter Dandelion Angela in April 1972, and son Tara Jo Jo Gunne in March 1976. Tragically, their youngest child died of SIDS at just 10 weeks old.
The romance between them had cooled by the dawn of the ‘80s, but their friendship remained warm for the rest of her life. “She’s still one of my best friends,” Richards told Rolling Stone in 2010. “We’ve been through the mill. And she admits she could be Vampirella when she wanted. It was tough. At the same time, there is an underlying love that goes beyond all of that other stuff. I can say, ‘I love you, I just won’t live with you.’” She died in June 2017.
LINDSEY BUCKINGHAM, STEVIE NICKS, MICK FLEETWOOD
Fleetwood Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood invited a talented young guitarist named Lindsey Buckingham to join the band in late 1974. But Buckingham had one stipulation: his longtime girlfriend and musical collaborator, Stevie Nicks, had to come too. The new partnership was certainly a commercial triumph, leading to the smash success of their 1975 self-titled album, but the personal relationships within the band began to crumble. Buckingham and Nicks split up by 1976, as did bassist John McVie and his wife, keyboardist Christine McVie. Fleetwood had it comparitively easy by not being romantically entwined with anyone in the band, but his own marriage to Jenny Boyd (sister of Pattie, another entry on this list) was foundering.
In the midst of this personal turmoil—and a blizzard of cocaine—Fleetwood Mac recorded their 1977 blockbuster, Rumours. The thinly disguised references to their romantic tribulations turned the album into something of a musical soap opera, and it became one of the highest selling records of the decade. As the band hit the road to promote Rumours, Fleetwood and Nicks began a furtive affair. "Never in a million years could you have told me that would happen," Nicks later told Uncut magazine. "Everybody was angry, because Mick was married to a wonderful girl and had two wonderful children. I was horrified. I loved these people. I loved his family. So it couldn't possibly work out. And it didn't. I just couldn't." Inevitably, their romance was doomed from the start. Fearing that it "would have been the end of Fleetwood Mac" if they continued, the pair agreed to stop seeing each other. Fleetwood eventually began a relationship with Nicks' best friend, Sara Recor, whom he married in 1988.
DAVID CROSBY, JONI MITCHELL, GRAHAM NASH
Perhaps the least dramatic love triangle on this list belongs to these icons of the late '60s singer/songwriter scene. David Crosby first encountered the Canadian chanteuse in a Florida coffee house not long after he was forced out of his group, the Byrds, in the summer of 1967. “She was standing there singing all those songs: ‘Michael From Mountains,' ‘Both Sides Now,' and I was just floored. I couldn’t believe that there was anybody that good,” he later remembered. Enchanted by her voice, Crosby persuaded Mitchell to accompany him back to his native Los Angeles, where he introduced her to his record industry contacts—including future mogul David Geffen—and helped secure her a record contract. Crosby even acted as producer on her 1968 debut, Song to a Seagull.
Crosby's attraction to Mitchell was more than just musical, and he soon fell in love with the beautiful and supremely talented singer. They spent a spell living together after she moved out to California, and his ballad “Guinnevere" was partially inspired by her ("It might be my best song," he told Rolling Stone in 2008). “It was very easy to love her, but turbulent," he remembered. "Loving Joni is a little like falling into a cement mixer.” According to Mitchell herself, they were "never an item," apart from a short affair soon after meeting in Florida.
Though the memories differ, it's widely agreed that Crosby first sang with his future bandmates Stephen Stills and Graham Nash while visiting Mitchell's Laurel Canyon home in late 1968. Nash had met Mitchell the previous year when his band, the Hollies, were playing a show. Like Crosby before him, Nash was smitten. “She was the whole package,” he would later write in his memoir, “a lovely, sylphlike woman with a natural blush …and an elusive quality that seemed lit from within.” After leaving the Hollies, Nash accepted Mitchell's invitation to live with her in the small cottage on leafy Lookout Mountain Avenue. He would later write the song "Our House" about his time there, aglow with love and domestic bliss. She would counter with the song "Willy," her nickname for Nash.
Their relationship coalesced around the same time as the burgeoning supergroup, Crosby, Stills and Nash. Despite the emotional complications, Nash insisted that Crosby bore him no ill will for dating Mitchell. "They were lovers," Nash later said, "[But] it was nothing to me and David that I would go live with Joan. It was all right all the way around."
Ultimately, his musical partnership with Crosby would last longer than his romance with Mitchell. They split around the time she released her 1971 album, Blue. Widely hailed as her masterpiece, Nash finds listening to it "difficult for me personally. It brings back many memories and saddens me greatly. It is, by far, my most favorite solo album, and the thought that I spent much time with this fine woman and genius of a writer is incredible to me. I watched her write some of those songs and I believe that one or two of them were about me, but who really knows?”
TODD RUNDGREN, BEBE BUELL, STEVEN TYLER
Model Bebe Buell served as a muse to a number of iconic musicians in the '70s, including Mick Jagger, Jimmy Page, David Bowie and Iggy Pop. But her longterm, hot-and-cold relationship with rock-pop wizard Todd Rundgren was disrupted by an affair with Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler in the middle of the decade. She unexpectedly became pregnant with Tyler's baby, Liv, who was born in July 1977. Due to Tyler's extensive drug use, Buell claimed that the child was actually Rundgren's. Even after they parted ways in 1979, Rundgren carefully maintained the "white lie" that he was Liv's father.
When Liv was 8 years old, she met Tyler and noticed a strong physical resemblance between herself and his daughter, Mia. She mentioned this to Buell, who finally revealed the truth about her biological father. After changing her name to Liv Tyler, father and daughter began to forge a relationship. In 1993, she appeared In her father's music video for "Crazy" along with Alicia Silverstone.
JOEY RAMONE, LINDA DANIELE, JOHNNY RAMONE
Linda Daniele originally dated Ramones frontman Joey Ramone, but things got messy when she entered into a relationship with his bandmate, Johnny Ramone. Some say that Daniele and Joey had already split by the time she became close to Johnny, but Joey took offense to the union—and apparently wasn't shy about expressing himself. The two Ramones came to blows, with Johnny reportedly beating Joey so badly that he required surgery to treat a blood clot in his head. The band ultimately carried on, though relations between the two would remain strained. The unpleasant incident inspired the song "She's a Sensation." Johnny and Daniele married in 1984, and they stayed together until he died of prostate cancer in September 2004.
TOMMY LEE, PAMELA ANDERSON, KID ROCK
Baywatch star Pamela Anderson married Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee in 1995, reportedly after knowing him for just 96 hours. They had two sons together, Brandon Thomas and Dylan Jagger, before divorcing in 1998. She eventually entered into an on-off relationship with Kid Rock, and the pair announced plans to marry in April 2002. They split before they could make it to the altar, but shocked fans in 2006 when they rekindled their relationship and tied the knot that July. According to rumors, the surprise nuptials were the result of Anderson's pregnancy. Tragically, she suffered a miscarriage that November while shooting the film Blonde and Blonder. Seventeen days later she filed for divorce from Rock, citing irreconcilable differences.
Anderson revealed that she and Lee occasionally hooked up after their divorce, but relations between Lee and Rock were significantly less warm. According to Rock, Lee began sending him taunting emails while in the midst of his divorce.
When Anderson's exes crossed paths at the 2007 VMAs, a fight erupted and Rock was cited by the Las Vegas police. “This was unavoidable," Rock said on a Los Angeles radio program at the time. "I had to do what I had to do because this was a long time coming. You know, I came back from the bathroom and he was sitting right there. It was even more disrespectful after everything he’s said, I was like that’s enough, that’s it.”
Lee recounted his encounter with Rock at the VMAs on his website. “Here I am minding my own biz [when] I get a tap on the shoulder from Kid Pebble," he wrote. "I stand up and embrace him with a semi hug and say 'Hey dude … What up'?? He punches me in the face … well if ya wanna call it that!? … more like a bitch slap! … Wuss!! i go to knock this jealous no career havin country bumpkin the f— OUT … and before I can have a meeting with my fist and his ugly ass mug … security guards … NOT MINE at the Palms grab me and haul my ass outta the award show threatening me that if I move they’ll break my arm … yeah whatever!!”
Anderson was not exactly impressed by the scuffle. "As soon as I left, meow!" she said during an apperaance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show soon after. "They all went after each other."
THE MAMAS AND THE PAPAS
The '60s psych pop foursome behind hits like "Monday, Monday" and "California Dreaming" formed more of a love square rather than a triangle. The trouble began in late 1965, when the quartet's tenor, Denny Doherty, began sleeping with bandmate (and former model) Michelle Phillips, who was then married to the group's guitarist and primary songwriter, John Phillips. When John learned of his wife's affair, he wrote the band's next single, "I Saw Her Again," about the episode. Though unclear if the move was intended to be sadistic, he tapped Doherty to sing lead—and even asked him for writing input.
John's wrath against his wife was less subtle. After he learned that Michelle also had a fling with Gene Clark of the Byrds, he fired her from the Mamas and the Papas in June 1966. Jill Gibson, a girlfriend of the band's producer, Lou Adler, was brought in as a brief replacement, but Michelle's "Mama" status was reinstated two months later due to fan demand.
Matters were complicated by fellow member Cass Elliot's unrequited love for Doherty. Her feelings were an open-secret in the group, and when news of the affair with Michelle became known, she understandably took it poorly. Michelle later recalled: "Cass confronted me and said, 'I don't get it. You could have any man you want. Why would you take mine?'" The volatile combination of emotions took its toll on the group, and they officially split in 1969. The Phillips' marriage ended not long after.