Aug 162012

An unused photo from the Who's Next album cover shoot

Who's pissed?

In a recent post about the closing ceremonies concert of the 2012 London Olympics, I mentioned the segment performed by “The Who,” whose name I put in quotes because I am not sure this is really The Who any more with half the band now deceased. Townsman mockcarr called them Who Are They? and 2000 Man referred to them now as The Two.

If they make another album it could be titled Who’s Left.

When a rock band member departs for whatever reason, whether the departure is fatal to the group continuing in any useful form depends on many factors. One may no longer find much interest in the current Who, but surely with Townshend and Daltrey still onboard as principal and front man, the two most important ingredients remain. Surely, had either of them had passed away rather than Moon and Entwistle, the band most definitely could not have continued.

What about the Stones? We still have Mick and Keith and Charlie and Ronnie. Is Charlie “expendable” in this context? I think Ronnie is. I take no joy in considering this.

This subject also reminds me that Shatner and Nimoy are the last of the four main original Star Trek actors left. There’s still a feasible Superbowl MMXVI-1701 Halftime Show to be had there. Rocket Man!

Scene from 2001 with primitive humanoids pawing at monolith.

Who Came First

What other bands are in need of a home care rock nurse or actuarial study? Is there a formula for declaring it over? I think the Who example is a good basis: the main songwriter and the front person are required and probably sufficient to continue. If they are one and the same, everyone else might be expendable if their roles are not too prominent. Of course, the non-casual fans know it all and have their own calculus for a particular situation.


  23 Responses to “Who’s Left”

  1. The problem with the who is that more than most bands, all four of them made a unique and crucial contribution.

  2. Along the lines of what cdm is suggesting, I don’t think a band is a band if it loses more than 1 member possessing Rock Superpowers. Even the loss of 1 member with Rock Superpowers is a severe threat to that band’s identity.

    The Stones survived the loss of Brian Jones, whose powers had already drained. They have replaced him with a series of mortals. Wyman had no superpowers, excepting his powers over teenage girls. His loss was easy to sustain.

    The Who, as cdm says, was 4 deep in superheroes. They should have called it a day the second Moon was pronounced dead. Led Zeppelin had the good sense to quit as soon as Bonham died.

    Bands with 1 or 2 superpowered members can usually carry on when 1 faceless member goes down. They’re like football teams. The best ones can replace the left guard who’s torn his ACL.

  3. cliff sovinsanity

    Once Carl Wilson exited stage left, I never fully bought the idea of an original core of Beach Boys whenever they toured with Mike, Carl and Bruce.
    Now that Brian is back in the picture(for now), I’m ok with the title The Beach Boys. Then again the likability of Carl is surely missed.

  4. cliff sovinsanity

    Uggh, sorry for the typo. …”whenever they toured with Mike, AL, and Bruce.”

  5. machinery

    I agree about the non-snob calculus. Bruce Thomas leaving the Attractions was brutal to me. Plenty of folk probably had no problem enjoying the Imposters.

    I can’t imagine losing Nieve. Though Pete Thomas might be worked around — but barely. Call in the nurse!

  6. pudman13

    The Rolling Stones made their best music after Jones left, for what that’s worth. That’s not exactly a knock on Jones (Rocy Music made their best music after Eno left, for example), but it is proof that there are certain cogs that can be replaced, no matter how cool or popular or even talented they are. The Who are a different story–to me they’ve been nothing more than a Townshend side project since Moon died.

  7. pudman13

    I should point out that by the time of Who By Numbers (which I like) and Who Are You (which I like quite a bit less), they hardly really seemed like a band anymore, anyway.

  8. I had a major problem with the Roger Water-less Pink Floyd. I saw the orginal lineup of The Pretenders on their “Pretenders II” tour, and as much as I love Chrissie Hynde, the various lineups she trotted out over the years couldn’t touch the orginals.

    I am old, so I’m probably wrong, but I’m not sure people are as focused on indvidual band members, or what they bring to the table, as they used to be. Somebody (was it Springsteen?) said that U2 is the last band where rank and file people know all the names of its members. I guess Aeorsmith is still chugging along, but they would probably still pack ’em in if it was just Tyler and Perry.

    If somebody leaves My Morning Jacket other than Jim James — does anybody even notice? The Killers other than Brandon Flowers? The guy in The Shins fired his whole band prior to their last album. I consider myself to be a Wilco fan, but its all about Tweedy.

    I guess this begs the larger, scarier question, are their any rock bands of recent vintage where band members have strong individual identities? I’m trying, but I can’t think of one right now.

  9. Good points. There are few big bands with easily identifiable members, but White Stripes was a recent one in which all members had superpowers.

  10. 2000 Man

    What was Meg’s Rock Superpower? Playing a different tempo from the song Jack was playing?

    I think The Stones miss Bill Wyman. He added a lot more to their sound than he gets credit for. The guy they have now has an amazing resume, but he sounds like he just follows the bass drum to me. I think The Stones without Mick, Keith or Charlie at this point cease being The Stones.

    I’m glad Sleater/Kinney called it quits. They wouldn’t have been at all the same without Corin Tucker. I hope they decide to get together again someday, though.

  11. ladymisskirroyale

    I’d say Portishead would be a contender.

  12. First group I thought was Queen. Now since, of course there is no Freddie Mercury. I think born Frederick Balsamo if memory serves me right. I remember Bruno Mars or was it Adam Lambert being offered to front. I’m thinking it was Adam Lambert. He certainly is flamboyant enough. Just thought of that soul group with Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez. Just not the same without her.

  13. Maybe Kings of Leon would be another one, because of the family relationships get a lot of attention.

  14. That’s a good one — I liked a few songs off Corin Tucker’s solo record a couple of years ago — including this nod to Patti Smith.

  15. ohmstead

    Not to go off on to much of a tangent, but I think the topic of mapping band personnel changes is fascinating topic. I was just looking at the wiki site for Big Country and I noticed that at the bottom of the citation they have a color-coded graphic that charts band membership by individual, instrument(s), and album release over time. I know…I am an info-graphics geek so this is probably only interesting to me but it does make me want to create similar charts for bands that have gone through numerous changes (Yes for example). Incidentally, and more to the original point, Big Country itself lost its lead singer and front man and is trying to put itself back together.

    Scroll down to bottom of entry to see the chart.

  16. hrrundivbakshi

    There’s an English dude who’s been doing these charts for years. Every rock nerd who came of rock age in the 70s knows who I’m talking about.

    Yeah — here’s the guy, Pete Frame:

    Here’s a sample of his work, chronicling the tortuous path to Dio’s emergence from the heavy metal chrysalis:

  17. ohmstead

    Wow! This is awesome. I wasn’t aware of his work…this is like the Sistine Chapel of rock band chronology.

  18. Big Country with Mike Peters of the Alarm? That’s a Frankenstein’s monster like The New Cars with Todd Rundgren!

  19. ohmstead

    Yeah – it’s like some insane rock band casting agent is running around intentionally making bad matches.

  20. trigmogigmo

    Those family trees are awesome. Massively loaded with rock trivia. I bought the first book through an Amazon reseller recently because they didn’t have it at Amazon proper. His site has links to Amazon UK which even has them new in stock (not sure if you can buy there for shipment to the US).

  21. trigmogigmo

    Good point, rock superpowers have a greater weight — but then, does the death of 1 of 4 superpowered band members kill the band more than 1 of 4 mortals? There’s also some difference in studio vs. live contexts. After Moon their studio work was limited and frankly I can only name two tunes off the bat, but their touring continued on true enough to the songs that I would argue it did not kill the band.

    Chalk on blackboard may be necessary to derive a formula…

  22. Who’s Last is possibly the most poorly mixed live album in history. Worse than bootleg quality. At least it was when I bought it in Perth in 1985. Dreadful, dreadful album.

  23. ohmstead

    Well – using your U2 example…it seems that bands with prominent leaders (whether they have multiple contributing members or not) cannot recover from the loss of their frontmen. I know their are exceptions (VanHalen is not really music) but U2 is NOT U2 w/o Bono, there’s no Police w/o Sting, no Stones w/o Jagger and so on…

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