Dec 102008

I had the iPod on shuffle the other day when a Sublime song came on. I don’t particularly like that band but it got me thinking about the odds that they overcame in coming so close to making it in a cutthroat business, only to have the lead singer/songwriter overdose shortly before their major label debut.

So, I’m looking for examples of big blown opportunities. Misguided choices are not enough: the party in question really needs to have shit the bed, even if it was only apparent in hindsight.

I’ll go with Brad Nowell and Sublime for my first answer.


  26 Responses to “Last Man Standing: Snatching Defeat From the Jaws of Victory”

  1. Mr. Moderator

    I just noticed that this post had the same weird problem that the Zevon post had. No longer.

    How about The Clash, who already started ripping apart their band following their ballsy triumph of Sandinista before Strummer did his disappearing act and Topper got the boot/got too hooked on H. Despite all those problems, they reached a commercial high with their worst album, Combat Rock, before Strummer totally blew it and had Mick Jones booted from the band.

  2. Amy Winehouse seems to fill the bill.

  3. This one is easy from up North here: Goddo. Greg Godovitz was the supremely talented frontman of Toronto legends Goddo. I think he broke Paul Westerberg’s record for pissing into the wind of opportunity. An example: While recording their 1979 record “An Act of Goddo” at the Bee Gees studio, Maurice Gibb became a huge fan, and asked Godovitz several times to work together. Godovitz rebuffed him every time and called the Bee Gees music “disco crap”. Goddo’s next album was called “Sign on the Line” a swipe at the music biz that left them without a label.

  4. Here’s a paragraph from a Canadian media story about Gotovitz after he wrote a book (Travels with my Amp) about his career.

    There was the time he trashed Virgin czar Richard Branson’s recording studio/manse, the time he turned down uberagent Bruce Allen when he offered him the job of bass player in “a new supergroup called Loverboy,” (Goddo’s response: “I’m already in a supergroup”), and the time Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees took a liking to one of his songs and, oblivious, Godovitz screamed at him because he thought Gibb’s machine had eaten a Goddo master.

    “He wanted to re-record my song, he wanted me to meet Robert Stigwood, and I chased him away. Every time I came to a fork in the road — and if you turned right you ended up with the pot of gold — I always turned left.

  5. Gotta be Anton Newcombe from “The Brian Jonestown Massacre” for me.

    He did just about everthing he could to destroy any chance he, and the band, had of being big.

    And it’s all on film.

    “Dig!’ by Ondi Timoner. Best Doco at Sundance, 2004


  6. BigSteve

    Michael Jackson

  7. dbuskirk

    I remember in 1990 a lot of people in the industry swearing they’d seen the future of rock and roll and it was……Mother Love Bone. Much like Sublime, right on the edge of their big moment, the lead singer Andrew Wood died while trying to kick heroin. After a few shake-ups, they reformed around Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam changed rock history as we know it.

  8. Pearl Jam “changed rock history as we know it”? Ok. George Bush changed “respect for the office of the President as we know it”. Gimme a break. Pearl Jam sucked. (I’m not sure about my tense, they may be still sucking somewhere in which case, Pearl Jam sucks).

  9. Since Northcoveman mentioned Westerberg, I’ll go with the Replacements. Two examples come to mind:

    1. The video for Bastards of Young. The entire video is just a single tight shot of a stereo speaker and Paul Westerberg’s leg while he’s sitting on a couch smoking a cigarette. That really showed those Suits over at MTV a thing or two.

    2. T shirts. When the label sent someone to speak with them about merchandising (the one reliable revenue stream for a struggling band), the band’s two suggestions for t-shirt designs were a) a picture of the band but the design would be heat sensitive so when you wore the shirt, your body heat would make the design disappear, and b) a picture of the band in the armpit.

    All this from a guy whom I consider to be a genius…

    Also, I’m not sure if dbuskirk was being serious about it or not but I think you’d be hard pressed to say that Pearl Jam didn’t change the rock music as we know it. It might not have been for the better but their influence is undeniable.

    I have to check out Goddo.

  10. “Dig” is an excellent movie. I get sucked into it every time it’s on tv

  11. On the subject of Pearl Jam, I think they’re a perfectly respectable, hard-working, above-average rock band that I have no interest in listening to, due to the general humorlessness of their canon. And yet, while I don’t think they changed rock ‘n’ roll, I feel like they’re fighting the good fight, in a way not a lot of bands these days are. If anyone saw that VH1 Who tribute concert a few months ago, you’ll note they wiped the floor with every other band on the bill, including the honorees.

  12. I’ve come to respect Pearl Jam over the years, especially for their Quixotic fight with Ticket Master and their contribution to the Victoria Williams tribute.

    I think that they changed rock in that they launched a thousand imitators and that whole “alternative’ radio format seems based on their sound.

  13. Mr. Moderator

    I’ve come to admire Townsman Andyr’s grudging respect for Pearl Jam’s guitar tandem…

  14. I agree with Oats on Pearl Jam. If anyone hasn’t heard Goddo, you really ought to check them out!

  15. Pearl Jam – I respect them more than I like them

    Sublime – Can you believe they have sold over 15 million CD’s? I like their three “hits” though. I think he has a cool voice.

  16. I think I’m still currently the Last Man Standing but I will trump myself with what I consider to be the gold medalist in this category. Terry Reid passed on an opportunity to front both Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple.

    Apparently he turned down the Zeppelin gig because he had his own solo career going and he was committed to open for the Stones on tour, so I understand how that made sense at the time. But still, the last I heard, he was playing at a Beverly Hills bar on Monday nights. Meanwhile, Robert Plant has so much money that he’s willing to pass up a Led Zeppelin reunion check. Sometimes hindsight can make you want to poke your eyes out….

  17. dbuskirk

    “Changed rock history as we know it”. I threw that in because it is one of those wonderful ridiculous things an announcer can say that sounds momentous but really means nothing. In some minute fashion I’d say every gig booked and every record released changes rock history. Heck, every RTH post changes rock history.

    Truth is I’ve heard almost no Pearl Jam, except for their first release, which I bought on cassette and listened to while I was driving cab in Alaska. I always liked that song “Alive”. Other than that, I just think of them as the band that clogs up the used bins with all those damned live releases.

  18. 2000 Man

    Wow, db – that means I’m changing rock history right now! Man, that’s friggin’ awesome.

    I nominate John Mayall. He did something to make sure that every time he got a shit hot guitar player, he let him go. Or he couldn’t keep him. I’m not sure which but he’s just a footnote in the careers of Mick Taylor, Eric Clapton and Peter Green instead of one of the best known leaders of British Blues Rock. I’m sure people here know him, but I don’t think most people do.

  19. The Chameleons, one of my favorite post-punk bands were very close to becoming succesful after songs like Swamp Thing and Tears from ‘Stange Times’ (a fantastic album, by the way,’ were getting considerable airplay on US college radios. Then their manager died, and the shit hit the fan, and soon the band fell apart over a lot of squabbling.

    The worst thing about it is, their last recordings, which were released on an EP, were all incredible, albeit a bit too swamped in 80’s production. Demin and Curls is probably one of the best pop songs of the decade, and Is it Any Wonder? is haunting.

  20. BigSteve

    The La’s

  21. dbuskirk

    I’d say Bob Welch picked the wrong time to leave Fleetwood Mac.

  22. The Vines are a pretty good example of a garage rock revival/ipod commericial/’the’ band who totally blew thier oppurtunity.

    Remember the Vines? The have a new album. Its called Melodia.

    Its got one good/great song called “He’s a rocker”.

    The Vines are the biggest blown oppurtunity of the this whole garage rock revival.

    One big single (“Get Free”), lots of Brit mag hype, rolling stone cover…ipod commercial… and a dud of a sophomore album. Old story.

  23. Shannon Hoon from that fucking awful band Blind Mellon. as their 2nd single was coming out and he had just made an asshole of himself with eyeliner and a dress at the epicly wretched woodstock 94, he went and died from heroin. he was just on the brink of being the new hacky sacker hero.

  24. Why did Mick Taylor leave the Stones?
    Were they assholes?
    Thought the band was finished?
    Thought he’d have a better solo career?

    Mick had a good run with the boys, but that seemed like the best gig you could have. Why would anyone leave the best job in the world, that probably only needed you 4 months a year. Not a blown chance, but a much too early abdication.

  25. Mr. Moderator

    cap7707, welcome aboard! The Vines and the dreaded SOS of a lousy sophomore album are a great example of blown opportunities. I’m thinking of The Strokes as well.

    Kilroy, Blind Melon is another great example.

    Let’s hope Mick Taylor saved some money and still gets his royalty checks from sales of the albums he’s on.

  26. BigSteve

    I think Mick Taylor claims to have co-written some of the songs on those Stones albums, and when the albums came out the promised credits were mysteriously missing. Imagine the money he’d have if he’d gotten composing royalties too.

    I think he also was afraid that, lacking the iron constitution of Keith, he wouldn’t survive the decadence surrounding the Stones scene back then.

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