STUDY the covers of the early Beach Boys albums and the word that comes to mind is ‘wholesome’. The band members (pictured) look so upbeat and carefree, and the music itself – all sunshine, surfing, cars and girls – was irresistible, and hugely successful.

It’s well-known, however, that the group eventually succumbed to a quite astonishing catalogue of feuds and rivalries. “They were the boys next door, boys you would be proud to introduce to your daughter, which is something you would hesitate to do if he were a Rolling Stone”, says author Ken McNab. “But if you delve beneath the sediment of time and history, the rancour and the hostility is really second to none.

“There is hostility, there are lawsuits and restraining orders and family envy and betrayals. Remember that the Wilson brothers – Brian, Carl and Dennis – were cousins with Mike Love, the main singer in the band. There are intra-band relationships that almost border on incest. It’s unbelievable how the whole Beach Boys story just cascades into one scandal after another.

“It’s still going on after all these years. There’s a Brian Wilson version of the band, a Mike Love version, an Al Jardine version. It’s almost Shakespearean, almost King Lear”.

So striking is the story, in fact, that McNab, a Glasgow author and former journalist, opens his latest book with it. You Started It chronicles in vivid detail some of the most damaging feuds that have studded rock and pop groups: the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Oasis, The Supremes. Other chapters focus on Guns‘n’ Roses, Simon and Garfunkel, the Stones’ Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, The Police, The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Cream, and the rappers Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls.

In recounting these splits, arguments and lawsuits, McNab has obtained fresh insights from friends and allies of each group.

The causes of internal friction are many. Frequently, it is down to money and the dividing of royalties. “Money is at the heart of some of the feuds because the songwriter quite rightly trousers most of the proceeds”, says McNab. Envy and money can be a potent mix; an archetypal case, he writes, is when “it dawns on the singer that his beach house in the French Riviera isn’t as grand as that of the lead guitarist”. The band’s accountant can thus expect a belligerent phone call. And so it begins.

Other common causes range from the songs simply drying up, to a band being fleeced by a greedy manager. Musicians can become burnt-out by drugs and/or constant touring. Sometimes it just comes down to personal animosity. In many cases, however, the bands chronicled in the book survived their bitterness to make further music and embark on lucrative tours. A case in point are the Eagles.

Last summer, as they entertained a huge crowd at Murrayfield, it was interesting, even as you enjoyed the classic songs and the harmonies, to view them through the prism of the history of their astonishing fall-outs. There was, for instance, an ugly incident between Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey and guitarist Don Felder that soured a fundraising concert for US senator Alan Cranston in July 1980. Felder walked out. The band went into a long hiatus after that, only reforming for the Hell Freezes Over tour in 1994, with Felder back in the fold.

The Herald: The Eagles, 1976: From left: Don Henley, Joe Walsh, Don Felder, Glenn Frey and Randy MeisnerThe Eagles, 1976: From left: Don Henley, Joe Walsh, Don Felder, Glenn Frey and Randy Meisner (Image: Platt Collection/Getty Images)

Frey died in January 2016, aged 67; Felder, for his part, had continued with the band until 2001, when his dismissal led to a series of expensive lawsuits. At Murrayfield, the surviving Eagles, led by the other co-founder, Don Henley, played all of their best-known songs – including Hotel California, the anthemic title song of their stunningly successful 1976 album.

The song had its beginnings in a guitar demo conceived by Felder. “It’s an honour and unexpected surprise to have been part of writing, producing and playing on a record that has had such global success,” he remarked last year.

McNab thinks there might be a link between such creativity and internal strife. “There are all these centrifugal forces that pull in different directions. At the heart of it all there’s this creative tension that often leads to great work, and I think you can see that in most bands throughout history, when some of their best efforts coincide with their moments of deepest strife.

“Certainly, you can reference that to the Beatles, and to Pink Floyd. Take their 1979 album The Wall, when relationships between David Gilmour and Roger Waters, were at Defcon 1. They were so embittered that even working in the studio was difficult.

The Herald: Dave Gilmour, Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Rick Wright of Pink Floyd at the Live 8 Concert in Hyde Park in 2005 - their final appearance as a quartetDave Gilmour, Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Rick Wright of Pink Floyd at the Live 8 Concert in Hyde Park in 2005 - their final appearance as a quartet (Image: Yui Mok/PA Wire)

“Somehow, though, they managed to overcome their differences to produce quality songs. But what often happens when bands reach that moment is that some members can’t bear to be in the same room as someone else. And that makes life difficult for the other band members and for the producers and engineers. They’re innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire”.

As an example he cites Hugh Padgham, one of the most successful music producers in contemporary rock and pop. Tensions were running high amongst the three members of The Police – Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland – as they recorded their Synchronicity album, and Padgham “was only too aware of the time-bomb constantly ticking, especially between Sting and Copeland, and the Kissinger-like qualities required to keep everyone happy.

“So yes, bands can produce some great and enduring music despite friction, but the individual battles can make it very difficult for that work to be achieved.

“You can see this in Jagger and Richards in the Stones, or in Pink Floyd or the Eagles. What you often have is a democracy of two. Their voices carry the most weight. Frey and Henley were quite open about this. They called the tune. If you didn’t abide by their rules – and, most importantly, their creative vision for the music – you shouldn’t be in the band, because it’s not a classic democracy. The alpha ones are often the dominant ones by sheer force of their personality”.

McNab says he loves all of the acts he writes about in You Started It: “All of them have left an indelible footprint on the music landscape. When it comes to the dominant forces in each, although their personalities were a source of friction it’s those personalities and their vision that carried them through, and forged a body of work that will last forever”.

The book touches on Fleetwood Mac’s massively successful album, Rumours, which was released in 1977. It documents two couples breaking up; Lindsay Buckingham’s relationship with singer Stevie Nicks had hit rock-bottom, while the marriage between Christine McVie (who died a few weeks ago, aged 79) and John McVie had crumbled. “Rumours is almost like marriage counselling set to music”, says McNab. “There was no way back, however, but what you are left with is one of the great albums of all time. It’s another example of creative tension”.

Reading the book, you have to marvel sometimes at the fact that the groups made so much compelling music. But make it they did, and frequently with considerable success.

You Started It: Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Most Notorious and Enduring Feuds (Backbeat Books, £18.99)