No… this is not a joke… I want to have a serious discussion about what happens when rock bands try to carry on after parting ways with the ‘voice’ of the band. It seldom works out well. I mean, AC/DC rocked it. That was pretty seamless. When Bon Scott died in 1980 at the age of 33, and Brian Johnson stepped in, the band hardly missed a beat with the Back In Black album.
This is an exception to the rule. Of course, there are a lot of situations where a band that nobody ever heard of got a new singer and then they became famous, but let’s ignore that for now.
Maybe I should start at the beginning. I am a rock dinosaur. A friend of mine once called me ‘Arty-fact of the 70’s’… probably the cleverest thing that guy ever came up with in his entire life. But it is so true. I just recently compiled a bunch of CDs so I can drive around cranking the good hard rock/heavy metal of the 70’s. Now obviously, new bands have had less time to have to worry about such a major change as replacing their lead vocalist. But a lot of the bands from back in the day are still around. And trust me, as a guy who has been in a few bands, people can get on each other’s nerves as the years roll by.
Also, people tend to die… especially rock musicians, for some strange reason. And musicians still need to make money, whether someone quits the band or not. But this isn’t about musicians still playing music. This is about one thing: should a band keep the same name and music if the singer leaves?
Way back when, a little musical group called Led Zeppelin lost their drummer to… extenuating complications of not-quite natural causes… and the band, to the dismay of millions, decided they could not, in good conscience, continue on as the same band… and this is the DRUMMER, for crying out loud. Yes, their drummer was that good, but drummers and bass players, you can always find one of those…
But I respect their decision. It was the right thing to do. And the Zep was one of my favorite bands. Ironically, one of my other favorite bands was Bad Company. No, they didn’t have the pure musical talent of Led Zeppelin… nobody did or does… but they were the best freakin’ garage band of all times. Paul Rodgers voice was soulful and gripping. Their music was simple, primal, powerful, and awesome for driving around in your car or… for romantic interludes… let’s face it, Zep is too varied and complex for romance… you will throw your back out or break a hip.
But then Paul Rodgers left Bad Company… and they kept going as Bad Company… damn it…
Okay, I am now going to list a few bands that I don’t give a crap about, but that do fit into this scenario, just for the sake of the discussion we are all going to have… right?
Queen. You knew they would show up here. I found them to be a tad too melodramatic for my taste. Yes, I see the pure talent and skill. Yes, their operatic bent is fascinating. And Freddy Mercury was out of this world… so can they still be Queen. In another supreme twist of irony, Paul Rodgers… yes, of Bad Company fame… stepped in as vocalist for a while. And I guess people liked it. They toured and stuff. I was still pissed at Paul for bailing on me, so I have no idea what that sounded like.
Van Halen. Whatever. I always found ‘Diamond’ Dave (David Lee Roth) to be so full of himself that I just couldn’t take the band seriously even though Eddie Van Halen shreds of guitar. Then, Sammy Hagar took over the microphone… and guess what, I still didn’t care… even though Sammy was the front man for Montrose… (With Ronnie Montrose on guitar, responsible for the song: Rock Candy, still the best poll dancer/stripper anthem in Rock History)… Hey, don’t judge me, these are the rock and roll facts.
Genesis. Peter Gabriel led the band to… well, not huge fame, but a recognized art-rock band… and then they sort of took off after the drummer, Phil Collins switched over… Okay, in retrospect, this doesn’t really fit the parameters, because even though the change pissed a lot of people off, more people ended up liking it, so let’s move on…
Black Sabbath… we could spend a week talking about the Ozzy Osbourne/Ronnie James Dio switches… so go ahead with that… and I guess, for the record, I was a fan of their early stuff.
Journey… This band, and I admit they had a few decent songs, but what they had that most people liked, was a guy with a big nose and a good voice named Steve Perry. (The weird thing… hello thing, I was wondering if you would show up… is that their best known songs have actually gathered momentum after Perry left the band, because they are used for all sorts of un-rock and roll type things) After Perry left, they got another guy named Steve. Who didn’t sound like the first Steve. And I respect that… They didn’t try to just carry on as if nothing had happened. They tried to move on. But people wanted a guy who sounded like the first guy. So the band did a world-wide search, and from a YouTube video, they found some kid named Arnel Pineda living in the Philippines who was… now get the irony of this… singing in a TRIBUTE band… a Journey tribute band… but he sounded like Steve Perry.
So this is what I want to know. Is Journey doing a parody of themselves? Are they doing a tribute band version of their own band? Right now, you can buy tickets to see Queen… with Adam Lambert, former American Idol star, doing the vocals… be still my heart.
Okay, I admit that this isn’t a topic that will appeal to most of you. And I typed a lot of words, which also won’t appeal to a lot of you. That is why I did this on a weekend… when traffic is always slow, and if only 5 people read this, I will blame it on that. I really did this post for one reason. Synchronicity. My wife and I were talking about this very thing just a few days ago. Then, my mom sent me an article about the upcoming Queen shows… she thought that would appeal to me, which shows that she might be getting senile. But I found the coincidence to be too much to ignore… hence this post.
So tell me what you think. Is it no big deal, or is it a deal breaker?