I can’t stop thinking about Public Image Ltd. playing some Atlantic City casino. It’s not some stereotypical “sell-out” angle that sticks in my craw; it’s that I’m almost tempted to go see “them” in such a venue. It would be funny. Who knows, musically it could even be good. But it won’t be PiL. After that classic line up broke up, after The Flowers of Romance album, at which point bassist Jah Wobble had already split, I had no illusions that anything called PiL was remotely the real thing. I had no interest in any generic, over-the-counter version.
That’s an easy one, but let’s look at some bands where it’s a closer call. At what point is a band no longer the band they’re advertised as being? Is it a matter of percentage of original band members, the retention of particular key members, or something else?
The day Kenny Jones replaced Keith Moon in The Who, did you still think of the band as The Who? I didn’t, but perhaps if John Entwistle had died first and been replaced I could have held onto the band’s identity. Perhaps. Depending on what era in the band’s history he’d passed, that would have been a tough call, wouldn’t it?
Although I have no interest in seeing the 68-year-old Rolling Stones shuck and jive, their identity barely lost a pebble when Bill Wyman retired. More power to him, and more power to the Stones for rolling on with a new guy. Had Charlie Watts given up his throne, however (no matter how suspect his actual role in the band’s recordings has been through the years), I would no longer think of the band as The Rolling Stones. It’s not that I’m a huge Watts fan, just that his visage is integral in all superheroic representations of the band.
Could The Beatles have withstood the loss of a single member? I think not. Not even Mal Evans. The Tempations, on the other hand, lost all kinds of members, but they will remain The Temptations as long as that multi-mic stand is erect.
Did Replacements fans feel like they were still listening to The Replacements after Bob Stinson got the boot? Black Flag had all kinds of members. What enable them to continue being thought of as Black Flag – or was there a point when their fans felt like the band was nothing more than a touring act? The Beach Boys maintained their identity through numerous changes, especially the major loss of brain cells by its musical leader. Could it be that Mike Love is the glue to that band’s identity?
What’s been the change in personnel that ruined the identity of one of your favorite bands?
What surprising change in personnel would likely ruin the identity of a favorite band if it ever happened?
As distasteful as it may be, for the sake of discussion feel free to speculate. For instance, something like fIREHOSE would have been a necessity had Mike Watt died tragically rather than D. Boon, but could The Minutemen brand have continued with a replacement for George Hurley to supply the beats for our favorite “fuckin’ corndogs?”