Apr 192010

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?”


  38 Responses to “Personality Crisis, or Whatever Happens, by All Means Keep the Mic Stand!

  1. The current incarnation of PIL, which I have seen recently on some Youtube thingie, includes guitarist Lu Edmonds, long time member of the Mekons, formerly with the Damned, Shriekback and 3 Mustafas 3, as well as drummer Bruce Smith, of the Pop Group, Rip Rig & Panic and lots of those Adrian Sherwood reggae productions also, I believe, one-time Mr. Neneh Cherry. I love the way both of these guys play, particularly Smith and, had this tour hit Philadelphia, I would probably have gone. One of the songs that the band did on the Youtube Kimmel video, was “Rise”, from the post everybody days of PIL. While I don’t think it really advanced the PIL brand, it was certainly a pleasant enough recreation of the general PIL approach.

  2. As great as I think every member of Moby Grape was, I think the light went out on the band when the light went out in Skip spence’s head. Did anyone else notice the live review of some singer Eilen Jewell in the Inquirer today mentined her guitarist was Jerry Miller? By the name and the picture and the decription, it was the main Grape gguitarist. I would have gone had I known that piece of trivia beforehand.

  3. In general, I think lead singers are very hard to replace without it being a different band.

  4. Spoon is a band which has had a real revolving door of members, but clearly the drummer and Britt Daniel are the main identity of that band. I don’t think it’s hurt them.

    I think the loss of non-singing or songwriting Dave Gregory was huge for XTC. I think it clearly tipped the balance, caused Colin to eventually quit and left Andy staring at his navel, musically. That one did hurt them.

    Squeeze had a lot of lineup changes in their heyday, didn’t seem to be a problem. Funny how some bands are that way.

  5. The Velvet Underground lost John Cale halfway through their career and on any given day, any one of their four original releases might be my favorite. Then, they went a step too far with the album “Squeeze”, proving that you can’t really soldier on with no original members.

    Although I prefer the Tobin Sprout years, Guided By Voices did well with the revolving line up.

  6. mockcarr

    The Byrds are a pretty good example, but they became a very different band with every change. Pretty much McGuinn and whoever is willing to come along, right?

  7. ZZ Top could never lose Frank Beard and still be ZZ Top.

    R.E.M. hasn’t been the same since Bill Berry left. I remember when they announced it, they likened themselves to being a three-legged dog.

    I wouldn’t go around the corner of my house to see Mike Love and would probably call the cops and have him arrested. I understand that he’s “carried the banner” for all of these years, but that thing he’s touring with is NOT The Beach Boys to me.

    What about Pink Floyd? I never cared to see them post-Waters. Some might argue that the band died with Syd Barrett. I just see them as two different bands (Three, if you count the post-Waters Floyd).

    The Who is a tough one for me. I was too young to see and experience the Moon. I know the band was never the same after he died. I did get to see Entwistle in 2000. I remember planning to see them on the 2002 tour (the one Entwistle died on the eve) and feeling quite differently when he died. I did see them in 2006 and thought it was GREAT. But it was different. If The Who are defined by their songs, then it was The Who with no doubts. If they are defined by the members, then it was something else.

    I’ve had similar issues with my own band. In the beginning, it was just me and my pal Danny. We wrote and played everything as we didn’t have a drummer. We fianlly found a drummer and became a “live band.” Once that happened, we latched onto something new. The “band” took on a whole new persona and life of its own even influencing the material we were writing. When that drummer left, we were forced to replace him. In doing so, we had this honorable idea that we wouldn’t be the same band. We could be a new band. With a new name and everything. That other band was us three and this new band was this new three. When we got booked to play our first gig in this new configuration, we still hadn’t decided on a name. We were booked as what we were. In a telling moment, we took a look at the flyer advert hanging above the urinal while taking a piss. We saw our old name on the flyer. Once on stage, realizing that we were playing the same songs in the same way, just with a new person, that we were and always have been Lately David.

    We used to joke that Andy Warhol was wrong about that fifteen minutes of fame. Instead, everyone will get the chance to front Tower of Power.


  8. The important thing is if the band continues to release quality material with the new member. If they get one or more good albums out of the new line-up, then everyone is accepting of the new status quo (Replacements, Rolling Stones). The Who never released anything good after Moon died. Probably not because they had to have Moon to be good, but just because the band was done by then anyway. Those albums would probably be just as bad with Moon.

    There are enough examples of bands getting a few good albums out after losing a key member to prove you can certainly keep going without losing your original fans. Don’t all of us XTC heads like Mummer? I think the Chili Peppers rotated guitarists multiple times and were not diminished in the original fan’s eyes.

    No one is irreplaceable if there is still strong creativity in the band.

    AndyR, how is AC/DC doing since adding Brian Johnson?? Watch your back.

  9. “The important thing is if the band continues to release quality material with the new member”

    Good point c-frank. I like the third Pretenders album as much as the first two.

  10. I was never a Faith No More fan, but I remember some college friends bemoaning their, at the time, new singer and direction. Then they came back from a road trip and were all about the “new” Faith No More.

    Was The Who going downhill before Moon died? Is “Who Are You” really a good album?

    XTC did survive losing Terry Chambers, and they really survived losing Barry Andrews. But losing Dave, not so much.

  11. BigSteve

    I just consider all of those bands to be collectives, so it doesn’t matter who’s there or not.

  12. hrrundivbakshi

    Latelydavidband said:

    ZZ Top could never lose Frank Beard and still be ZZ Top.

    I say:

    I *think* you mean Billy Gibbons. If you don’t please explain!

  13. 2000 Man

    But every Pretenders album after that is lousy. I think a lot of those songs were worked up with the original band, but I could be way wrong on that. I think the third album has a slickness that the first two don’t have anything in common with, but it works on that album.

    I think Bon Scott was the only interesting thing about AC/DC. Brian Johnson is apparently a swell guy, but he’s boring. His hat is stupid, too.

    The Stones seem pretty solid at their core. The Cult of Brian will say it was Brian’s band and they never recovered from his dismissal, and that they never would have happened in the first place without him. That’s possible, he was certainly more driven than Mick and Keith back then, but Mick and Keith were in a band together before they were in a band with Brian. But they managed to get even bigger after he left, and after Mick Taylor left they became the biggest money tree that ever grew. But I think the core of Keith, Mick and Charlie is finally out of ideas, or finally disinterested. That last album is painfully bad, and I think its just because they’re bored.

    Chickenfrank is dead on, though. If someone leaves and the next album is lousy, then they were the heart and soul of the band. If the band is successful then they never really needed him anyway. I think The db’s Like This is as good as the stuff before Stamey left, but they faded after that one.

  14. Mr. Moderator

    Catching up on a lot of great discussion!

    chickenfrank wrote:

    No one is irreplaceable if there is still strong creativity in the band.

    I disagree, hence this thread. The Red Hot Chili Peppers, for instance, proved they could lose more guitarists and drummers than andyr loses sets of keys, but there’s no way the brand could withstand losing Flea let alone the obvious frontman, Anthony Kiedis. I think Flea is integral to the band’s identity. You can stick a sock over any other band member’s, er, member, but only Flea can fit the bassist’s sock.

    cdm, who was already in agreement with chickenfrank mentioned that it didn’t bother him that The Pretenders carried on without the two dead guys. I was cool with it for an album, but after all this time I feel like Chrissie Hynde should just be a solo artist. 2K was probably onto something about the third album songs being in the works before Honeyman-Scott and Farndon kicked. On the other hand, had the original Pretenders carried on I’d probably be complaining that Hynde needs to modify the faux leather jackets, thick eyeliner, and race car driver gloves. My issues with artists trying to carry their initial Look through their middle and older ages is a topic for another thread.

    2K points to The dB’s’ identity following the departure of Stamey. I was totally willing to stick with the brand, but their sound changed when they moved Holder to lead guitar. I simply didn’t like the SOUND of the band as much, but Like This has its moments. For me, the band never lost its identity, just its sound. As with the Pretenders’ third, I think some of the songs on Like This were already in development when Stamey left (beside the obvious retread of “Amplifier”).

    Queen w/o Freddie Mercury will never be Queen. Likewise, had Brian May died and Mercury lived there would be no way the Queen brand could be maintained. The other two guys may have died years ago, for all most people care – that’s not to diminish their key musical contributions.

    BigSteve, are you talking tongue-in-cheek with your “collectives” comment? You don’t really believe that there are no bands that are bands, do you?

    Hrrundi, wouldn’t you say ZZ Top’s bassist is as integral to the Top as Flea is to RHCP?

  15. BigSteve

    Bands are so 20th century, and musicians are notoriously promiscuous. Free your head, and your sampler will follow.

  16. Mod,
    I know Flea is a talented unique bassist. If he had left instead of whichever guitarist did, and they were still doing their popular white tattoo funk, everyone would still consider them as a suitable RHCP. Just different.

    Think of some of the other behemoths that left bands and the bands didn’t suffer. 2K man already laid out the Stones history. VH lost David Lee Roth and they had their biggest seller after that! Pink Floyd lost Syd! You can argue that you don’t like those incarnations as much, but you can’t deny that they seemed to retain their fan base. Most bands’ output is evolving anyway. It’s hard to pinpoint what diminution of quality is always applicable to the new guy, or just a running out of steam.

    BigSteve is right. This is the era of free agency in bands just like sports.

  17. Mr. Moderator

    Obviously, until my time machine is built and we can go back and switch syringes there’s no way we can prove the importance of Flea. I’m telling you, he’s the soul of that band, or the heart or the cock or whatever. I don’t think Kiedis could carry on without him. Like their music or not (and I’m not making this argument on a musical level in any way), Flea is as important to Kiedis as Mike Watt was to D. Boon. They complete each other.

    For the Stones, chick, I’m not arguing that a band can’t lose any musician, just – in some cases – a particular one. What do you think, could the Stones have lost Charlie Watts during their relevant years and still been the Stones? I may be making too much of a case for his importance – and maybe it’s only the result of his longevity – but he seems to be the third-ranked Stones Superhero, behind Jagger and Richards.

    The resiliency of Van Halen post-DLR is amazing. I NEVER saw that coming!

    It could be argued that losing Syd Barrett HELPED Pink Floyd. As much as I prefer the Barrett stuff, I think that band would have been headed down a rocky, inconsistent road like that of The Move, in which a clunky band couldn’t keep up with the aspirations of its mercurial leader.

  18. sammymaudlin

    The Replacements died for me when they kicked Stinson out. I have a problem with kicking someone out of a band in general but in this case Bob’s sloppy, alcohol driven, don’t-give-a-fuck style kept Westerberg’s eventual I’m-an-artist-look-I’m-wearing-a-suit-coat progression in check.

  19. Had Charlie left just before Exile, replaced with Jimmy Miller, I’d probably think the Stones didn’t need him so much, and would still consider it among their top 3 albums. Had he left just before Tattoo You, then I might think, “Wow, do they ever need Charlie in order not to suck!” The timing is everything. I like Charlie, but think the Stones would have still rolled without him during their heyday.

    Either way, Exile is still amazing, and Tattoo You is what you get a day after enjoying a triple burrito with beans lunch special. I don’t see Charlie’s membership dramatically changing either of those outcomes.

  20. Mr. Moderator

    We’re getting somewhere on the Stones/Charlie issue, chick. I agree with you re: the Jimmy Miller switch AND the Tattoo You switch. Maybe it’s a function of our age, but I think had he left before Some Girls, when the band’s superpowers seemed to be revitalized, the band would have suffered. Watts’ established visage helped ease the way for the official membership of Ronnie Wood.

    I look forward to our barely agreeing on anything regarding this topic – at least by the time we next rehearse.

  21. Sammy, I think that had more to do with Paul living long enough to actually grow up than anything else – though he still gets goofy on occasion. I loved The ‘Mats with Bob (& I’ve been a fan since the first 45 came out), but what I loved most about them were Westerberg’s songs, and he wrote a bunch that I loved just as much after Bob was gone, even after the band was gone. The two shows I saw on Paul’s first solo tour in ’93 are still two of my favorite live performances of those songs – it didn’t matter that there were 3 different guys up there with him – they were all obviously really into being there & playing those songs, which is more than I can say for *some* of the shows I witnessed the original line-up play.

    I think I’m generally with Chickie on this one, with a few exceptions, The Who being the first to come to mind, primarily because of the extremely idiosyncratic (Eccentric? Odd?) style of playing of each of the original four members (well, particularly the 3 instrumentalists), and the way they played together. Take any one of them out of the equation, and it was a completely different animal. With some bands it matters more than with others. The Rolling Stones could lose/change guitarists or the bassist, and their sound changed somewhat (esp. in regard to the guitarists), but not the “essence” of their sound. Maybe this matters more with three piece + vocals bands….I’m not sure.

    Having said that, I’ve watched a load of clips of the new PiL, and thought they sounded pretty great, especially Lu Edmunds on guitar. I never paid too much attention to “the company” after The Flowers of Romance album, but there were a couple of later songs that I thought were good (“Rise” & “Disappointed”, specifically), but I like the way those sound with this crew more than the “big 80’s” production sound of the original recordings.

    Oh, by the way, if it makes any difference, a good portion of what is on Tattoo You was recorded in the early to mid 70’s (those guys seem to keep a ton of stuff in the can, and go back to it later…at least they used to. There’s plenty of documentation to be found on the recording dates, etc.).

  22. Nobody plays behind the beat like Frank. Sure I meant Sir Gibbons. Live cattle or not.

    Anybody remember when The Cars got Todd Rundgren to replace Ric Ocasek and became The New Cars? I like The Cars and I like TR, but I avoided that like the plague.


  23. A cyber high five to you Mr Bittman.

    That first Westerberg tour was the best live show I’ve ever seen. I love the ‘Mats and all (they are the Holy Ghost in my Rock and Roll Trinity), but seeing Westerberg re-energized and blasting through those song with guys who could really play was the best.

  24. I agree that Moon’s idiosyncratic playing was a lot more irreplaceable to the sound of The Who than Charlie’s playing was for The Stones. But, I think we mostly agree that The Who did not go down hill because Moon died; that ship was taking on heavy water before his demise. I could still think of them as The Who, but just a Who that had gone bad.

    I like Sammy’s analysis of the ‘Mats dynamic, but am with BB that the post-Bob albums are far more enjoyable to listen to.

  25. With The Cars, esp. in 2000-whatever, did it really matter? They didn’t exactly exude charisma onstage in their heyday.

  26. Chickie, yeah, I’ll admit that The Who was a dissipated entity by the time of Who Are You. Too many personal problems, and a primary songwriter who had seemingly lost interest. Despite that, I still think of them as a unique case as far as this thread is concerned, because all 3 of those guys were really “weird” players, and they DID make a noise together that I don’t think could be replicated by others. Not even close. I think they knew that, & don’t see that they ever tried. That’s really the only point I was trying to make.

  27. Oh, and as far as The Replacements are concerned, I didn’t mean to say I liked ’em better without Bob, but I just never went along with the idea that they were over with once he was gone. To me, it felt closer to a Rolling Stones/Brian Jones situation. It was different, but not enough for it to have lost the identity of the band.

  28. Mr. Moderator

    I’m a little surprised at how many of you seem to judge bands’ identities almost solely on their sound. The comments on the new version of PiL, for instance, are surprisingly mature and open-minded. Now, I’m sure it does help that these new band members, who I assumed were 27-year-old hacks who’d be just as content backing up Avril Lavigne or Duff McKagen, actually have a sympathetic pedigree to that of the classic PiL lineup, but still… I’m a little surprised that I’m in the minority for feeling like a band’s identity depends so heavily on its comic book superpowers.

  29. jeangray

    That jus’ shows how visually oriented you are, Mr. Mod.

  30. Count me in as knocked out by that first Westerberg solo tour. That band kicked major ass with a totally non-mercenary feeling. I would love to hear the Mod’s take on that. I remember that band was on SNL. Maybe there is a clip up there.

    The next tour he showed up with that big fat drummer from Prince’s band and it was totally generic rock. Night and day.

  31. Mr. Moderator

    I recall seeing Westerberg on tv with the fat drummer, geo. I don’t recall seeing him on his first solo tour. Was he playing his own songs? Then there’s a good chance I would have thought it was little more than “OK.”:) I like a handful of Replacements songs and never mind hearing them one song at a time, but I find Westerberg’s songwriting style to be highly predictable.

  32. Here is Paul and his first solo band on SNL: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x89z1d_cant-hardly-wait_music

    I actually enjoyed his second tour, with the fat drummer (Michael Bland) and Tommy Keene. I must’ve caught them on a good night.

  33. Well, I’m guessing that performance stunned all you Westerberg haters into silence.

  34. Mr. Moderator

    Oats, I finally got to watch it. The first 5 times I tried I was getting a technical difficulties message. Here are my thoughts:

    First of all, this is a can’t-miss song. This is the ultimate Westerberg song and it follows a format that NEVER wears thin for me, with the circular “Can’t Turn You Loose” riff and the steady, propulsive beat. Lady GaGa could probably pull off a song in this style without making me want to vomit.

    That said, this is a strong performance. I like the interplay of the lead guitar and horns. The drummer’s pretty good. The bassist didn’t screw anything up. Westerberg is committed to providing a strong, spirited, fun vocal. What’s not to like?

    The problem for me would be hearing another dozen songs by Westerberg, 8 of which would be roughly in this vein of him pitching his voice a certain, heroic/loveable loser way between the I and IV chords, 2 of which may be more derived from ’70s hard rock, and 2 of which would surely be those cryin’-in-my-last-call-beer piano ballads. I just get bored at a certain point. He never had a band like Faces or the Stones behind him. I don’t get the rhythmic dynamics that The Clash gave me during any run of their most heroic I-IV chord progressions. In short, I don’t “hate” Westerberg at all, but I find him and his musical palette limited.

    I’ve begun drafting a piece that will likely address some of my psychological issues developing from this never-ending challenge. Maybe I’ll roll it out later tonight or tomorrow.

  35. Mr. Moderator

    One more thing I forgot to note: what do people think about the drummer’s alternating shoulder dip near the 1-minute mark in the clip Oats posted? I’m wondering if this led to Paul putting a call into the Fat Man.

  36. Mod, I guess I think more of Westerberg as a songwriter than you, but I think the band on that first tour would’ve given you a lot more of the Stones/Faces feel than the Replacements who had only a couple of gears. And Oats, the tour with Michael Bland wasn’t horrible, it just had little of the loose spirit that the band had on that first tour. Of gcourse the venue switching from the Troc to the Electric Factory might’ve skewed my judgment.

  37. Mr. Moderator

    Could be, geo. I probably give Westerberg points off for rarely having an interesting band.

  38. Oh boy, I can’t wait for you to address your psychological issues with Paul Westerberg’s oeuvre, Mod….for me to poop on!

    By the way, the drummer in the clip is a then 21 year old Josh Freese (I’d run down his resume, but he’s played on close to 300 recordings). His persona in *that* band was as a clowning wise ass, so I wouldn’t take the shoulder-dip move too seriously – and, yes, he’s played with Paul several times since ’93. David Minehan of The Neighborhoods is the guitarist, and was a perfect onstage sidekick for Paul on that tour. I saw ’em twice, have boots of both shows, and still think they were his best post -’87 band, and your psychological issues with him will not change my high opinion of either his songwriting or performing. Ever. But, by all means, go ahead & try…

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