Jun 232020

I was chatting with a couple of friends this afternoon. One friend pointed out that this would have been Stu Sutcliffe’s 80th birthday. While it’s still June 23 where I live, happy birthday, Stu!

We got to talking about the fame of The Beatles, and how they were able to carry two early band members into their historic wake who didn’t last long enough until the band got signed. How many other bands can claim having two fairly well-known members (to music fans) who never made it to the starting gate? We could only think of one other example.


  21 Responses to “More Than Almost Famous”

  1. Happiness Stan

    That’s quite a thought. Astrid Kirchherr died a few weeks ago, too.

    First to mind was the original Modern Lovers line up, with Jerry Harrison and David Robinson, both of whose careers might arguably be described as eclipsing the band leader’s, even if I’d personally rather listen to any JR album up to about 1988 than almost anything by Talking Heads or the Cars.

    I think both had moved on before the first album, which was only meant to be a bunch of demos, was released. Certainly they had before anybody noticed it and parted with money for it. A real contender for most joyful album ever made in my view.

  2. cherguevara

    I thought of two. Dave Mustaine, kicked out of Metallica while recording their first album, went on to form Megadeth. And in the same genre, Stephen Duffy, who left Duran Duran before they made it. I’m sure there are others…

  3. Happiness Stan, I didn’t realize that Robinson and Harrison might have been booted from Richman’s original Modern Lovers before that one great album came out! If so, that’s an astounding entry. I’m probably in the minority – and it’s not too mature of me – but I have trouble liking anything by Jonathan Richman past that first album. I can’t believe he undid that formula so quickly and got directly into his acoustic, child-like sense of wonder aesthetic. I’ll hear a song now and then that I can’t help but like, but I’m bitter over knowing I’ll never hear another “Old World” from him.

    cherguevara, those are two good examples of bands containing a single member who didn’t make it to the starting gate (Keith Levene in the Clash is another I’d thought of), but examples of bands who had two or more early members who got booted or left by their own device are harder to find.

  4. cherguevara

    Gotcha, sorry, missed that important detail.

  5. Since this isn’t a LMS, the one that jumped to my mind was Dick Taylor and Ian Stewart of the Rolling Stones!

  6. Yes! I didn’t want to give away the participants in that chat I had yesterday, but andyr was one of them, and this was his thought at that time. I say, IMPRESSIVE!

  7. Didn’t Marah kick out their rhythm section before their big break of recording with Springsteen?

  8. H. Munster

    Blood Sweat and Tears weren’t exactly unknowns in the Al Kooper era, but when he left the band, along with Randy Brecker who went on to be one of the founders of Dreams, BS&T really took off.

  9. Happiness Stan

    Mr Mod, unless you’ve got inside gen, I’m not sure if they were booted out or went of their own accord. Several of the subsequent Modern Lovers popped back later for more, Curly and Asa reappeared on later tours quite regularly. I used to see JR as often as I could during the eighties and nineties, I met him and Gail once while waiting for the doors to open at the Electric Ballroom, he was very nervous but quite charming. I get the feeling he’s like Robyn Hitchcock, he doesn’t fall out with people but sometimes those around him might need a bit of a break.

    I understand very well how some find his work a bit twee, my ex, who would come with me most times I went to see him, took her husband to see him a few years ago and he took violently against him, a reaction I found baffling. She also took him to see a poetry reading by Patti Smith and his reaction was similar. She always had good taste in music, although she drew the line at the Ramones after seeing them twice. She got her own back later by making me go to see Roy Harper. That was bloody hard work.

  10. diskojoe

    How about one of Mr. Mod’s favorite bands, the Jefferson Airplane, who had Signe Anderson & Skip Spense in their early lineup.

    Happiness Stan, nice to know that you’re a Jonathan Richman fan. The last gig the original Modern Lovers did was in a small jazz club in Beverly, MA, the next town over from me. Also, my friend Barrence did backup vocals on one of his 80s albums, It’s Time For…..

  11. Richard Hell was in Television and Dee Dee Ramone tried out as guitarist at some point. Not sure how that didn’t work out.

  12. Good one, geo!

    Note to all “early lineup” entrants: if the musicians made it to the first record, they don’t count. Didn’t those Airplane members, for instance, appear on the first record? I could very well be wrong!

    Play on!

  13. They are both on Jefferson Airplane Takes Off. Kooper and Brecker were also on Child is Father to the Man.

  14. Happiness Stan

    DJ, likewise! How did he swing that gig? That was a real golden period for JR.

    Mr Mod, point of order, do first records released after members have already left count? I can’t think of any more at the moment, we’re in the last few hours of a heatwave here and the challenge of retaining the LMS title is draining the last of my working brain cells.

  15. I think the fact that those guys were out of the Modern Lovers before the album came out qualifies them, Happiness. Stay cool. My work friends in the UK have been telling me about the heatwave.

  16. Happiness Stan

    Cool, Mr Mod, cheers. It’s pretty brutal by our standards. I was supposed to have been at Glastonbury from Monday lunchtime, while I’d never wish to not be there, a lot of people would be really struggling today. Over the last twenty four hours the site would have been filling up, and it’s a heck of a long way from the parking to the entrance, even without lugging your home for the next week and all your other worldly belongings with you. And then finding somewhere to camp. We’re forecast storms tomorrow morning, hopefully it’ll cool down a bit. I’ve taken the week off work to (not) go down to Somerset, so haven’t needed to drive around for hours, thank goodness.

  17. BigSteve

    Mr. Mod’s favorite band The Smiths originally had a guitarist named Steve Pomfret before Johnny Marr. He didn’t last long after Marr signed on. They also had a bassist named Dale Hibbert before Andy Rourke joined.

  18. BigSteve

    Fred Smith of Television played bass in Blondie before Gary Valentine, and someone named Billy O’Connor played drums before Clem Burke.

  19. @BigSteve, for now, I’ll give you partial credit for Fred Smith, but can even 6 out of 10 rock nerds identify “someone named Billy O’Connor”? Same goes to the early Smiths guys. If I’m wrong about how well known either band’s early members are, shame on me. I’ll give you full credit.

    Sorry if I wasn’t clear, but I was trying to get at how early membership in some bands gave people a moment in history that didn’t require digging too deep. Like, we just grew up knowing about Stu Sutcliffe and Pete Best. There’s an outside chance my Mom knows the Beatles had earlier band members – but the standard doesn’t have to be that catholic!

    I’d forgotten about Fred Smith in Blondie, but when you posted that, I was like, “Oh yeah, I’ve read that dozens of times!” Again, it could be a case of “my bad” on anything involving the Smiths, because I don’t casually read stories about them. If those guys are like Fred Smith or the guy who originally played guitar in early incarnations of the Police and may have gone on to play with the ubiquitous Midge Ure, let me know. Thanks!

  20. BigSteve

    Yeah it’s not like either band played lots of dates with their early members. I was stretching. But it’s as if the question was written so that only the Beatles and maybe the Stones can possibly be the answer. Pete Best and Stu Sutcliffe are only ‘fairly well-known’ because they were members of the pre-fame Beatles, and even casual music fans know trivia about the Beatles because they’re the Beatles.

  21. I hear you, BigSteve. This is why this couldn’t be a Last Man Standing. My wife said I’ve been on a Captain Obvious run of late. Maybe this is related to that.

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