With shelter in place, stay at home being the norm now for what seems to be a decade, people are sharing memes like Syd Barrett: Social Distancing Champ 1972-2006. Syd Barrett wasn’t the only rock star who went into hiding. Fame comes with perks: money, love and recognition from fans, and special treatment in bars and restaurants.
However, there are many downsides: your life may never be normal again, people will scrutinise and be curious about your personal life, you’ll get body shamed, people might use you as a stepping stone or for your money, and sometimes you don’t want to deal with fans asking for selfies and autographs. I don’t blame celebrities who go into hiding. Fame isn’t good for mental health.
I love mysteries and stories about mysterious people and there are times I wonder why did that celebrity hide? What is life like for them? Are they happy? These are questions we’ll never know the answers to. All I hope is that these rock stars are happy or lived happy lives, in the case of those who are no longer with us.
In this blog post, we’ll talk about rock stars who went into hiding either temporarily or indefinitely. There’s a good mix of stories here. Out of respect for the reclusive rock stars, I won’t be sharing any photos or videos of them since they went into hiding. They’re out there, you can find them online yourself.
Agnetha Faltskog: On hiatus for 17 years, rarely appears in public
When did she go into hiding? Agnetha was a member of ABBA, the pretty blonde one, if you’re not sure who I’m talking about. In 1988, she went on hiatus from recording and didn’t release a new album until 2004, called My Colouring Book. During this time, she didn’t do anything music related.
Even after that album’s release, she refused to be involved in any extensive promotion: no album signings, no meet and greets, no tours. Very little is known about her private life and if anything major happens in her life, people don’t know for a long time.
Has she appeared in public? She makes very few public promotional appearances: Appearing at the opening of Mamma Mia! with her ABBA bandmates in 2005, appearing at the film premiere for Mamma Mia! in 2008, attending the Rockbjörnen Awards in 2009 to receive a lifetime honourary award for ABBA, opening of Mamma Mia! in Denmark in 2010, singing on stage for the first time in 25 years at BBC Children in Need Rocks 2013, and appearing at Stockholm Pride in 2013.
She did one exclusive interview with a Swedish TV station in 2004. Five years later, she was interviewed for the opening of ABBA World.
What did she do while in hiding? Agnetha focused on astrology, yoga, and horseback riding and lives in a small town in Sweden.
She has a fear of flying, which worsened when ABBA toured the US in 1979, when the plane was en route to Boston, it ran out of fuel and hit a tornado, meaning it had to make an emergency landing. Luckily everyone survived, but she says that she still has to go to therapy decades later to deal with her phobia.
That’s not her only phobia though, she also has suffered from performance anxiety, agoraphobia, and fear of heights. Given all of this, it makes sense that she doesn’t tour and why she’s reclusive.
Axl Rose: Went reclusive in the mid-90s, toured in the 2000s and 2010s
When did he go into hiding? Guns N’ Roses were one of the biggest rock bands of the late 80s and early 90s and Axl Rose’s last public appearance was on 20 January 1994 at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to induct Elton John. Then, he disappeared from the public. By the end of the decade, his appearance changed drastically: he gained weight, grew a beard, and cut his hair shorter.
Has he appeared in public? Guns N’ Roses started playing concerts again in 2001, but cancelled most of them and only played 4 dates that year. A bunch of dates were cancelled in 2002 as well.
In 2016, he, Slash, and Duff reunited for the Not In This Lifetime… Tour. It was a huge success, the third highest grossing tour ever (only behind Ed Sheeran and U2), and the first time they all played together since the 1993 Use Your Illusion Tour.
That same year, he became AC/DC’s lead singer, replacing Brian Johnson, who was told to stop touring immediately because he was developing hearing problems.
What did he do while in hiding? Guns N’ Roses didn’t break up, but members left over the years: Slash in 1996, Matt Sorum in 1997, Duff McKagan in 1997. They were trying to record Chinese Democracy, an album that was delayed because of drama, dysfunction, legal problems with the record label, and getting used to new technology. It cost a lot of money to make and the recording sessions in the 90s were ultimately not used. A waste of money and time.
The long-awaited album was finally released in 2008, the band’s first album of new material in 17 years. Even after the release of Chinese Democracy, the most streamed album on MySpace, Axl didn’t appear in public for months to promote it.
Most of the time, Axl was spending time at home in his mansion in Malibu. He got into homeopathy and underwent past life regression therapy. He hired a psychic, who read auras of candidates he was thinking of hiring. Once in a while, he’ll go on Twitter and criticise Donald Trump.
Bob Dylan: Very reserved. Once proclaimed himself to be exclusive, not reclusive.
When did he go into hiding? The enigmatic Bob Dylan has always been an introvert and very mysterious in interviews, messing with the interviewer. He got married to Sara in secret. He has a small circle of friends. He eschews extravagant parties. He’s said “Being noticed can be a burden”.
Has he appeared in public? Despite being an extreme introvert, he lives to tour and while on tour, he’s known to be modest and stay in less expensive hotels, despite being worth more than Mick Jagger. He still tours, and had tour dates planned for 2020 in Japan, but those dates were cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
What did he do while in hiding? In 2000, Sony Records were promised a meet-and-greet and he kept cancelling it. He also goes out and about and does get spotted and when asked questions he gets sarcastic.
Brian Wilson: Mental illness caused him to take a step back from the band and live as a recluse in the 70s
When did he go into hiding? By the mid 60s, the Beach Boys creative leader and main songwriter’s mental health was deteriorating and he stepped back from the band for years. Touring on top of writing, producing, arranging, singing, and planning was getting mentally and emotionally draining for him, so he stopped touring for a long time. By 1973, he was a recluse.
Has he appeared in public? Not really. When he was spotted, he looked dishevelled. He went out with friends, but his wife wasn’t happy and she had to send someone to pick him up and bring him home. Public appearances in the mid 70s were sporadic. In the 70s, The Beach Boys performed without Brian Wilson and Ricky Fataar and Blondie Chaplin from South African rock band The Flames joined the band. In the 80s, he started playing live again and did so more often in later decades.
The band reunited for a 50 year anniversary album and tour, but there were claims that Mike Love (considered by pretty much everyone to be the villain) kicked Brian Wilson out of the band. Mike Love tours using The Beach Boys name and Brian Wilson tours with his own band. In 2020, he called for fans to boycott Mike Love and any Beach Boys music because of Love was to play a concert for pro-trophy hunting group Safari Club International.
What did he do while in hiding? The Beach Boys’ album, Smile, was cancelled and instead the simpler Smiley Smile was released. His two daughters, Carnie and Wendy, were born. He was abusing drugs and binge eating. At a few points, he was checked into mental hospitals; rehab; and had an expensive, controversial live in therapist control his life. He also tried to start a health food store, but it closed after two years. 15 Big Ones was considered a flop. The band were in decline in the 70s, 80s, and 90s and released a bunch of disappointing albums.
Danny Kirwan: Blues rock era Fleetwood Mac guitarist ended up homeless in the 80s and 90s
When did he go into hiding? Fleetwood Mac’s first three guitarists disappeared after they left the group. Danny Kirwan was only 18 when he joined Fleetwood Mac, changing his life. The band toured Europe and the US in the late 60s and got their only #1 in the UK with the instrumental, “Albatross”. Meanwhile, there was drama in the band with short-tempered Danny getting into fights with founder Peter Green. In 1970, there were rumours that Kirwan was to leave the band, but it turned out it was Green who left.
By the age of 21, he was addicted to drugs and alcohol. Some say that an LSD incident at a commune in Munich permanently affected his brain as well as Peter Green’s.
In 1972, Kirwan left Fleetwood Mac due to the pressure and stress of being in an internationally famous rock band. He turned to alcohol to deal with the pressure of being Peter Green’s replacement. Mick Fleetwood said that Kirwan didn’t have the right personality to be a musician because he was nervous and sensitive. He had anger problems and that led to him being fired from the group. Backstage, at a show in the US, he threw a tantrum, smashed his guitar, trashed the dressing room, and refused to go onstage. The band saw firing him as putting him out of his misery in the band.
He released a few solo albums in the 70s, but there were many problems recording them because of dysfunction in the band and Kirwan’s spiralling into mental illness and addiction.
Did he appear in public? After he left Fleetwood Mac, Danny Kirwan was hesitant to perform live, despite being a talented guitarist. This hurt his solo career because without a tour, how can you promote your albums? By the end of the 70s, his guitar playing wasn’t the same anymore and he couldn’t play lead guitar as well as he used to. In the mid-70s his personal life was in trouble, as he was going through a divorce.
He gave a couple interviews in the 90s, but other than that, he didn’t make any public appearances. He was poor and homeless, but still receiving royalties from his years in Fleetwood Mac. When Fleetwood Mac were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, he did not go to the ceremony. His solo albums were re-released in 2006, but his estate won’t receive any royalties from the sales of these albums.
What did he do while in hiding? By the early 80s, he was homeless and at rock bottom with his mental illness. In 1980, when Fleetwood Mac played a concert in London, he showed up to the hotel they were staying at. Mick Fleetwood was heartbroken when he found out he was sleeping on a park bench.
Original Fleetwood Mac bassist Bob Brunning wanted to interview Danny Kirwan for his book, but he refused and was incoherent.
In 1993, Mick Fleetwood contacted the Missing Persons Bureau in London to track down Kirwan’s whereabouts and they tracked him down to St Mungo’s Community Hostel, where he had been living for the past 4 years. All of his possessions could fit into a backpack and he lived off his meagre social security and royalty payments.
David Bowie: Went a decade without releasing an album. In the last decade of his life, he never performed live. The public didn’t know that in the last year of his life, he was battling liver cancer.
When did he go into hiding? The first time? In 1976, when he moved from Los Angeles to Switzerland, then Berlin. The other time? More like retirement, I suppose. The noughties until his death in 2016. Precisely, after he got a heart attack at a concert he was playing in Germany in 2004.
David Bowie constantly reinvented himself and created new characters and looks for all the different eras he performed in. Even when he wasn’t performing or seen in public, he was coming up with something new.
Did he appear in public? In the 70s, during the Berlin Trilogy Era, he still toured, but
In the 2000s and 2010s, rarely was he seen in public and when he would go out, he didn’t attract any attention to himself – no flashy clothes. He rarely spoke to the press. When he released something new, there wasn’t any fanfare, just a simple release. He stopped touring after suffering a heart attack onstage in 2004 and only performed onstage for a couple of once off events.
What did he do while in hiding? It’s a miracle David Bowie survived the 70s. He was so addicted to cocaine that he had no memory of recording Station to Station and he became something unrecognisable, he was making comments in support of fascism and some alleged that he Nazi saluted a crowd during the Thin White Duke era. He apologised for those remarks and behaviours and said that he was in a dark place. On top of that, his health was suffering because of his cocaine addiction.
He needed to get away from the toxicity of LA, so he ended up in Berlin, going to art galleries and hanging out with Iggy Pop and Brian Eno. He also got into Krautrock, ambient music, and experimental rock, which shaped his albums Low, Heroes, and Lodger. When recording Low, he was trying to kick his addiction and deal with a marriage that was falling apart. But once he got through it, he was mentally in a better place and started touring again, coming back stronger.
In the 2000s, after his heart attack, he appeared in Ricky Gervais’s show Extras and did a voiceover in SpongeBob SquarePants. He turned down performing at the closing ceremony for the 2012 Olympics in London. He was the oldest recipient of the Brit Award when he won best British Male Solo Artist in 2014, he didn’t show up to receive the award. Kate Moss collected the award on his behalf.
The Next Day, released in 2013, was David Bowie’s first album of new material in a decade, the last one being Reality, released in 2003.
In the last year and a half of his life, he worked on Blackstar, his parting gift to the world, and was fighting liver cancer. He kept the diagnosis secret and released the album on his 69th birthday. He was so ill he couldn’t attend rehearsals for the musical, Lazarus, which he wrote songs for. Just as Blackstar was getting critical acclaim and climbing the charts, the world lost a legend and the public learnt about his battle with cancer. David Bowie changed the world with his music and the world isn’t the came without him.
Enya: One of the wealthiest Irish entertainers, lives in a castle with her cats. Never married.
When did she go into hiding? Pretty much as soon as she became a star. Even her family don’t see her very often. But she wasn’t always like that. In the early 80s, she was in her family’s band, Clannad, and even toured with them. During this time, she was independent and intent on making music on her own terms and so her signature “choir of one” sound was born. She was also always very introverted and focused on music, which she prioritised higher than being in love.
New age musician Enya was someone that no one expected would get famous. She’s detail oriented and spends months on a single song overdubbing vocals hundreds of times to get that signature sound. Her albums take 3 years to come to fruition. Her record label kept urging her to tour, but she kept saying no. Since the late 80s, she shunned the spotlight.
Does she appear in public? She has never done a solo tour, just letting the music speak for itself. She says the music is what it’s all about, not her. She rarely gives interviews, but did appear on This Morning in 2016. She made a rare appearance at the Grammys in 2017. Social media? Enya stays away from that too.
She got an offer to play a concert in Japan for £500k, but turned it down.
What does she do while in hiding? In 1997, she bought a castle in Dublin for £2.5 million. No other humans live there. Just Enya and her cats. Sadly, she’s dealt with stalkers over the years. When she speaks to her family, she speaks in Irish. She also can sing in elven languages Sindarin and Quenya.
Her studio is not far from home and she doesn’t consider herself a recluse because she’s always working. She is worth $140 million.
Grace Slick: Retired from music at 50 because she didn’t want to look stupid performing
When did she go into hiding? Not exactly hiding, but she rarely makes public appearances. Grace Slick decided she was done with performing live when she turned 50. So that means Gen X, millennials, and zoomers will never get the chance to see Grace Slick live. She retired from music after the Jefferson Airplane reunion. She said in an interview: “All rock-and-rollers over the age of 50 look stupid and should retire.”
Does she appear in public? She doesn’t tour anymore, but she gives interviews from time to time. Most of her appearances are at art gallery shows. If you bought one of her pieces of art at one of her art gallery shows, you get a meet and greet and a personalised autograph. The price? $1,000 and up! Public appearances though are rare these days since she doesn’t leave her hometown much. Her last art show was in October 2019.
She performed twice after the age of 50, once in 1995 with a revamped version of Jefferson Starship and the other time after 9/11 when she came out in a makeshift burqa, removed it revealing an American flag print covering with “fuck fear” written on it.
What does she do while retired? As you saw in the previous paragraphs, art! She turned to painting and drawing as an escape from life really. She went through a lot of difficult things after retirement: a house fire, divorce, and breakup. She draws musicians from the 60s, pictures based on her song lyrics, Alice in Wonderland characters, and of course white rabbits!
Izzy Stradlin: Press shy, left Guns N’ Roses
When did he go into hiding? Not exactly in hiding, but very press shy. Even while in Guns N’ Roses, he didn’t talk much to the press. He let Axl, Slash, and Duff talk. He was the quiet one in the group. He left GNR in 1991 during the Use Your Illusion Tour, and moved onto a solo career.
Does he appear in public? He and Axl weren’t at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when GNR were inducted. He does appear from time to time with his former band. He shies away from the press and rarely gives interviews.
What does he do? Focus on his solo career, writing songs, and travelling. He cleaned up and kicked a drug addiction.
Jeremy Spencer: Joined a cult after leaving Fleetwood Mac
When did he go into hiding? He abruptly left Fleetwood Mac in February 1971 when he joined Children of God, a religious cult. He is still a member of this cult nearly 50 years later. Afterwards, he said he was disillusioned, didn’t like his singing, and had trouble recovering from a mescaline trip.
Does he appear in public? He still toured in the 70s, travelling around the US playing free concerts. In February 2020, he played at the Peter Green tribute concert, on stage with Mick Fleetwood for the first time in 49 years.
What does he do? As stated above, he’s a member of the Family International (formerly known as Children of God). He didn’t release albums in the 80s, but since 1999 he started releasing albums again. From 2012-2013 he worked with Andy Oliver on a project called Steetley.
Joe English: Former Wings drummer joined an Evangelical Christian community and left the music industry for good
When did he go into hiding? Joe English didn’t expect to be working with Paul McCartney. In 1975, he saw an ad looking for a drummer and visited a basement of an old building. He didn’t expect who he saw inside, it was Paul McCartney! He auditioned and got the job as Wings’ new drummer. He stayed with the band until 1977, when the American born English decided to go back to the States. He joined a progressive rock band called Sea Level.
Later, he became a born again Christian, formed the Joe English Band, and started touring with other Christian rock groups in the 80s. In 1990, he joined Word of Faith Fellowship, a controversial, insular, Evangelical Christian community known for the practice of “blasting”. The controversies in the group include many abuse allegations and a minister was convicted of fraud. When one member asked if he could reduce his contributions to the church because he was affected by the 2008 recession, the church told him to commit fraud so he could keep donating 10% of his income because it’s “God’s plan”.
Crazy rules include: no celebrating birthdays or holidays (even Christmas and Easter), no watching TV or movies, no reading newspapers, no eating at restaurants that play music, men are not allowed to go topless outside, you can’t go to university independently and study what you want, you can’t buy a house or car without permission, no wearing Nike (because they see the swoosh as a pagan symbol), and no playing Monopoly.
Does he appear in public? He does not tour anymore. He’s not one to give interviews. I know someone who has contacted Joe English, but wasn’t able to get an interview. He doesn’t talk to Paul McCartney.
What does he do? See above. He lives in North Carolina in that community. He doesn’t like to talk about his time in Wings and he is not given special treatment in the church. He joined Word of Faith because he tried to kick his drug addiction by going to various rehab centres and other ministries, but found nothing helped.
John Deacon: Queen bassist and social distancing champion
When did he go into hiding? The quiet bassist left Queen and music in the early 90s after Freddie Mercury’s death. John Deacon was close to Freddie Mercury and was devastated after he died and went reclusive afterwards. In a way, Freddie was like a big brother to Deaky, being 5 years older than him. To him, Queen’s not Queen without Freddie.
Does he appear in public? He tries to live his life like a normal person and not attract attention to himself, but since Bohemian Rhapsody, it’s hard to not be noticed. There are videos out there of John Deacon out and about in London with fans shoving Queen memorabilia in his face to sign. His son, Cameron, is a YouTuber, and in one video John’s voice can be heard.
Like others on this list, he didn’t go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. He also refused to tour with Queen again.
What does he do while in hiding? After Freddie’s death, he played with the remaining members of Queen only 3 times: The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness in 1992, a charity concert with Roger Taylor in 1993, and at the opening of the Bejart Ballet in Paris in 1997. Also in 1997, he recorded one last song with Brian May and Roger Taylor, “No-One but You (Only the Good Die Young”.
John Deacon is only involved in the business side of Queen and that’s it. He does not talk to May or Taylor outside of professional/financial reasons. Roger Taylor has said that John Deacon has completely withdrawn from social contact. He doesn’t give interviews and will not speak to the press.
Joni Mitchell: Diagnosed with Morgellons Syndrome
When did she retire? Joni Mitchell kept telling the public she wanted to retire since the late 60s, and even showed hints of stepping back from the music industry by taking long breaks between releasing albums in the late 90s and 2000s. In 2010, she revealed that she has Morgellons Syndrome in a controversial Los Angeles Times interview where she also called Bob Dylan a plagiarist and a fake. She had a brain aneurysm in 2015 and she had to relearn to walk. As a child, she had polio.
Does she appear in public? She skipped her Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 1997. She doesn’t play concerts anymore, but once in a while she’ll go to a public event, but not often.
What does she do now? Dealing with her medical condition, I suppose.
Karl Burns: Former drummer for The Fall, essentially fell off the face of the earth when a music journalist was doing research on the band
When did he leave the music industry? Karl Burns was an off and on member of The Fall, with him being hired and fired a total of 9 times in about a 20 year period, from the late 70s to the late 90s. He left the band for good in April 1998 after a fight with The Fall’s leader and lead singer (with some even calling him the band’s patriarch or mastermind) Mark E. Smith. The group were a real revolving door with over 50 people who can say they’ve been a member of The Fall and let’s just say it wasn’t a stable job: you could be in a famous rock band one minute and on the dole the next. What a crazy rock family tree that would be! Might even be crazier than Yes.
Did he ever appear in public? No. When music journalist Dave Simpson was doing research for his book The Fallen: Searching For The Missing Members of The Fall, he couldn’t get a hold of Karl Burns, even though he managed to find out about Jonny Brown, who was briefly in the band in the late 70s and hadn’t been heard from in decades. He spent a couple years tracking down every person who ever played for The Fall to interview them and learn more about their time in the band. The one elusive band member was Karl Burns. Simpson was given the runaround and told to talk to all sorts of people to find him, but no luck. Not even bandmates knew where he was or if he was even alive. In 2007, The Fall frontman Mark E. Smith got in contact with Karl’s mother who said that he was living on a farm in the hills somewhere. But did Simpson ever hear from Karl? Yes he did! After The Fallen came out, he got an email from Karl Burns, who requested a copy of his book to be sent to an address (that he says isn’t his) in Rossendale. Apparently, he didn’t want to be part of the book, and unfortunately we won’t know why.
What does he do now? Live a private life: married and allegedly works a day job. Not in the music industry.
Kate Bush: Only did one tour and one residency in her decades long career. Focused on recording music.
When did she go reclusive? Kate Bush only did one tour in 1979 to promote The Kick Inside and Lionheart. It’s speculated that Kate Bush didn’t tour again because she possibly had a fear of flying. All Kate Bush has said about touring was that it was exciting, but exhausting. She didn’t confirm if a fear of flying or the death of the lighting engineer played a part in her decision to forgo touring.
Throughout the 80s she recorded and released albums, but between 1993 and 2005 she didn’t release any albums.
The early 90s were difficult years for Kate Bush, dealing with the loss of a close friend and her guitarist, Alan Murphy and her mother, Hannah.
She cited in an interview that the reason it takes so long between albums is that she’s a perfectionist and she has to get everything just right in her music.
The one concert residency she did was back in 2014, called Before the Dawn. She played 22 shows at the Hammersmith Apollo.
Does she appear in public? Very rarely. She’s skipped the Brit Awards and it was a surprise when she made an appearance to collect a South Bank Arts Award.
In the past, she turned down opening for Fleetwood Mac in the 70s and she turned down performing at the 2012 Olympics closing ceremony.
A few times in the 80s, she performed, like at a benefit concert in aid of The Prince’s Trust, for Comic Relief, and The Secret Policeman’s Third Ball.
In 2002, she made a rare appearance singing “Comfortably Numb” at David Gilmour’s concert at the Royal Festival Hall.
When she does give an interview (which is rare) she only does interviews over the phone or on Skype with audio only. No recent TV interviews.
Because of her rare public appearances, tabloids have spread rumours about her having mental health problems or an eating disorder. I think the simplest explanation is probably it, she likes her privacy. Apparently her neighbours say she’s so quiet that they think she’s moved away.
What does she do now? Spend time at home living like a normal person (but with a cool job) I guess. She has a family and apparently doesn’t hire a nanny or housekeeper. She’s someone who has broken the rules of being a successful pop star. Frequent radio and TV appearances? Nope. Tours? Nope. For Kate Bush, it’s all about the music. Just don’t call her a recluse.
Licorice McKechnie: Allegedly disappeared in the Arizona desert. No one for sure knows if she’s even alive.
When did she disappear? Licorice was in the Incredible String band in the 60s and 70s and one of the biggest rock and roll mysteries. She suddenly disappeared, hitchhiking across the Arizona desert. Her sister says the last she heard of her was in 1990 when she was in Sacramento recovering from surgery.
What do we know? No one knows where she is or if she’s alive. She stopped recording music in the late 70s. Not even her family nor her bandmates have heard from her. She was allegedly involved in Scientology (along with her bandmates who were introduced to it ) and performed at a Scientology benefit concert in 1974. There’s a theory that her disappearance may be related to Scientology, not a fact, just a theory some people have.
An unverified, vague claim on Facebook in August 2019 says that she is living in California and is amazed that people are still talking about her and her music with ISB. I’d take this with a grain of salt.
Mick Bolton: Original UFO guitarist left the music industry in 1972
When did he go into hiding? Mick Bolton formed UFO with Phil Mogg, Pete Way, and Andy Parker in 1968. They changed their name from Hocus Pocus to UFO, as a tribute to the famous London club where they were discovered. Mick Bolton left the group in 1972 and was replaced by Michael Schenker, from there, UFO’s sound changed from a heavy psychedelic sound to that twin lead guitar metal sound.
He’s not to be confused with another Mick Bolton, who was briefly in Mott the Hoople
Does he appear in public? No. Some say he only played in pub bands in London after that, but he never professionally recorded again.
What does he do now? No idea. Probably lives a private, normal life.
Nick Drake: Never performed live or gave interviews. Got famous after his death
Nick Drake was raised in a well off family. He was born in Rangoon, Burma to a father who worked as an engineer for the Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation and a mother who was a daughter of a senior member of the Indian Civil Service. When he was 2, his family moved back to England. His mother was a poet and musician and after Nick Drake’s death and people gaining interest in his music, they wanted to hear Molly Drake’s music. On a 2007 compilation of Nick Drake’s music, a couple Molly Drake songs were on there and people’s interest was piqued and so a compilation album of Molly’s songs was released in 2011.
Inspired by his mother, he learnt to play piano at an early age and started composing songs. He was educated at expensive private schools and went to boarding school for a time. He played piano in the school orchestra and learnt how to play clarinet and saxophone. In the mid 60s, he liked to play covers of popular R&B songs and Yardbirds and Manfred Mann songs. He bought his first acoustic guitar in 1965.
He got a full scholarship to Cambridge University to study English Literature, but when he got there he didn’t care about his studies or playing sports, although he was very smart. He was a stoner who liked to play music. He dropped out halfway through his studies.
He released only three albums before he died: Five Leaves Left, Bryter Layter, and Pink Moon. The first album suffered from poor marketing and as a result, disappointing sales figures. Critics gave mixed reviews of the first two albums. Nick Drake didn’t expect to record a third album, but he was approached to release one anyway. Pink Moon was short and sweet at only 28 minutes long, but got favourable reviews.
He suffered from depression and only played a few live shows. He didn’t want to give interviews or do radio appearances, even though his record label urged him to. He was very reclusive throughout his music career and didn’t spend much time with family and friends. Often, he’d only leave home to go to an occasional concert or to buy pot. He was paid poorly at only £20/week.
He died at the age of 26 after an antidepressant overdose. Right after his death, he wasn’t spoken about much. It would be years until he gained posthumous popularity thanks to famous musicians like Kate Bush, Paul Weller, and Robert Smith citing him as an influence.
Peter Green: Dealt with mental illness post-Fleetwood Mac
When did he go into hiding? Peter Green left Fleetwood Mac in 1970, but reunited with them a couple times in the early 70s, filling in for Jeremy Spencer when he abruptly left the band in 1971 and an uncredited appearance on the album Penguin. His mental illness and drug use affected him and he faded into professional obscurity by the mid 70s.
Seems like there’s a Fleetwood Mac guitarists’ curse: with Danny Kirwan, Peter Green, and Jeremy Spencer all going crazy basically; Bob Welch getting screwed over when it came to royalties, snubbed at the Rock Hall, and eventually taking his life in 2012; Lindsey Buckingham being fired in 2018 and losing his singing voice after open heart surgery.
Did he appear in public? In the 70s, he spent time in mental hospitals and got diagnosed with schizophrenia. So it’s safe to assume he didn’t play any concerts.
He didn’t release any music until the late 70s, when he started releasing solo music and even appeared on Fleetwood Mac’s album, Tusk. He continued releasing music in the early 80s. Once again in the late 80s, he was struggling with the aftereffects of taking drugs.
What does he do now? Seems to be retired now. Hasn’t reunited with Fleetwood Mac, but in 2009, he toured as Peter Green and Friends. Did not appear at the Mick Fleetwood and Friends Tribute to Peter Green in 2020.
The Residents: An anonymous band
The Residents are a faceless art collective known for their experimental music and exploring technology like the CD-ROM. They tour and have released many works over the years, but who are the people behind it? The reason the members stay anonymous is to keep the focus on what they do and not who they are or any personal lives stuff.
Their debut album is called Meet the Residents and like the title suggests, the cover is a parody of the similarly titled 1963 Beatles album. Rumours went around that the Residents are actually The Beatles, but that’s not true (about as true as Klaatu being The Beatles).
We do know that Hardy Fox was one of the longtime members and a co-founder. He left the group in 2015 and died in 2018. The band just like to keep it mysterious.
Richey Edwards: Disappeared 25 years ago, presumed dead
When did he disappear? Manic Street Preachers lyricist and guitarist Richey Edwards disappeared in 1995 when he was due to fly to the US for a promotional tour of The Holy Bible. For the past two weeks before he disappeared, he withdrew £200 from his bank account every day.
On 1 February 1995, he checked out of a London hotel and drove to Wales and that’s the last people saw of him. His car was found at a service station near the Severn Bridge, which connects Wales and England. Some say that he was spotted at the passport office and a bus station in Newport. People close to Edwards say he couldn’t have killed himself because he wasn’t the type to contemplate suicide.
What do we know? A body hasn’t been found. There’s no proof that he killed himself. People say that they’ve seen him in Goa and Lanzarote, but there’s no confirmation of that. The Manic Street Preachers kept releasing music after Edwards’ disappearance.
In 2019, a book titled Withdrawn Traces: Searching for the truth about Richey Manic was published.
Rod Evans: Original Deep Purple singer left the music industry in the early 80s after some bad advice on touring as Deep Purple
When did he go into hiding? Rod Evans was the original lead singer of Deep Purple. He sang on their first three albums and was fired from the band because his sound didn’t fit the new sound they were going for. He was too poppy and Deep Purple wanted a heavier, harder sound and that’s why they picked Ian Gillan. Deep Purple went on to have even more success.
Rod Evans decided to move to the US and join Captain Beyond. He tried releasing a solo single, but that went nowhere (my guess is poor mixing – I can’t make out the vocals, there’s better production quality stuff from the early 60s). He stayed with Captain Beyond for the first two albums but decided to leave the music industry to work at a hospital.
By 1980, Deep Purple weren’t touring or releasing albums anymore. Rod Evans was approached by a dodgy management company known for touring “re-formed” famous bands but with musicians who weren’t in the band. The other musicians were unknown session musicians and one guy who was in Steppenwolf (but not an original member).
Deep Purple found out about this bogus Deep Purple going on tour and put ads in the papers saying that Jon Lord, Ian Gillan, David Coverdale, Glen Hughes, Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Paice, and Roger Glover were not playing at that concert.
Soon after, the real Deep Purple got their lawyers and sued former frontman Rod Evans. As you can guess, Rod Evans was broke and that’s why he went for this dodgy deal and he couldn’t pay up. So what did they arrange instead to pay back Deep Purple? Take away his royalties.
And just like that, he disappeared from the music industry forever. He won’t give an interview. He went back to living a normal life and working a day job. A former bandmate of his from Captain Beyond said he was doing fine and worked in the medical field. Not a glamorous life, but things could be worse.
When Deep Purple were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016, Rod Evans was inducted as a member, but he didn’t show up to the ceremony.
Scott Walker: Enigmatic singer had a strange relationship with fame
When did he go reclusive? Scott Walker got his start as a teen idol in a boy band, the Walker Brothers. In the late 60s, he started his baroque pop/avant garde solo career. When his career started to decline in the mid 70s, he reunited with the Walker Brothers and there were very long gaps between his solo albums, only resurfacing once a decade with a new album. As a recluse, he struggled with his mental health and alcoholism. He liked to study fine art and painted in his free time. Occasionally he gave interviews, where he would say he wasn’t reclusive, just low key. He died in 2019 at the age of 76.
Shelagh McDonald: Scottish singer disappeared in 1971 and wasn’t heard from again until 2005.
When did she disappear? Shelagh McDonald was involved in the folk scene in England working with Richard Thompson, Dave Mattacks, Danny Thompson, Keith Tippett, and Keith Christmas. She didn’t expect to get famous as a musician, but she got her big break suddenly at a gig with Keith Christmas. She was hyped up to be the Scottish Joni Mitchell, but just as she was recording her third album, she was gone. She recorded two albums, The Shelagh McDonald Album and Stargazer, before disappearing after a bad acid trip that left her afraid of fame so she ran away living a nomadic lifestyle and working normal jobs. She never talked to anyone about her past as an up and coming folk singer.
In 2005, she contacted the Scottish Daily Mail to tell the story of what she did during her disappearance. Her disappearance was compared to Likkie McKechnie’s both being Scottish folk singers who hadn’t been heard from in decades, although in Likkie’s case, she still hasn’t been heard from.
No one knew where Shelagh was, not even close friends, family, or her record label. Her personal life before her disappearance wasn’t going too well: a relationship fell apart, she was living in a dodgy area of London, and she started experimenting with psychedelic drugs. After her disappearance, she was sleeping rough from time to time, living in tents in forests in Scotland because of a lousy landlord. At some points she was on benefits because it was hard to find work in a down economy.
She truly lived like a hippie, a simple life with few possessions. She was gone for so long that she didn’t realise that her parents had died until she read an article about herself and her albums being re-released. Her parents were Christian Scientists (after the bad trip, they wouldn’t take her to get medical help since they didn’t believe in that) and were not supportive of her going into music.
Meanwhile, her albums were still selling and people were fascinated with her story. A royalty cheque worth thousands of pounds was waiting for her.
After the Scottish Daily Mail article, she started writing and recording songs. Finally in 2005 and 2013, she released new music.
Sly Stone: Between 1993 and 2006 he didn’t make any public appearances and got screwed out of money
When did he go into hiding? Sly Stone made all kinds of music: funk, psychedelia, and soul. He formed his own multiracial male and female band, Sly and the Family Stone in 1966 and they famously performed at Woodstock. There’s a typical VH1 Classic: Behind the Music story behind the band though. By the mid 70s though, Sly Stone was acting erratic and developed a drug addiction, the partying lifestyle affected their work ethic and they didn’t release much material and sales suffered, and the band stopped getting along so they broke up. Even after the breakup, Sly Stone still released music, but in 1993 he made his last major public appearance when Sly and the Family Stone were inducted into the Rock Hall.
Did he appear in public? One time in 2005 he went out to drive his little sister, Vet Stone, to a gig where she performed in a Sly & The Family Stone tribute act. Sly Stone tried to stay as lowkey as possible and a documentary crew filmed him watching the show. He started performing again in 2007, but disappointed fans with his bizarre behaviour and walking off stage early.
His financial situation got worse and worse and by 2009, he ended up on the dole living in a van and occasionally, cheap hotels (supposedly that’s how Sly Stone chooses to live and he’s not homeless). Allegedly, his manager, Jerry Goldstein cut off his access to royalties after a debt agreement. He sued his manager in 2010, saying that he didn’t get royalties in a 20 year period between 1989 and 2009. Finally, in 2015, he was awarded $5 million in damages, but the decision was overturned because Stone assigned his royalties to a production company in exchange for an ownership stake. Musicians are manipulated and sign dodgy deals all the time.
In 2011, he released a new album called I’m Back! Family and Friends, which was his first album since 1982. There were a lot of famous guest musicians on the album: Jeff Beck, Ray Manzarek, Bootsy Collins, Ann Wilson, Carmine Appice, and Johnny Winter.
What does he do now? Not much. An authorised documentary about him is in the works.
Steve Perry: Journey lead singer would rarely make public appearances for a while
When did he go into hiding? After a successful career with Journey and a solo career, he rarely made public appearances in the 2000s, after he left Journey in 1998.
Did he appear in public? In the 2000s and 2010s, he still recorded music for other projects, but lived a private life in LA. He appeared at a ceremony on the Hollywood Walk of Fame with other members of Journey, but he didn’t want to sing with Journey again so the band had to continue without him and hired Arnel Pineda, who they found through videos of his band, The Zoo performing.
In 2005, the Chicago White Sox adopted “Don’t Stop Believing” as an unofficial team anthem and Perry travelled to the World Series to celebrate their win.
Perry is a huge San Francisco Giants fan and in 2010, he lead the crowd in a singalong of “Don’t Stop Believing”.
In 2017, he appeared with his Journey bandmates for their Rock Hall induction, but he didn’t perform with them. And in 2018, he was on American Idol, where he praised finalist Gabby Barrett on her cover of “Don’t Stop Believing”.
What does he do now? He’s back in the music industry.
Syd Barrett: The rock and roll recluse who never returned to music
When did he go into hiding? Syd Barrett was an original member of Pink Floyd and shaped the band’s early sound that you can hear on The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. He was well known for his guitar techniques that used distortion, dissonance, and feedback.
His career in music was short and left listeners wanting more. He was only on the first two Pink Floyd albums, and even then, he wasn’t really around for a lot of the recording for A Saucerful of Secrets. From 1965-April 1968, he was in Pink Floyd and was kicked out because his mental state was worsening, likely because of his use of LSD and psychedelic drugs. When Pink Floyd performed on American Bandstand, Syd Barrett acted bizarre and blankly stared and was terse when he was asked questions. When they toured with Jimi Hendrix, David O’List from The Nice had to fill in for Syd because sometimes he wouldn’t show up or he wasn’t mentally there.
What would Pink Floyd do about Syd Barrett? The original plan was to have him take on a Brian Wilson like role, leading the band and writing songs, but not tour, but this was too complicated. In 1967, David Gilmour, a friend of Syd Barrett’s joined the band, and he took over as guitarist. Roger Waters took over on the creative side of things, coming up with the concept albums, hence all the memes Pink Floyd fans made of him and his obsession with concept albums.
Between 1968 and 1969, Syd Barrett wasn’t seen in public. He had a very short solo career, only releasing two albums: The Madcap Laughs and Barrett. His former bandmates, David Gilmour and Roger Waters produced the former and Gilmour and Rick Wright played on some tracks on the latter. Recording the albums proved difficult and Syd’s mental health was no good. From time to time, Syd would spy on Pink Floyd when they were recording their albums.
Syd Barrett didn’t tour to promote his solo albums; he only played one show in June 1970 and only played four songs before abruptly walking off stage. All he really did outside the studio was a couple radio appearances. As for interviews, he did a few, his most famous ones were for Rolling Stone in 1971 and Melody Maker in 1971.
After that, Syd Barrett was in a short lived group called Stars with Twink from The Pretty Things and Jack Monck. At first their live shows went well, but after a bad show opening for The MC5, Syd Barrett wanted out. His last gig with Stars was opening for Nektar.
In 1974, he tried recording another album, but it didn’t work out. The Sex Pistols and The Damned wanted to hire Syd Barrett to produce their albums, but he turned them down. Syd Barrett left the music industry for good.
Did he appear in public? A few times he was spotted out and about and photos of him appeared in the tabloids.
Not a public appearance, but he visited his old band when they were recording Wish You Were Here at Abbey Road Studios in 1975. He was unrecognisable, fat, with a shaved head and eyebrows. He continued to inspire Pink Floyd songs like “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” and The Wall containing references to Syd Barrett and his mental state. He also was briefly at David Gilmour’s wedding that same year.
The last time any member of Pink Floyd saw Syd was when he bumped into Roger Waters at Harrods.
He never gave interviews or released new music. Fans would frequently go to his house and try to speak to him, but he always felt awkward about it.
What did he do as a recluse? Syd Barrett didn’t listen to rock music and went back to using his real name, Roger. Sometimes he would paint and do DIY projects. He didn’t like to talk about the past, according to his nephew. He never married and never had children. He moved back and forth between Cambridge and London for a few years, eventually settling in his mother’s house in Cambridge. When he went back to Cambridge, he walked all the way back. Syd Barrett was known to like walking and walked a lot. He lived a simple life off royalty cheques.
He went to a “home for lost souls” and stayed there for a bit. His family got him to see a psychiatrist, but it was decided that medication and therapy weren’t the right fit for him. People speculate that he had schizophrenia or bipolar, but he wasn’t properly diagnosed.
His family say that he didn’t have a mental illness, but likely had Asperger’s.
In way, he lived the dream. Retire young, live off passive income, and live a normal life.
Shoutout to my friends Patrick and Matt for supporting the blog!
Loved this blog post and want to support? If you cannot afford to donate to The Diversity of Classic Rock, there are many free ways to support the blog: Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, click the follow button on my website, leave a nice comment, send your music or classic rock related books for review, or donate your art and writing talents to the blog.
You can also download the Brave Browser using my referral link* and earn tokens that you can donate to your favourite creators (including me!), donate to charity, or you can keep them for yourself and redeem them for cash. The choice is yours! Thank you!
I am also an affiliate of MusoSoup*, a platform for musicians to efficiently share their music with thousands of bloggers, radio stations, and curators for coverage for a very affordable price. If you’re a blogger, you can sign up for free by contacting them. If you’re a musician, you can sign up and share your music with all the bloggers and content creators signed up on the website. If you sign up as a musician using my referral link, I get a commission, which helps keep this blog running and helps you get more publicity for your music.
*This is an affiliate link that you can use at no extra cost to you. I get $5 for every person who downloads the browser through my link. Downloading Brave (which is free) using my link is a nice gesture to support the blog at no out of pocket cost to you, but it’s not obligatory. For the MusoSoup affiliate link, I get 50% of the sign up fee for musicians. The cost is no extra if you use my affiliate link.