Tough Breaks

Presenting the best breakup albums of all time

On last year's Under the Blacklight, Rilo Kiley's Jenny Lewis and Blake Sennett celebrated the end of their relationship. The one-time couple called it quits just before recording the indie-pop band's fourth album, which documents the breakup in songs like "Silver Lining" and, um, "Breakin' Up" ("Ooh, it feels good to be free," sings Lewis). To prep you for Rilo Kiley's show this week, we give you the best breakup albums ever made:

Bob Dylan

Blood on the Tracks

The Lovebirds: By 1974, Dylan's nine-year marriage to Sara Lownds had pretty much crumbled. Dylan wrote the bulk of the record while separated from his one-time muse (who was the inspiration behind Blonde on Blonde's "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands").

The Kiss-Off: "You're an idiot, babe/It's a wonder that you still know how to breathe." From the better-believe-I'm-bitter "Idiot Wind."

The Aftermath: The pair divorces in 1977. Meanwhile, Dylan takes the disastrous Rolling Thunder Revue on the road, finds God and spends the better part of the next 20 years sinking under the weight of one shitty album after another.

Fleetwood Mac

Rumours

The Lovebirds: Main songwriters Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks broke up; so did John and Christine McVie—she was having an affair with one of the band's road crew. Plus, drummer Mick Fleetwood was separated from his wife.

The Kiss-Off: "Damn your love, damn your lies/And if you don't love me now, you will never love me again." From the group-written centerpiece "The Chain."

The Aftermath: The 1977 album sells a gazillion copies, Mick Fleetwood begins an affair with a rebounding Nicks, and Buckingham holes himself up in the studio to work on the brilliant but flawed Tusk. Meanwhile, everyone does tons of coke and acts like nothing's changed.

Marvin Gaye

Here, My Dear

The Lovebirds: The legendary soul singer met Anna Gordy—the 38-year-old sister of his Motown boss, Berry Gordy—in 1960, when he was only 21. By 1975, the Gayes' decade-long marriage was falling apart; Marvin had a tendency to screw other women. Anna filed for divorce. Marvin had no money. But his attorneys figured out a way for the R&B star to pay his ex-wife: Anna would receive half the royalties from his next album. So Marvin got to work on his most deliberately uncommercial record.

The Kiss-Off: "I guess I'd have to say this album is dedicated to you/Although perhaps you may not be happy, this is what you want." From the opening you-want-an-album?-here's-your-fucking-album title tune.

The Aftermath: Unsurprisingly, nobody buys the record. Critics hate it too. Motown pulls the plug on promotion, and Gaye goes into exile. Anna even considers suing her ex. A quarter-century later, Here, My Dear morphs into an uncompromising classic.

Bruce Springsteen

Tunnel of Love

The Lovebirds: After 1984's Born in the U.S.A., Springsteen was the biggest rock star on the planet. He sold out stadiums, dominated the charts and dated hot actresses—like Julianne Phillips, who was in a bunch of TV movies nobody ever heard of. By 1987, the working-class Springsteen realized just how little in common he had with his Hollywood wife.

The Kiss-Off: "Another fight, and I slam the door on another battle in our dirty little war/When I look at myself I don't see the man I wanted to be." From "One Step Up," in which the married Bruce catches the eye of some girl at a bar and promptly hides his wedding ring.

The Aftermath: The couple divorces in 1989, Springsteen hooks up with a nice Italian girl, Patti Scialfa, has three kids and resumes writing songs about blue-collar folks looking for the promised land on their day off.

Richard & Linda Thompson

Shoot Out the Lights

The Lovebirds: A year after Richard Thompson left Fairport Convention, he married singer Linda Peters. They made six albums together between 1973 and 1982; Shoot Out the Lights, symbolically, was their last. A pregnant Linda couldn't immediately promote the record, so Richard went out on the road alone—and quickly hooked up with the woman who put together his tour. The album was written and recorded by Richard and Linda as their marriage was disintegrating.

The Kiss-Off: "They found some fingerprints right around her throat/They didn't find no killer, and they didn't find no note." From the murdered-woman tale "Did She Jump or Was She Pushed?" Yes, it's a metaphor.

The Aftermath: The Thompsons divorce soon after Shoot Out the Lights comes out. It's a huge critical hit, so the barely speaking Thompsons hit the road together. The tour doesn't go too well.

 
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