Rock Stars Reveal Their Biggest Regrets

Everybody has regrets. Maybe you've always wished that you'd asked out that one girl in college, or that you hadn't turned down the opportunity to become vice-chairperson of the Duck Breeders' Society of Northern New England. We don't know your life. Being mere mortals, though, most of our laments are pretty pedestrian. We can say with reasonable certainty that you probably don't pine for a life where you never joined an iconic rock band, or wish you could rewind time so that you wouldn't pass up the opportunity to deck Axl Rose.

When you're a rock star, these are the kinds of things you have to live with. All of the people on this list have done some pretty questionable things, like snorting a line of ants, for example, or saying unspeakably racist things in front of a disbelieving crowd. Oddly, though, the things that they regret the most never seem to have anything to do with their most high-profile missteps. No, these rock stars' biggest regrets serve to remind us that at the end of the day, they're people, too. Extremely rich, famous, often deeply weird people, but people nonetheless.

Pete Townshend regrets joining the band that made him famous

When you think of Pete Townshend, you probably think of one of two things: All those times you saw him onstage doing sick guitar windmills while Roger Daltrey shouted about not getting fooled again, or the time he explained away all of the shocking and immoral things it was discovered he'd been looking at on his computer as being necessary for "research" into how illegal pornography is financed. At any rate, he's known far and wide as the lead guitarist of the Who, but if he had it to do over, he never would've joined the band that made him a world-famous icon.

In an interview for a one-shot music guide about his band, Townshend lamented ever having joined said group (via Music Feeds). "What would I have done differently? I would never have joined a band. Even though I am quite a good gang member and a good trooper on the road, I am bad at creative collaboration," he said. "I would have made a much more effective solo performer and producer. ... I would be less physically damaged today." Yes, and also a heck of a lot less rich and famous, but you've gotta take the bad with the good, we suppose.

Huey Lewis regrets not selling out

We're not sure if there's ever been a more amiable, friendly looking rock star than Huey Lewis. Maybe it's just his blue-collar, working-class image, but we always just wanted to cheer him on as if he were the biggest underdog in rock, even after he sold enough records to fill the Grand Canyon. Lewis is pretty much the opposite of controversial. The closest he ever came to seeming like anything other than your friendly neighbor who happens to rock was when he sued Ray Parker, Jr. — who bit Lewis' "I Want a New Drug" for the Ghostbusters theme song — but who also seems like a really nice guy. Lewis' biggest regret has nothing to do with being a jerk or treating people badly. He just wishes he'd sold out super hard when he had the chance.

In an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, Lewis revealed that in the aftermath of Michael Jackson's $50 million Pepsi sponsorship deal, he and the News were flown out to Atlanta to talk turkey — er, soda — with Coke (via Billboard). "Before [Jackson's] deal, no music stars did corporate tie-ins," he remembered. "[Coke] offered us millions of dollars [to use] 'The Heart of Rock & Roll' in a commercial. I said no," Lewis explained. How would he describe this decision? One word: "Stupid." In all fairness, it was the '80s. He may have just been trying to avoid the headline, "Huey Lewis takes part in massive Coke deal."

Paul McCartney regrets one breakup and one marriage

Sir Paul McCartney famously did a lot of really weird stuff while rocking in Germany with the Beatles before their ascent to rock godhood, and it's also a matter of record that he treated each member of that band like crap to varying extents at different times. But he really only has two major regrets in life. You can probably guess the first one. "You'd have to say the way the Beatles broke up was a bit untidy, a bit ugly," he said, speaking with Express. "We were such a great little band, it would've been nice to just continue on. ... The business side really crept in and got a bit sticky. I regret that."

His second big one, though, is a bit more unexpected — his marriage to model Heather Mills, which lasted from 2002 to 2008 and which cost him a cool $27.5 million to dissolve. In an interview with Q magazine, he said that if he could go back in time and change it, he would (via Irish Central). "I suppose the marriage has to be a prime contender for mistake of the decade. But I don't want to down anyone," he said, right after totally downing his ex-wife. "These things happen, you know? But I tend to look at the positive side, which is that I have another beautiful daughter out of it." We feel ya, Paul. We, too, have always regretted our supermodel marriage.

David Crosby regrets being a complete jerk

You may know David Crosby as the most famously cantankerous member of Crosby, Stills, and Nash, except when Neil Young happened to be around to give him some competition in that department. Crosby never minces words about anything, and while this can be an admirable quality, it can also be one which causes your bandmates to seriously consider hurling you out of the nearest window on a regular basis. He and Graham Nash may have had some of the tightest harmonies of all time, but they didn't exactly have a harmonious relationship. In fact, Crosby says that his biggest regret is treating pretty much everyone around him like crap (especially Nash). 

In the recent documentary Remember My Name, Crosby basically kicked his own ass when posed the regrets question by director Cameron Crowe. "All the guys that I made music with won't even talk to me," he said. "All of them. All of them. One of them hating my guts might be an accident. ... [I did things that were] just awful. ... Big ego, no brains." Nash — who once stated flatly that he'd never work with Crosby again — seems to have softened a bit on his old pal in recent years, but these guys are in the vicinity of 80. They'd better make up soon, because by Crosby's own admission, he probably should have died about six times already.

Ozzy Osbourne regrets reality TV and never learning to play an instrument

When we mentioned ant-snorting, you knew this guy would pop up. Ozzy Osbourne doesn't regret taking the lives of all those ants who perished in the depths of his nasal cavity, however. One of his bigger regrets, to his credit, is doing his awful reality TV show, The Osbournes, and subjecting his family to the harsh, harsh spotlight. "You go to bed one day and you wake up, and the world's completely different. Everywhere there's f***ing cameras, you get attacked by the f***ing things," he said. "The kids couldn't handle it, my wife couldn't handle it. ... Would we do it again? I dunno. I don't think so" (via NME).

The other biggest regret the Oz has, though, is a little surprising. Speaking with Rolling Stone, he said that he never learned to play an instrument — in part because he was advised against it. "That's one of my biggest regrets. I can play a little bit of harmonica, and that's about it," he said. "But I have an ear for melody. I once talked to a writer and he said, 'You can learn the piano, but you most probably will lose your natural instinct for melody.' And I said, 'That's too much of a gamble.'" That ... sounds like awful advice. What the heck do writers know, anyway?

Steven Van Zandt regrets not having a manager

You probably know "Little Steven" Van Zandt, or "Captain Do-Rag" as we like to call him, from his decades rocking out alongside Bruce Springsteen and/or his time acting on the classic HBO series The Sopranos. Van Zandt knows that he's a lucky guy. In a Rolling Stone interview, he said that he gets a phone call to go collect buckets of cash every time the Boss decides it's time to tour again, and he admitted that he kind of fell ass-backwards into acting. To hear him tell it, though, his career would've been even more satisfying and lucrative if he'd just had representation — like, ever.

"My big regret of my life is not having a manager and not seeing myself as an artist to the degree that I would demand to have a manager," he said, before adding, "You can't be your own manager, no matter how much you understand the business. ... You need somebody out there selling your work, because content, as I learned the hard way, is only half the story. The other half is marketing." Sage advice, and we can't help but think that any manager worth his salt would have, at some point, told Van Zandt to take that darn thing off his head.

Stevie Nicks regrets her (extremely short) marriage

As a big part of the band Fleetwood Mac, whose infighting and drama is legendary, you'd think Stevie Nicks would have a regret or two about her professional life. But she told The Guardian that her biggest mistake was her short-lived marriage to Kim Anderson, the widower of her best friend Robin Snyder, who died of leukemia just days after giving birth. The soap opera that followed, she said, was too intense even for someone who eats drama for breakfast, even if she had the best of intentions at the time.

"It was insanity," Nicks said. "Everybody was furious. It was a completely ridiculous thing. And it was just because I had this crazy, insane thought that Robin would want me to take care of [her infant son]. But the fact is, Robin would not have wanted me to be married to a guy I didn't love. And therefore accidentally break that guy's heart, too." We've got to admit that this sort of makes doing all the cocaine for ten years seem like a sound decision by comparison.

Bryan Adams regrets not striking (more) while the iron was hot

Bryan Adams may have been ubiquitous in the '80s and early '90s, but the Canadian sorta-rocker's big regret is that he wasn't in your face and ears even more. Speaking with Classic Pop, Adams said that due to a lack of confidence in his songwriting skills, he didn't put out nearly as much music during his heyday as he could have, and that he wishes he would have just recorded everything that popped into his brain.

"If I have one regret, it's that back in the '80s, I should have put out more albums. I had enough songs to do it, but for some reason I was quite precious about it. I was going, 'Not good enough ... not good enough' when I should have put everything out," he said. "When I released the 30th anniversary edition of Reckless, I added seven songs. I'd forgotten all about them, and then when I heard them again, I realized they would have been perfectly fine to go on the radio at the time." Since "perfectly fine" describes pretty much all of Adams' output, he's probably right. What a bummer it is that '80s music fans were robbed of so, so much mediocrity.

Axl Rose regrets not talking a friend down from the ledge

Axl Rose is famously kind of a jerk, and his primadonna-ish behavior has ruined concerts, tanked friendships, and started riots (as in, more than one). But it turns out that he is a human being, as he told Rolling Stone that he wishes mightily that he'd stopped being a jerk long enough to simply talk to a friend — Jetboy bassist Todd Crew — who was in trouble.

"[My biggest regret is] that I didn't talk to Todd Crew before he went to New York," Rose said. "I felt a massive need to talk to him out of concern for his well-being. But I wasn't aware enough to realize I didn't have the time I thought I did. I thought I'd have time later." He didn't. Crew died at 22 after an 18-hour alcohol binge followed by a round of heroin. We're not usually inclined to feel bad for Axl Rose for any reason, but that does ever suck.

Bruce Dickinson regrets not beating the crap out of Axl Rose

One would expect the legendary front man of Iron Maiden, Bruce Dickinson, to have some of the most metal regrets there are. We won't disappoint you, but he doesn't wish that he hadn't missed out on that dragon safari or the chance to drink the blood from the beast's still-beating heart while a choir of demons sang words of encouragement (that we know of). No, he simply wishes — as many rockers of his vintage do — that he'd kicked Axl Rose's butt.

During a 1988 show in Canada that saw Guns N' Roses opening for Maiden, xenophobe extraordinaire Rose became peeved that some of the crowd were speaking French (as some Canadians are wont to do). Apparently, he made some smart aleck remarks to said crowd, and in a 2015 conversation with Le Journal de Montreal, Dickinson expressed his wish that he'd walloped the singer when he had the chance. "I should have gone on stage and punched him," Dickinson said. "How could he dare to speak to my audience like that? I always regretted not having done so." At this point, there are probably enough rock stars who feel this way to start a "We Should've Beaten the Crap Out of Axl Rose" support group. Hey, Dickinson could be president. Who's going to tell him no?

The Black Keys regret inducting Steve Miller into the Rock Hall of Fame

When Steve Miller was inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame in 2016, he acted like a complete jerk during his acceptance speech, trashing the music industry, his record label, and the Hall itself. Miller doesn't regret squat, though. It's the Black Keys, Dan Auerbach and Pat Carney, who regret agreeing to induct him.

"We got a really uncomfortable feeling when we first met Steve," Auerbach told Rolling Stone, adding, "The first thing he told us was, 'I can't wait to get out of here.' ... He didn't even figure out who we were. I don't live in New York City. This is like three days out of my life flying from Nashville and leaving my kids at home." 

Auerbach went on to say that they'd genuinely hoped to be a part of celebrating the joy of music, and they had those hopes dashed by that lousy, rotten Space Cowboy, Maurice. "Pat and I both regret it," he said. "It's unfortunate. Of course there are problems in the music industry. Of course. But we were there, unpaid, on our own free will, to come celebrate his achievements and spread the joy of rock and roll. To inspire kids to pick up guitars. To play music. And it felt like we were doing the opposite."

Phil Anselmo regrets partying like ... well, a rock star

Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo has done a lot of regrettable things, not the least of which is shouting "white Power" at a shocked crowd while giving a Nazi salute at one of his shows, which he later tried to explain was his idea of a joke. (Har, har.) But when asked to name his biggest regret by Loudwire in October 2019, that incident inexplicably failed to spring to mind. No, Anselmo just wishes that in his band's glory days, he'd acted a little less rock star-y and a little more like a ... pro athlete?

"I reflect back to when we were berserk onstage and drunk; how many injuries I could've avoided had I been more in control of myself," Anselmo said. "I wish I'd trained like an elite athlete instead of an elite partier. Had I never injured myself, I would've never ended up as a drug addict. I wasn't meant to be that guy. Also — I'd say look at the good fortune of being surrounded by so many talented players. I wish I would've taken it a lot more seriously. Done it right."

Okay, sure, that makes sense, but we're still a bit surprised that the whole Nazi salute thing, which happened only a few years ago and which the entire metal community blasted him mercilessly for, wasn't a little higher on his list of regrets.